Business Transformation

Considering Custom Software? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Investing in new technologies can be a stressful part of business operations. If you’re looking for a software solution, consider what custom software has to offer. Depending on your needs, the “right” software may be something that doesn’t exist yet.

Choosing the right business software can be a difficult task. Pre-built software solutions cost less initially and are faster to implement, whereas custom solutions offer greater control and potential future revenue.

For companies with limited resources, cost often wins out in the end and leads them to opt for off-the-shelf solutions. However, these more templated solutions can lead to unexpected issues down the road. The “right” choice all depends on what a company needs its software to do.

In short, the dilemma might not be as difficult as it initially seems. If you’re deciding between saving money or creating personalized solutions, you might realize you don’t have to choose between the two at all. You just need to consider the pros and cons of each software solution.

Comparing Off-the-Shelf Software vs. Custom Software

When deciding between using off-the-shelf software or investing in custom software development, the former solution tends to look more attractive at first glance. After all, standardized software usually carries a lower price tag and takes less time to set up. It can likely do everything you need right off the bat.

Once you get past these short-term benefits, everything begins to change. Off-the-shelf software is significantly disadvantaged when it comes to scalability and adaptability. Rather than being created according to your company’s unique needs and goals, it’s built to serve businesses of a certain size and type. Try to move beyond any of these constraints, and you’re left with a solution that struggles to keep up.

Custom software, on the other hand, provides you with a competitive advantage that no one else can easily replicate. Personalized software solutions allow you to guide and operate your business as you see fit, making it easier to respond to changing internal needs and outside requirements. It can also increase employee satisfaction and productivity. When employees see you investing in products that aid their workflows, they tend to be more engaged and productive.

Evaluating the Cost of Software Solutions

Even with the advantages of custom software, it might still not seem like it’s worth the higher price tag and longer development time. But these downsides aren’t always what they seem. The average software development project takes a little bit more than four months to complete, which isn’t that long when you consider that a website redesign can take between two and four months. And if you look at the big picture, the cost begins to seem more reasonable.

With custom software, there’s no need to pay for new features you don’t need or renew licenses as time goes on. Custom solutions are built to your exact specifications, which means they maximize efficiency and integrate with the tools you already use. Personalized software also offers better security: Hackers would rather break into off-the-shelf software used by hundreds of businesses than a custom solution used by just one company.

All of this adds up to a scalable, cost-effective solution that can work for your business both now and in the future. While off-the-shelf solutions might feel like the best value today, custom-built software can evolve with your business moving forward.

Investing in Custom Software Development

Of course, the advantages of custom software sound great in theory, but how do you ensure that the right solutions get built? Here are a few tips that can help guide you:

  1. Look for a partnership rather than a vendor.
    Developing custom software that works for you isn’t a matter of telling a vendor what you want and having them deliver it a few months later. The technology team you choose should be an active partner in the process, guiding you through the various questions and setbacks that can arise during custom software development.
    While you may be inclined to let your IT department handle as much of the process as possible to save money, chances are your team already has enough on its plate. Plus, your IT team members might not have the expertise required to build the product you need now and in the future.
    The partner you choose for your software solutions should be skilled in more than just software development. The team should have experience working in your industry, have a clear understanding of user experience and strategy, and be willing to disagree with you when necessary. If a vendor always claims it can do everything without a problem, keep looking; you want a partner that isn’t afraid to confront reality and have hard discussions.
  2. Take the time to identify the real problems you need to solve.
    To create custom software that supports and improves your current workflows, you first need to understand your process — and any existing shortcomings. You can then use that knowledge to determine what solution you need and what metrics you can use to measure success.
    An effective software design process involves selecting and adopting several approaches that reflect your unique set of goals, requirements, and constraints. While expert technologists know how to combine and build unique software, that alone isn’t enough to succeed. A valuable partner will insist on fully understanding the outcomes you want to achieve before beginning to create a solution for you.
    Business leaders need to be involved throughout the process. This helps to ensure that goals, requirements, and constraints are refined, confirmed, and balanced appropriately. The more involved leaders are, the better the outcome will be for your custom software.
  3. Encourage employees and stakeholders to shape the direction of your software.
    While it’s important to receive input from developers and business leaders, you’ll want to include other vital voices. Employees and stakeholders offer different perspectives that can challenge assumptions and steer you toward improvements you might have otherwise overlooked.
    When creating a road map for your software development projects, be sure to include these critical groups. They can help you define the milestones that will keep projects moving in the right direction. You should also check in with them periodically to make sure no additional updates are necessary.

While off-the-shelf software might seem like the right choice in the short term, you’ll eventually hit a wall. Custom software can offer the personalization and scalability you need to future-proof operations and ensure ongoing success for your company.

Written by Thomas Supercinski.

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Thomas Supercinski
Thomas Supercinski is head of product development at Frogslayer, a custom software development and digital innovation firm that creates forward-leaping software products and digitals platforms.


Thomas Supercinski is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.