Technology & Innovation

What makes traditional software development so challenging?

Written by
Jonathan Porter
Jul 19, 2022
9:05 pm
minute read

Companies’ unique requirements are often their competitive advantages, but off-the-shelf software often struggles to handle these processes. This challenge leads companies to turn to custom solutions or manual processes that are expensive, risky, error-prone and not scalable. 

It often takes years to implement these complex systems, leaving companies waiting for a solution to be implemented. Because off-the-shelf software is not flexible enough to adapt to businesses' ever-changing needs, companies are saddled with expensive customizations and workarounds burdening the software and the team. 

Traditional software development doesn’t work in all circumstances. This article explores three common places traditional software development breaks down. Then, we discuss how companies can effectively use custom software to actually solve their problems.

3 common traditional software development challenges

Identifying the root of your problem

When there’s a problem in your supply chain, these challenges snowball, making it sometimes hard to identify the root of your problem. 

For example, a DTC e-commerce retailer might struggle to keep enough of their most popular items in stock, so they’re constantly selling out and losing sales. Because of how this retailer kits and packages their products, it makes it challenging to calculate an accurate view of their inventory. Currently, they manually pull data from their fulfillment partners and internal data sources into a cumbersome Excel file with complex calculations to determine what their network-wide inventory levels are. Unfortunately, they can’t find an off-the-shelf system that can handle their unique requirements, and customizing an existing system is too costly and time-consuming. 

In hopes of a solution, they engage an outside firm to begin an ERP implementation, but the project won’t go live for 18-24 months. On top of the wait, they already know the ERP will not support all the needed requirements without adding on expensive customizations. They think their only alternative is to hire more team members to continue supporting these manual processes. 

But what if there’s another way? Instead of an inflexible ERP, they might need a flexible, automated inventory management system that connects with all their partners to display a unified view of their inventory, helping them track their assets and better prepare to meet customer demand. 

Visualizing a solution

Traditional supply chain software development projects usually kick off with supply chain leadership sitting in a room for multiple weeks designing a solution they think will meet their requirements. Then, after a high-pressure customer sign-off process, a software vendor takes 2 - 10 months to build the solution. 

Using a piece of software is very different than sitting in a room designing it. Once a solution is delivered, users discover they need changes or further customizations. Sometimes a client remembers a critical piece of information during the last week of the design phase, adding months and expensive customizations to a traditional software development project. 

Dealing with a custom solution’s maintenance and support responsibility

Now that you’ve implemented a software solution, let’s discuss how you will handle maintenance. How do you support that solution? Will you continue to contract with the third-party firm that created it? 

This extra responsibility adds tasks to busy people’s lists. Because of that, these one-off custom-built solutions break and go down. In addition, keeping up with heavily modified software detracts from the software’s benefits. Instead of focusing on value-add projects to increase warehouse efficiency, you’re stuck fixing one-off problems.

How To Design a System That Works for You

For a long time, custom code has been synonymous with headaches and expensive modifications. However, those with expertise in the supply chain are no strangers to working through challenges, from partnering with custom software vendors to solving a problem. And don’t even mention those hefty customizations and ever-increasing timelines. 

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Here are three strategies that can help:

Use Real Software To Find a Solution 

What if you could create actual software proof of concepts tailored to your requirements in weeks — not months? When designing a custom solution or working with a custom software vendor developing a custom-built solution, it’s challenging to visualize what a piece of software will feel and operate like sitting in a conference room.  

Testing and discussing a viable solution allows you to get to a higher level, more targeted conversation in a week — instead of going through months of development and setup and all this stuff before you finally have a clickable recommendation. Whether the recommendation will solve the problem or not, having a real piece of software to discuss helps everyone get more evident in defining the solution.

Find a Solution That Aligns With Your Unique Requirements

What if you could have access to a toolkit of functionality that allows you to build almost any software you need? You would no longer have to struggle to find a solution that does not work or doesn’t honor your unique requirements. Instead, you could create the solution yourself — in weeks. 

Empower Your Team With Priority Support, Specialized Training

No longer dread supporting one-off custom solutions’ maintenance and support by partnering with a productized software platform that provides priority support and specialized training before the solution is deployed. These resources can help you empower your team members to focus on value-add projects instead of constantly fighting fires. 

Want the latest supply chain insights? When you subscribe to PorterLogic’s newsletter, you’ll get a bimonthly analysis and rundown of the supply chain’s latest trends and challenges in your inbox. 

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