Custom vs. Customize
To design, or not to design?
In your quest for a case management solution, you may have been approached by a designer, or even another end user of custom case management system. Or the thought of a custom database may have flitted through your head. After all, you need a system that can withstand your agency's specific volume without upsetting the general workflow that you have established. A custom case management program is a certain way to insure that all needs are met and workflows are maintained initially. However, a commercial, off-the-shelf solution often can provide you with all of the attributes that your agency needs, while offering enhancements that you may not have considered. But, please keep in mind, that these enhancements, and even some of the desired attributes, may not always be apparent without thoughtful needs analysis and careful customization.
Many custom databases are not documented extensively, which can result in corrupted data if neglected. Since custom database design can be costly, features are not usually substantially improved and new features are often postponed. Availibility of customization often varies with the designer. Some require that you call in a designer to add fields, change titles, or improve workflows. Other design companies require that you keep an individual on staff in order to make necessary changes to the system.
A COTS solution provides your agency with professional grade software that is maintenanced, upgraded, and improved on a yearly basis. Since COTS solutions transfer customization through upgrades, your time and money aren't wasted trying to recreate updates and changes you made last year. Most COTS solutions standardize customization features making it easy to add or move fields, change titles, colors, and staff, and even update reports and forms.
The varriability of today's job market is another factor that you should consider. If the design company is sold, or if key staff turn over, the customized databases are usually left to wither without maintenance or improvements despite the best efforts of staff. While new employees may try to maintenance or troubleshoot your custom system, they may not be as comfortable with the ins and outs of your program.
Our most popular COTS solution, Time Matters, is owned by Lexis Nexis, a corporation of Reid Excelesir and provides 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tech Support 7 days a week. Tech Support trains on a regular basis in order to answer your questions and troubleshoot issues prompty. At Michael Matters, we are here around the clock to answer your questions or to walk you through user level customization and updates.