Out of the Box Solution or Custom Software Solution? A Shakespearean Dilemma.

Laurence Olivier as Hamlet

The Dilemma:
As Hamlet so famously asked, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Today, the decision to pick the right software solution for your business often comes with much stress and excitement and the following question: To build or not to build?

Now, why would I compare Hamlet, a melodramatic play about murder and revenge, with a business decision? It is probably because most business owners, much like Hamlet, are cursed with an introspective nature. Hamlet contemplates remote, philosophical matters of life and death while you and your team contemplate matters that may be the life or death of your company. The decision between purchasing an out-of-the-box software solution and a custom solution can be quite a transformative experience. It can directly influence whether you choose to invest aggressively in long-term initiatives or take a cheaper and more conservative approach. Off-the-shelf solutions can be fast and cheap but you may eventually suffer from the lack of custom features. A custom solution will be tailored to your company’s need; however, it will require significant resources and time dedicated to its development. Shopping for a software solution can almost feel like an ethical dilemma and you may only discover later how detrimental your decision was to your business.

Finding the balance between your immediate business needs and long-term growth is both crucial and challenging, especially when addressing your software needs. Someone might even say there is an Art+Logic needed in this decision. See what I did there!

The Logical Path:
What is the problem you are trying to solve? And how are you going to solve it?

Perhaps, your company specializes in selling custom, foreign cars. Your current system to manage sales with international clients has worked for many years. Over time, your sales team created time-consuming, manual processes to deal with customs and currency exchange rates. You are now looking into a tool that would help you streamline some, if not all, of these processes. Your business needs will vary based on the size and the nature of your company. When choosing an out-of-the-box solution or something custom, ideally, you should be able to answer these two questions:

  1. How will the off-the-shelf solution meet my business needs?
  2. What software process will integrate with my company’s workflow?

If we consider the example above, out-of-the-box Solution A may streamline a lot of the processes involved in selling custom foreign cars. Solution A, for instance, has built-in features to help manage issues with customs and currency exchange rates. Solution A is quick to deploy and the vendor is in charge of the development, testing, and release of new features.

Out-of-the-box solutions are built to meet the needs of a large audience. Think about Salesforce or Gmail. Functionalities are targeted toward a large market, not a specific company or industry, and, ultimately, designed to address the most common needs for the most potential users. It is a more sensible option if your business is small, if your budget is limited, or is there is no competitive advantage to recreating an out-of-the-box solution. No need to reinvent the wheel when there is a perfectly good solution out there.

Out-of-the-box-solutions are also called “Canned solutions” because they are rigid, and they will not allow you to modify their functionality. They are affordable and usually come with a lot of features but not always the ones “tuned” to your unique business needs.

If your business has specialized needs, a custom solution will be better suited to meet them. In the case of a custom solution, Art+Logic will help you with the discovery process. It is as important to us as it is to you to understand your business needs and what the solution will achieve. Designing your own technology based on an evaluation of your business needs will give you some of the following benefits:

Increased Productivity: Easier to train staff to use the software because it follows existing business practices.

Quicker Reaction Time: Your development partner will provide an extensible, evolving solution that can stay current with your business.

Competitive Edge: You will own a software that is suited to your business operations and can give you a way to outperform your competitors.

The Art of Ambiguity:
Let’s get back to Hamlet. Hamlet’s ambiguity as a character is what makes us doubt he is truly the hero in the play. Searching for an adequate software solution comes with the same search for depth and complexity. A lot of times, canned solutions and more customized ones will not fall into a good/bad category.

Words, words, WORDS.” You may now feel like you want to disparage the whole argument. After all, business decisions are the product of rational thoughts and data, not a pure intellectual dilemma. Like Hamlet, you may want to call me a “fishmonger” for selling you on the idea of a custom solution. Picking the right software solution is often a mix between careful planning and improvisation. A business needs to constantly evolve to stay relevant. I invite you to read about Art+Logic co-founder Paul Hershenson’s experience on the subject. As a market or your organization changes, an off-the-shelf solution will be slow to bridge the gap between standard practices and innovation. A custom solution, tailored to your business, will be fluid, scalable and long-lasting.

There is an art to assess the benefits and the risks associated with a custom solution. It will take time and resources for your custom solution to ultimately fit your business.

