The dangers of using off-the-shelf tools

We all want to become more productive. And for many of us, this means adopting off-the-shelf tools to help us work smarter and faster. This could be software, workflow applications, collaboration systems and databases.

But how do we know that we’re actually getting the value we expect from the tools we use. 

The 80/20 challenge 

When I talk to businesses about how they use their off-the-shelf tools. I often discover that there is a very obvious 80/20 scenario going on. Most of us use on average 20% of our tools to conduct 80% of our business.   

This doesn’t exactly sound like a very productive use of productivity tools, does it?  

Now – you might argue that this percentage doesn’t really matter. As long as the most important processes are supported and the tools do the job. But the big problem with most generic off-the-shelf tools and systems is that they simply aren’t designed to meet the unique requirements of your business.   

Adapting can hurt your business 

Ideally, your business should have tools and systems that mirror your business processes. But what often happens when we invest in a ready-made tool or application is that rather than adapting the tools to the way we work.  We start to adapt our business to the tool. We allow our internal processes to change to fit the software, systems or databases we use.  

This means that we allow the tools to limit our view of what the business can achieve. Rather than using the tools to support our long-term goals and visions.

The risk of doing this is two-fold:  

Risk one: Drifting away from your central processes

By using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ tool, you may find that you are moving away from the processes originally designed by the business. Perhaps you start to cut corners on things that were previously central to the way you work, like communications or support processes.  Which can in turn impact your relationship with clients.  

Nobody wants to ask for a service, only to be met with a ‘Computer says no’. If your tools are preventing you from being the business you believe you can be for your customers, you need to reconsider the tools you use.  

Now – even if you are determined to use more than the typical 20% use of your off-the-shelf tools to exhaust all possible value from it, you may find that it still only meets 80% of your actual business needs. In other words, even if your business adopted every single feature available in the tool you would still see functionality gaps in terms of how you want your business to operate.   

Risk two: Becoming beholden to tool functions

Using an off-the-shelf tool or application can seem cost-effective on the surface, but it comes with a certain level of liability. If your business becomes dependent on certain tool functionality, you may struggle if the tool vendor decides to change the tool over time. 

 Like most businesses, off-the-shelf tool vendors are driven by profit. They will constantly look at ways of improving their product to keep up with market requirements and increase their revenue, which means upgrading and changing the application.  

If you’re unlucky you might one day find that some of your most important functions suddenly aren’t supported anymore. If it doesn’t make financial sense for the vendor to continue offering certain aspects of the tool, they won’t do it. This could result in your business having to rapidly find and shift to an alternative solution. Which could be both costly and disruptive.  

Don’t be limited by your tools

It can be hard to find the most efficient tools for business productivity. But what’s important to remember is that you don’t have to limit your choice to the standard off-the-shelf systems. Your business deserves a tailored toolkit to meet your exact business needs.  Which will be many times more cost-efficient.  

Let us help you work better 

We can support you by setting up a suite of fully customisable software to support and automate your unique processes. You will probably be surprised by how quick and inexpensive it is.

Is your business ready to take a step up and become systemised and more productive? Send us a message on today! 

The dangers of using off-the-shelf tools