Specialized vs. Multipurpose Software
“Overseeing and managing costs on the construction of a new facility with eight buildings is much too complex for traditional accounting software,” said Jerry Fye, deputy director of finance for the Austin Children’s Shelter, in a release.
Foundation Software, a developer of customized software for construction contractors, donated software, training and support to allow the Shelter to manage its construction project.
This raises the question of when to go with “traditional” or multipurpose software and when to go with a system designed for a specific purpose or industry.
If I were developing software for a specific industry and I wanted it to link into an accounting system, I would NOT try to reinvent the wheel. I would build the links to one or more packages that are popular with the companies in my target market. Rather than build yet another general ledger for medium sized businesses for example, I would bridge to Great Plains or Navision (Microsoft Dynamics GP or NAV). That way I get to stick with what I know (e.g. construction projects) and take advantage of someone else’s success.
This goes for custom development as well. One of my clients was in the entertainment industry and wanted to sell tickets to customers online. Part of the project design was to integrate tightly to the accounting system so they would not have to re-key the transactions. They also decided that they did not want to have to do the programming to calculate all the taxes when the accounting system (Great Plains) already did such a good job of it. So they had their web site pass the information to the accounting system once the customer had placed the order. The accounting system then calculated taxes and shipping charges and passed the information back to the web site so the customer could enter the payment information. The result: a system where every piece does what it’s good at and the headache of updating the tax tables is left to the experts: the accountants!