Custom Software Development vs. Temp Agencies: Which Is Right for You?
Whether it's a vacancy from a recently departed employee or a sudden surge in work, every company has known a time where it was too busy for its own good. To address these problems, many organizations have two options available: streamline processes (which can be easily done using custom software) or hire temp workers.
Despite the title of this article, there's never a binary choice between choosing to build custom software or hiring a temp agency. In fact, there are certain situations where it makes sense for you to use one, both or neither. The trick is learning how to use both of them together in concert, as opposed to in conflict.
When Would You Have to Make This Choice?
You might have to choose between custom software development and temp workers if you're in the process of doing a system integration, such as having your QuickBooks application communicate with your order entry system. While you're developing this application programming interface (API), however, you still need warm bodies who will physically enter these orders, send them out for invoicing and mark them as paid. Whether it's accounting, data entry or customer service, human beings must still perform this manual labor while the software is being developed.
In general, there are at least four ways that companies end up deciding between automating processes with custom software development and temp agencies:
- Your volume has grown so fast that you simply don't have enough people to keep up with the surge in demand.
- You're experiencing significant trouble filling a position that's been vacant for some time. As a result, you want to know if you can patch the hole using temp workers, or develop a solution that removes the need for that position.
- One of your clients suddenly mandates that you migrate to their choice of digital technologies. For example, you may have previously been sending orders to a client by fax, and now you need to do it via an API; you have six months to figure it out or else you'll simply lose the client.
- You're looking for ways to reduce the costs of the temp workers who are currently at your organization. Using temp workers is an expensive proposition — up to 20 percent more expensive than hiring an in-house employee. Although you don't have to pay temp workers things like insurance, their agencies do, so those costs are baked into the fees that temp workers charge.
When Should You Use Custom Software Development?
Any workflow or process involving data entry, or data moving between different systems, is a good candidate for custom software development. Problems with data entry are easily solved with automation, helping to reduce errors and improve your security. For example, because there are fewer eyes passing over your data, automation helps make it more secure. Whether it's Social Security numbers or payment card information, human users will only see a hash or obfuscation of the data unless they've been explicitly granted access.
For example, filling out and storing patient forms in a doctor's office is an excellent choice for a custom software solution. Patients can enter their data online beforehand in a custom-built internet portal so that the doctor has all of their information at hand during the appointment. By having patients enter their personal data instead of receptionists, you can reduce the number of errors and also save money on things like ink and toner. What's more, you won't have to worry about where to store the papers with patients' private health information or how to dispose of them.
Other good candidates for custom software development are projects that connect hardware and software. For example, you can automate a great deal of the manual, laborious printing process. In doing so, you'll be able to print a lot more documents on a daily basis and save money on paying for salaries, workstations, cubicles and so on.
When Should You Use a Temp Agency?
Temp agencies are a good choice for filling vacancies that are difficult to actually automate, such as customer service positions that interact with end users. For example, if you have an e-commerce website, creating a chatbot for simple inquiries can work for a large volume of requests, but you still need humans behind the scenes who can step in for more complicated queries. Often times, in cases like this, you'll want a hybrid solution between automation and human intervention.
Seasonal issues and unexpected work are other situations where a temp agency would make sense. If you have a rush job that needs to be done right now, then you almost certainly won't be able to fix it with a custom software development project that could take weeks or months to complete. You can use a temp agency while developing a more permanent solution in the background.
If you want to use a temp agency, then by all means do so — but make sure you have a strategy to reduce your dependency on it. In the near future, will you have automated the position or completed a project that removes the need to hire temp workers? Temp agencies can be a good and useful solution to help meet your immediate needs, but by no means are they a long-term solution.