Custom Software for Business

What Is Custom Software for Businesses, and Does Your Company Need It?

Published on31 Aug 2020
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Introduction

Custom software, sometimes known as special software, is software specially created for a certain company or individual—as opposed to mass-market software such as commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions or free open-source software.

While companies across every industry can benefit from custom software, it may not be the perfect choice for every business. If you’re not sure whether your company could benefit from an investment in custom software, take a look at the pros and cons outlined in this blog post to help inform your decision.

Advantages of Custom Software

In short, custom software product development is designed to automate a particular business’s processes in order to save time and resources and increase efficiency and effectiveness. This investment comes with several major advantages:

  • Total Customization: Because custom software is designed specifically for your business, it can take into account any and all specific expectations, preferences, processes, and challenges that off-the-shelf solutions are simply not equipped to handle. During the initial stage of software development, i.e. the discovery phase, representatives from each team that will be using the software (marketing, engineering, research and development, general management and others) work together with the development team to ensure the new product supports the goals of every department and the company as a whole.
  • Long-Term Flexibility: Because your organization works in close collaboration with the custom software developer, the product can be adjusted as needed both during and after development.
  • Centralization: When you use software designed specifically for your business, it’s likely to be the only system you’ll need to use. And if you do use additional systems, your custom software will be designed to integrate seamlessly with the other platforms. No more managing duplicate data on various platforms or using your staff resources for manual data management across platforms. On the other hand, we see a lot of companies that use off-the-shelf solutions juggling many different software platforms to compensate for the gaps in each solution. When every crucial task—from content marketing to stock inventory to client management to finance—needs its own system, the costs (in time, money, and human resources) add up quickly.
  • Ownership: When you invest in custom software, your business ends up owning the code, as opposed to having a temporary contract for the use of software. This is beneficial from the perspective of perpetual access and power to make changes as needed. But it’s also a critical business asset to have on the balance sheet. If you plan to sell your business one day, this custom software designed specifically for your business and its unique needs will add significant value.

But Isn’t Custom Software Expensive?

Custom software development is often considered expensive compared to readymade solutions and products. This might be true in regards to software that meets your most basic needs—for example, there’s no need for a small business to commission a custom accounting software when they can simply purchase access to Quicken for far less cost. However, as a business’s needs get more complicated, the case for investing in custom software quickly becomes clear.

In many instances, COTS solutions require intricate setup procedures in order to operate correctly in the context of a particular user’s business. This may involve asking full-time employees to stop what they’re working on for weeks in order to customize the new solution, and it may even require hiring outside experts. So much for an “off-the-shelf” solution. Despite the lower purchase price, the cost of setup alone—not to mention maintenance and any opportunity costs due to associated delays—might well exceed the upfront cost of custom software development.

In addition to those setup costs, off-the-shelf solutions often entail per-user, per-month costs, which tend to increase along with the number of users. And anytime the company producing your COTS solution updates the software, that means spending even more time and resources making sure the new version of the solution meets your needs and remains compatible with any other programs you are using.

Choosing between Off-The-Shelf and Custom Software

  • Alignment with your business processes. Any off-the-shelf software solution will have standard processes and workflows built in, and if those don’t match your businesses, then you’ll have to redesign your processes to meet its parameters and its limitations. Additionally, the software likely won’t take into account the more complex processes your business has in place, so you’ll need to be prepared to spend time and money compensating for any inefficiencies that arise as a result of the mismatch.

    Custom software, on the other hand, will be built around your company’s unique needs and workflows. Your team can work closely with process engineers and the software vendor to ensure all of your processes, dependencies, and workflows are documented and accounted for. And a good software development company will be able to consult on how to automate and streamline any processes that aren’t currently working optimally for your business. In short, everything is created with your needs in mind.

  • Ongoing support. If you’re considering off-the-shelf solutions, you need to get very clear with each vendor about whether they offer professional setup or support services—and, if they don’t, what third-party service providers exist to fill in the gaps.

    It should be noted that most reputable custom software developers also offer support service during product implementation and after so that, whenever you need to make a change, fix a bug, or better understand a function of the software, you know exactly who to call for expert help.

Yes, custom software often involves a significant upfront investment, and no, it’s not the right choice for every business. But if your company is looking to solve unique operational challenges, enhance the customer experience, or build a vehicle to empower ongoing revenue growth, custom software may be exactly the solution you need.

Contributor
  • Diana Isaian
    Diana Isaian
    linkedSenior Marketing Manager
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