Packaged solutions are growing in popularity, as businesses seek a fast-tracked implementation of best-practice systems and processes that can deliver a quick return on investment. However, some organisations still view any tech implementation as being an overly difficult task, while others believe a packaged solution – which is essentially an off-the-shelf product – can’t possibly cope with the complexity of systems and processes embedded in the business.
The reality is, for many businesses, a packaged solution is exactly what is needed.
“There’s a general perception that software implementations are these huge projects that take forever, cost vast amounts of money, and often fail,” says Jennifer Hilliard, solutions architect at Edenhouse. “The reality is that businesses don’t have to start with something bespoke; they can start with a standard product – a package solution – that can then be customised to their individual needs. In a rapidly changing world, you can’t wait around for years for tech to be built – and the cost to go up.”
As COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of many businesses, time is of the essence, and many need best-practice tech that just works.
“A packaged solution essentially meets the scope of requirements of most businesses – finance, procurement, HR,” explains Celine Cazali, UKI channel director at SAP. “It has best practice built into it. It’s based on industry knowledge, so it accelerates the time to value, and therefore, it gives predictability on timescales and costs.”
Changing demands from customers – and businesses
Over recent years, our expectations of technology have increased significantly. As consumers, we have certain expectations of the apps and programs we use. In our personal lives, we’ve become accustomed to the apps that we download, and the websites we visit, just working. They’re intuitive. They do what we expect.
As a consequence, we expect the same ease-of-use from the technology we use at work, too.
“Employees expect the same experience they do as consumers,” says Andy Bell, Chief Technology Officer at Edenhouse. “You’ve got clear overlap in the B2B world from the B2C world, and now there’s no real difference in expectation. You’ve also got an increasing number of digital natives in the workplace, and they don’t have much tolerance for working with outdated, clunky solutions that don’t have agility and flexibility.”
The importance of industry expertise
Thinking of a packaged solution as ‘out of the box’ is likely to do it a disservice, however, unless you know that there are several different boxes to choose from, and each of these boxes is industry-specific.
“Clients always articulate the specific needs and challenges within their industry vertical,” says Bell, “and they need the confidence and assurance that a solution will meet those particular needs. That’s where the experience in that sector really comes into play.
“SAP has been working for decades in all of these industries, and it has built best practices – not on the basis of what they think should be there, but on the basis of real-world experience of what businesses in those industries have been doing, and what’s been working most effectively.”
For Bell, that means, not only are businesses getting proven tech with a packaged solution, they are also getting proven industry expertise built-in.
Some businesses may believe that their operations, systems and processes are ‘too different’ for a packaged solution to work for them; however, Bell believes the reality is usually very different.
“Businesses don’t differentiate themselves on how they process invoices, process orders or manage cash – these are all pretty standard, commoditised processes,” says Bell.
Laying the foundations... and the first three floors
According to Cazali, a good way to look at a packaged solutions system is to think of it as a construction process that starts from the third floor – you have all of the foundations and the basics set, and then you build on it as you want and need to.
“What’s really important to understand is it does not restrict you in any way – the software is there in full, so once we’ve adopted the standard best practice, we can undertake a second phase to customise it to the specificities the business team need and expand on that.”
Bell agrees: “It’s the ten per cent around the edge that makes the difference, and by tweaking those aspects we can make that offering and market differentiation applicable to that specific company.”
A packaged solution isn’t a cut-down or limited version of software – it just accelerates your implementation and gives you certainty over the cost and time involved.