Custom software development is analogous to choosing your wedding outfit. You can buy it off the rack and wear it as it or choose to take the extra step by tailoring it to your exact specifications and needs. When you buy third-party software on the market, it may not fit all of the specifications you need. Additionally, you can spend a bit more and custom-build software that is precisely what your company needs.
While custom software certainly has several benefits, it often comes at a higher cost, both literally and metaphorically. The process can be expensive and consume vast internal and external resources in the development process. However, the benefits can pay dividends, including increased efficiency and productivity across your corporation.
What is Custom Software Development?
Custom software development is the process of building, creating, and implementing software systems designed to fulfill a specific business’s needs. It involves extensive resources, including software developers, designers, and other workers, to ensure the final product and future iterations are usable and bug-free.
The development usually involves several stages, such as prototyping, design, development, testing, and deployment, resulting in an application streamlining company efficiency and productivity. Unlike off-the-shelf software, custom-built software development is never truly finished until the client is fully satisfied with the product.
Off-the-Shelf Software Pros
Although custom software provides the most hand-tailored solution for your problems, off-the-shelf software has several benefits and is a great first stop for many businesses.
Some of the pros of off-the-shelf software include the following:
Packaged software is available for nearly any task, including management, communication, finances, and productivity.
Most off-the-shelf software is made to provide the most user-friendly experience possible, especially considering it’s designed to fit various users with different levels of technological proficiency. For instance, Microsoft 360, Asana, and Slack Chat all have outstanding UX designs to make functionality intuitive for first-time users.
Ease of Installation
One significant advantage of pre-packaged software over custom-built software is that it’s ready to use right out of the box. That means installation and integration are often as simple as downloading the software from the developer’s website.
Because off-the-shelf software is intended to be utilized by a wide range of users, it’s typically created to fit various operating systems like Mac, Windows, etc.
While pre-packaged software can typically be customized for a price, at its baseline, it’s usually far cheaper than custom software.
Because packaged software has been tested by a large team of developers who continuously moderate it for bugs and fixes, it tends to be more consistent in performance.
Off-the-Shelf Software Cons
However, packaged software isn’t without its set of disadvantages too, such as:
- Slower to change according as industry demands evolve.
- Usually equipped with several unnecessary bells and whistles (think Microsoft Office’s “Clippy”) that detract from the core functionality.
- Because it’s designed for a broad audience, the software may feel like a compromise that doesn’t address the crux of your business’s specific needs.
Custom Software Pros
Companies frequently turn to custom software development when off-the-shelf software fails to address their specific needs. Some of the places where custom software truly excels include:
Whereas off-the-shelf software may only contain some usable features necessary to improve your company, custom-built software is 100% designed to fit your business’s precise needs.
For example, a retail store may have a system created to ensure complete compatibility between its POS system, inventory, warehouse, and payroll departments, making tracking of products seamless.
Increases Overall Productivity Rates
Because software is built to ensure complete compatibility and communication between various departments, it also increases an organization’s overall productivity and efficiency rates.
Whereas a company may have previously had employees fill out timesheets and transfer them to the HR department, who then entered the data into the system, custom software can make it so that when employees clock in, their data is automatically sent to HR. This not only improves efficiency but reduces errors as well.
Learn more: What is an Enterprise App? (+ Examples)
Fully Owned by the Business
Unlike packaged software, most custom software allows for complete ownership by the company commissioning its development. While this may not be the case in all instances, there is a much higher rate of ownership rights for the most part.
Custom software development solutions are generally built with scalability in mind, meaning that they can cope with company growth.
Easy to Modify
Customized software is much easier to modify and adapt to your company’s specific needs than off-the-shelf software, which has limited or no modification ability.
Custom Software Cons
Custom software isn’t without some necessary considerations, however. Some of the negative aspects of custom design include:
- High initial costs of development, installation, and integration.
- Requires a large time commitment to develop the system and may require extensive resources during the implementation stages (although this can be mitigated with careful planning).
- Must find a competent and trustworthy design team.
- Problems usually won’t be discovered until you use the product.
Types of Custom Software Development
Custom software development is essentially like a virtual toolbox for businesses containing different tools for specific jobs. Companies can choose from various types of custom integrations to build a custom software system that meets all their specific needs.
Below are some of the most common types:
- Mobile Apps: Developers can create apps that work well on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
- Enterprise App Development: These are software solutions designed to maximize efficiency for large-scale enterprise businesses with complex systems and workflows.
- Cloud App Development: These are any apps hosted on cloud platforms.
- Embedded Systems Development: Embedded systems are typically designed for specialized hardware systems like medical devices, cars, or robots.
- E-commerce Development: This includes developing systems to cope with the needs of online retailers, such as payment systems, websites, inventory features, and more.
It’s important to carefully evaluate your business needs and goals before choosing a specific type of custom software development, just like you would choose the right tool for a particular job.
Learn more: How to Calculate the ROI for Custom Software
When and How Should a Business Consider Custom Software Development?
When a business requires more specialized functions from off-the-shelf software, it should consider developing its own customized software to address its specific needs. Custom software can more easily address the individual pain points of a particular organization, making it perfect for maximizing productivity, communication, and internal cohesion among departments.
Other reasons to consider custom software include:
- To increase task automation
- To integrate software systems and streamline workflow
- To manage data more efficiently
- To provide better analytics
Planning Expectations for Custom Software Development
While off-the-shelf software requires minimal planning decisions, custom software development solutions require more substantial considerations and expectations before implementation.
Some important things to consider include:
- Clearly defining project requirements so that only the most efficient solution is developed.
- Defining a realistic timeline based on internal resources, the scope of the project, the preliminary budget, and enough time to iterate and test before the final product launch.
- Defining a realistic budget with plenty of cushioning in case the project experiences expensive mistakes or needs to develop costly fixes.
- Planning for ongoing maintenance, support, and feedback to ensure the final product meets all expectations and stays current with necessary updates.
Learn more: Key Questions to Ask When Buying Custom Software
While off-the-shelf software is a great go-to option for businesses seeking a quick, one-size-fits-all solution to their software woes, it may not address the precise areas of operation needed to optimize functionality.
For a precise software system solution, custom-built software provides a fantastic solution to specific organizational problems, helping companies to maximize productivity and streamline departmental functionality.
Still wondering if custom software is the right move for your company? Our expert team of developers here at Designli are happy to help!
Set up a free consultation today to find out what solution is best for your needs.
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