Some 25 years ago, we decided to build our own business IT system. The system allows us to accommodate rapidly changing technology without ever facing major issues of costly system conversions, intellectual investment abandonment, and service interruptions.

The ingredients of our business have changed several times over the years, and our system has always been there to support us.

We have been in a position to constantly have our software keep pace with our needs. Additionally, we did not have to allow software development to slide due to cost-benefit scenarios that could have kept the business waiting for the benefit to become great enough to justify the reinvestment. Choosing not to make an intellectual investment in order to save money upfront just seems costly in the long run.

We enjoy being able to equip our staff with software that has direct application to their day-to-day tasks. We also enjoy the luxury of being able to implement procedural and systematic change rapidly by leveraging software as a tool to get it done. This allows us to stay ahead of our customers’ ever-changing needs, as well as not limit our employees’ ability to produce.

This is not to say that bought software is not a proper business strategy: In fact, it’s the best scenario for most dealers. Our decision to build our own systems does not mean that it is the right choice for others. Your needs will vary, and the way you address those needs will be unique to your situation.

Developing a custom-built system should not be taken on without the proper plan, talents, and resources. After all, we are in the professional building supply industry, not the software development industry, and it’s rare that a dealer has among its ranks sufficient resources to create and implement a first-rate software solution.

The model of providing industry-specific solutions allows for businesses to have access to well-developed tools that have been specifically designed to support their industry. We feel that we benefit from a system that is perfectly aligned to our business.

The ownership, management team, and staff of Jackson Lumber & Millwork are fully committed to the idea of continuous improvement and take great pride in analyzing the business to look for the next opportunity to strengthen it. Having systems with the ability to support and drive improvement on a regular basis brings excitement to the workplace and helps us keep the message clear to our staff that if there is a better way, we will pursue it.

In managing a lean-oriented company that is continually looking to improve the business in ways both large and small, we find that a very reliable and effective means for doing so is through the development and implementation of software solutions that facilitate and measure strategic business changes.

—Don Piccirillo is information systems director at Jackson Lumber & Millwork in Lawrence, Mass. Contact him at [email protected] or 978.686.4141.