What is custom software?
Custom software is unique software created to fill a specific need. One example might be a content management system created for the marketing team of an organization, or a banking app created for the bank’s customers. To put it another way, when a company has a need that can’t be met using existing software, they develop custom software to fill that need.
Custom software vs. commercial off-the-shelf software
Commercial off-the-shelf software is pre-existing software that’s available to a large audience. Microsoft Office is an example of off-the-shelf software. It wasn’t created for a specific organization, but to be used by professionals in any organization.
Because it’s readily available, off-the-shelf software is generally cheaper upfront and can be implemented more quickly than custom software.
But it’s worth noting that there are sometimes hidden costs associated with off-the-shelf software. And unlike custom software, which can be created specifically for your organization, off-the-shelf software may not always be compatible with your current process or operating systems.
Why is custom software important?
Custom software allows you to meet a specific need in your organization, a need that off-the-shelf software can’t meet. Once you have this software, it will be easier for your organization to operate successfully and efficiently, leading to higher productivity
By filling a specific need, custom software often saves you time and money. It may also enable you to accomplish things that you couldn’t have otherwise, offer new services to your clients, or manage your team more effectively. Whatever the case, custom software can help you better compete in your market and ultimately make it easier for you to grow as a company.
That’s why, while the upfront cost of developing custom software can be high, it usually ends up saving you money in the long run. The time and money you will save by implementing this solution, and/or the increased profits you will make from using it, offset the initial development costs
More benefits of custom software
Another benefit of custom software is scalability. As your organization grows and evolves, you may need to make changes to the way you operate. While off-the-shelf software is not easy (and often impossible) to modify, you can update custom software at any time to meet changing business or market demands. It’s even possible to plan for these changes in the early stages of development so you can easily modify the software when the time comes.
Another benefit is integration. Whereas off-the-shelf software may not be compatible with your current systems and processes, you can build custom software specifically to integrate with your organization.
Even better, you can create a suite of custom software applications that streamline your organization’s processes and integrate seamlessly. On the other hand, if you buy multiple off-the-shelf solutions, you may end up with a mix of applications that don’t integrate well together, and this can quickly become a hassle.
Finally, when you build custom software, you also gain a developmental support team. Whether you use an in-house or third-party team to develop your software, chances are you’ll still be able to contact them when something goes wrong or when your software needs modifying. While it can be frustrating and time-consuming to find tech support for off-the-shelf software, you’ll have easy access to your own development team—likely the same one that built the software—and will be able to get help quickly.
What you need to know about developing custom software
When you need custom software developed, there are two options for who can develop that software: you can either use in-house developers if you have them, or outsource to a third-party development company.
As a process, creating custom software is similar to developing any software. It follows the usual steps: planning, code creation, testing, and deployment; and can use the same methodologies: agile, DevOps, rapid application development (RAD), and Scaled Agile Framework (SAF).
One strategy for developing custom software is application customization, in which developers modify existing software to meet the specific needs of the organization. In some cases, developers may use open source code, or software codes that are available for anyone to use, as a starting point.
After the software deploys, the development process is far from over. Custom software will still need to be maintained and updated from time to time so it can continue to meet the evolving needs of the organization.
Do you need custom software?
Of course, before you start building custom software, you have to decide if it’s really necessary. If you have unique requirements or business goals that existing software can’t meet, then custom software is probably a smart choice.
But because investing in custom software is a significant decision, it’s worth considering carefully before you move forward. If there’s already a software solution that meets 80% or more of your needs, it may not be worthwhile to build anything new.
Some of the unique requirements that custom software can fill include:
- Content management
- Privacy and security
- Process consolidation
- Process automation
- Application and data integration
- Database searches
- Customer relationship management
- Employee or customer portals
- Bug detection
Should you outsource your software development?
Outsourcing your custom software development can be a smart choice if you either do not have an in-house development team, have a very small in-house development team, or want to keep your in-house development team free to focus on other tasks.
You may be tempted to just use your own in-house developers, and in some cases, this may be the best option. But if your in-house developers already have things they need to work on, taking them away from that other work could potentially cause your whole organization to slow down.
You’ll also want to consider whether or not your in-house developers have the necessary experience for building custom software. There are many different kinds of developers, and building custom software requires a certain skill set.
That’s why, in most cases, outsourcing is simply the best option. If you’re lucky, you may even find a development team that specializes in your industry.
How to pick a software development company
When you need to find a developer for any project, referrals are a great way to go. Ask people in your network if they’ve worked with any developers in the past, and what that experience was like.
Referrals are usually a safe option because they come recommended by someone you know and trust. You’ll get full disclosure on what it’s like to work with that company and what kind of results you can expect.
Of course, you can also search for developers on LinkedIn or other professional sites.
As you review possible development companies, here are a few things to consider:
- Look for a company that’s worked on projects similar to yours. You can usually find examples of past projects in the case studies section of their website.
- Check customer reviews to make sure the company has solid ratings.
- Choose a company that can deliver on time. You may want to discuss this at your first meeting.
- Choose a company that will support you throughout development and continue to maintain the software after implementation.
- Lastly, choose a company you can see yourself working with. If you get a bad vibe after talking with them, that’s usually an indication to run away.
Your development team should include not just software developers, but designers, subject-matter experts, and a tech leader. Some development teams will provide this for you. You’ll also want to appoint someone from your organization to coordinate with the developers.
Need to build custom software? Band of Coders can help. Contact us to learn more.
By Band of Coders