The beauty of custom software development is that we are able to start small and add features over time. The breakdown of your project into smaller milestones allows you to get the core functionality sooner. Keep in mind, that your business is dynamic and constantly evolving and so are software solutions. Choosing a software solution that molds and adapts to the growth of your company is key to the scalability and efficiency of your business.

So . . . Your head is probably spinning and you probably don’t know if I am inviting you to read Hamlet or if I was helping you find a software solution that fits your business needs. Perhaps, I intended to do both. At any level, your business needs, your processes, your operation, your industry, and your budget are going to drive which solution to choose. If you are looking for a custom solution, Art+Logic is ready to draw on our 25+ years of knowledge and experience to create a robust custom software solution and accommodate your future needs. If you think a custom solution is a good fit for your business, contact us. The worst thing that could happen is that you will make a new friend.

The Promise of Software-Driven Hardware

“Hardware is the new app” is something you hear regularly in the Silicon Valley. And it really is a valid statement. With the introduction of the smartphone 10 short years ago, the app took software off computers and company networks and put it into the hands of everybody doing every activity every day. As long as you have a (smart) phone, there is an app for everything. (more…)

Sixteen Panels Made Me Think

Solar panels on house

Three years ago my wife and I signed up to purchase an array of sixteen solar panels for our rooftop. It was part of a neighborhood group-buy sponsored by the City of Milwaukee, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, and our local neighborhood association. Along with the purchase, we became members of the MREA and learned for the first time about their annual Energy Fair. Every year, thousands of people with an interest in sustainable energy convene in northern Wisconsin for three days of workshops, industry speakers, and other activities. (more…)

Help Send Art+Logic to SXSW 2019

SXSW PanelPicker

Art+Logic has submitted three proposals to present panels at the 2019 SXSW Interactive Festival that will take place March 8-12, 2019 in Austin, Texas. Since SXSW has received over 5000 proposals for approximately 750 sessions, it’s not going to be trivial to make the cut. About 30% of their selection process is driven by community voting via the SXSW PanelPicker site. We’ll be posting information about our proposals here, and asking for your support by creating an account on the PanelPicker site and voting for our proposals.

First up:

Native Cross-Platform Development With C++ & JUCE


Announcing the Winner of Our First Annual Software Incubator Lab!

The winner of Art+Logic’s first annual software Incubator Lab is Scott Hawley, PhD., Associate Professor of Physics at Belmont University in Nashville. Dr. Hawley submitted a machine-learning based app that uses neural networks and Deep Learning to allow producers and composers to train their own systems to help classify, organize, and query their datasets of samples and loops. This project will allow musicians and producers the ability to train their systems to use their own tags and criteria. (more…)

Art+Logic Announcing winner of Software Incubator Lab at A3E event at Summer NAMM.

Art+Logic will reveal the winner of their first annual Software Incubator Lab at Summer NAMM. The company received over a dozen submissions, many with cutting-edge ideas that could have a major impact on the pro-audio community. After carefully reviewing the submissions, narrowing them down to a select few, and speaking with the top three finalists, Art+Logic has selected the winning project. This incubator will focus on developing a working prototype of a selected software project. (more…)

Art+Logic recently acquired Accomplio, one of the leading product development firms in San Francisco.

Art+Logic acquired Accomplio

For several years, now, since before the term Internet of Things came into vogue, Art+Logic has been developing IoT-type software solutions for our clients. With the acquisition of Accomplio, a leading product development firm specializing in hardware and software for IoT devices, we now offer the services of a more complete IoT practice. In addition to developing the necessary software for a project, we can now deliver integrated connected-device solutions for both enterprise and consumer markets. (more…)

Please, Don’t Copy Airbnb’s Pitch Deck

Creating a pitch deck can be overwhelming, so naturally, we turn to the internet to give us some sound advice. We’ve all read articles examining “Pitch Deck Examples from Successful Startups” with Airbnb usually listed at the top. Unfortunately, these articles have lead entrepreneurs to believe there’s a simple formula for building a pitch: replicating Airbnb’s deck.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t copy Airbnb’s deck: (more…)

What is Blockchain?

At its most basic level, blockchain is a digital-distributed ledger that people around the world can use to exchange information or anything else of value, such as money, titles, contracts, music, video, energy, etc., through encrypted, secure transactions. Businesses are beginning to take a keen interest in blockchain and how it may transform the way they interact with their customers.

So, what is blockchain? How can this new technology change the way we do business? (more…)