Team meeting

Speeding Up Workflows: Out-of-the-Box vs. Customized Solutions … Which Is Better?

Business runs on processes. Every organization has them, and every organization needs them to run smoothly. The challenge is many of those processes are inefficient and disjointed, negatively impacting productivity and the customer experience. And while it’s likely you already know which processes hold your organization back, figuring out how to fix them is where you, like many others, get stuck.

As you explore potential solutions, you’ll come across “out-of-the-box” and “customized” solutions. Understanding which one is the best approach to solve your process challenges isn’t always straightforward. Here’s a quick breakdown to help guide your decision:

Out-of-the-box solutions

Out-of-the-box solutions are essentially plug and play. You don’t need to build them, design them, or do anything from scratch to get them up and running. At first glance, that might seem pretty good. But plug-and-play solutions best work in specific types of scenarios. We’ll tell you what those are shortly, but first, here are the pros:

  • Lower cost – A prebuilt solution doesn’t require customization or time spent on discovery, so the cost is often lower.
  • Requires fewer decisions – There’s not a lot of flexibility with prebuilt solutions, which means you’ll need to make fewer decisions upfront.

But of course, there are cons to this type of solution, too. A couple are:

  • Workflow compatibility issues – Your workflows must conform to the solution, not vice versa. In some scenarios, this might work, but with more complex processes, you risk a solution hurting rather than helping productivity.
  • Little flexibility – Since every company has different needs, a prebuilt solution may lack the flexibility required to fix your specific problems.

Now, back to those scenarios. An out-of-the-box solution can work when you’re only looking to improve workflows in a single department that doesn’t require cross-departmental collaboration. But, if you need cross-departmental collaboration or want to extend the solution beyond a single area of the business, read on to see why a customized solution is often a better fit.

Customized solutions                                                                                     

An out-of-the-box solution may be ready to go, but if it doesn’t address your specific workflow challenges it’s not of much value to you. A customized solution starts with your challenges and then builds a product that solves them. Here are a few pros:

  • Keep your workflows – Where out-of-the-box solutions don’t adapt to your established workflows, with a customized solution, you won’t have to change them to improve efficiency. For example, a process that normally takes an hour to complete might be reduced to just 10 minutes with a customized solution leveraging automation.
  • Collaborate more efficiently – Customized solutions reduce the silos that slow you down and makes it easier to collaborate.
  • Change things yourself – With the right customized solution, you can often make technology changes instead of waiting for your IT department to address your requests.

A couple of drawbacks of this type of solution are:

  • Higher cost – As building a customized solution requires more resources, it’s not surprising that it will be more expensive than something out of the box. However, it’s important to note that this type of solution typically has a high ROI. Consider running the numbers to get a full understanding of how that return helps offset the cost of the solution.
  • Longer implementation time – Because its built for your specific workflow problems, a customized solution takes time to develop. Again, the upfront investment here often pays off down the road with a smoother rollout and greater employee adoption.

Deciding between a customized solution and a prebuilt solution boils down to the number of users and the complexity of the processes. A workflow that requires three users, but those users aren’t always the same people, or workflows with a variable number of steps would be best served by a customized solution.

Choosing what’s best for your company

As you determine the best next steps, keep this in mind: A prebuilt solution tells you what it can do. The problem you’re looking to fix must align with the solution. Sometimes this works and the plug-and-play route proves to be all that’s needed. But once you introduce any level of complexity, it often doesn’t.

A customized solution asks you about your specific workflow problems and works backward to build a solution that solves your particular challenges.

With a greater understanding of the differences between these two types of solutions, you’ll realize how the complexity of your workflows will guide you to the best possible choice for your organization.