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The 90/10 Problem: Benefits Of A Custom-Built Solution

By Pete Czech

The 90/10 Problem: Benefits Of A Custom-Built SolutionNew Possibilities Group

Getting to 100%...

Many times, prospective new clients will come to us and ask a question we hear more than any other:

"Why go with custom built software when there are proven, popular frameworks out there?  Like Drupal!"

Well, besides the obvious arguments, our favorite answer to this question is an introduction to the 90/10 problem.  What is the 90/10 problem?  Basically, off-the-shelf software will in most cases get you 90% of your requirements, leaving 10% of your specification unfinished.  

Now, this may bring about a variety of responses…  First, there is denial.  And chances are if you are in denial - you've already made up your mind about what platform to proceed with.  But experienced webmasters and developers know this, even if they are afraid to tell you.  There are inherent limitations to the possibilities available with off-the-shelf software.

Another response we commonly hear is acceptance.  Maybe you can deal with 90% of your specification being accomplished and are willing to sacrifice the remaining 10%.  If so, beware: this is where the slope gets slippery.  If a website is built using off-the-shelf software with a set of assembled components, and it doesn't do 100% of what you want it to do, then chances are your competitor is doing the same exact thing, right now.  Or will be, very soon.  Translation: That 10% is what defines your product as unique.   It is your purple cow, it is what sets you apart.  Similar to the Pareto principal, that 10%, the 10% you know you want and need, will account for 90% of your uniqueness in the marketplace.

What is the value of that 10%?  What is the value of that differential over a month, a year or 5 years?  Is it enough to justify a custom-built solution that does everything you want it to do?  Whether your site is big or small, you have competition and a unique feature can oftentimes mean the difference between failure, success and crushing it.

When you are building your site, your "real estate on the web", don't cut yourself short.  Get what you want the first time.  Invest in a unique platform, set your product apart and reap the benefits later on.  After all, its often times a small change or feature that makes a major difference in the long run.

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