Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software solutions are often the first choice for new businesses that are focused on development and growth expense containment. These solutions are not always ideal and many new businesses adjust their preferred standard operating procedures to adjust to the operations of software that is homogenized to meet the expectations of as many industry operators as possible. This compromise means that your business growth might stagnate at certain points and create pain points for your team.
However, a software development project can be costly and time-consuming. Added to that, the success of such projects is not guaranteed. Research shows that 75% of business and IT executives anticipate that their software projects will fail.
However, there are benefits and drawbacks to each solution. In this piece, we take a closer look at what some of the details of those benefits and drawbacks are and which solutions might better suit the needs of your organization.
What is custom software development?
Custom or tailor-made software or bespoke software development means having software created for your business specifically. This includes writing code, building the system that you need, and launching a program that answers your questions and helps your business to grow.
Custom software and applications are built to your specifications. The consultation process with developers should include a discussion about what you need, how you want to use your technology, and what architecture will work best for your business growth.
Custom software development includes:
- Building software from scratch: Developing software for your business only and launching it can be time-consuming and costly. Larger companies tend to choose this option or those that export IT solutions as a foundation of their business.
- Configuring an off-the-shelf solution: Some existing software can meet the needs of a business but with few limitations. Customizing an off-the-shelf solution can make it more adapted to your business needs, and this can be done at a greatly reduced cost compared with customization. Often ERP or CRM software with extensions or add-ons that fills functionality gaps are used by small or medium-sized businesses.
When to choose custom software development?
Reasons that businesses choose custom options include:
- New industries in which off-the-shelf solutions have not yet been developed or existing solutions that offer limited functionality. Some industries have very specific needs.
- Industries that have compliance with privacy and security regulations as a core of the business.
ECommerce, finance, healthcare, and hospitality are all industries that rely heavily on storing and using personal data. Such industries benefit from developing custom software that supports business growth while adhering to the highest levels of security and compliance.
There are many benefits for businesses able to develop their own software, especially if cost is not an issue and in-house IT and development teams are at hand.
- Security: Exclusive ownership of software can provide a business with added layers of protection and help reduce the odds of a security breach. The reduced access makes such software a lesser target for hacking if security protocols are high.
- Scalability and flexibility: Custom software can be adapted to suit the needs of the business as it grows. You might anticipate that as you grow you will require a new system, and you can have it configured and ready to roll out as you grow, rather than trying to adapt existing OTS solutions as you expand. This allows for a level of fluidity and efficiency that can put your brand ahead of competitors.
- Efficiency: Off-the-shelf solutions often have tools that are homogenized to suit a variety of industries, and therefore have tools that your organization is unlikely to use. Customized software is optimized for the specific needs of your business and therefore has no added extras that slow your systems and create obstacles to efficiency.
- Easy integration: Integrating software with your existing architecture can be costly if OTS solutions are not easily adaptable. Sometimes what your business needs simply does not exist, or solutions that do exist do not slot into your architecture and create problems with speed, communication, or bugs. A custom solution means that these issues are bypassed.
- Deployment delays: More complex applications and software can take a significant amount of time to create. While OTS solutions often have solid foundations for building and development, when you choose to create a solution from nothing, it means all the A/B testing, ethical hacking, and debugging processes must be done. These tests and adjustments take time and projects can take longer than expected to launch.
- Higher costs: Developing custom software is expensive in comparison with OTS solutions. However, development and maintenance costs in the long term can significantly improve efficiency and productivity, which will reduce costs and boost performance. For businesses that can afford to wait for results, these costs can be negligible when factored into a long-term strategy.
How to choose in-house or outsourced custom software development?
Aside from making the choice to develop custom software, there is another pressing point; to build it in-house or to outsource the project? Creating software and apps using an in-house team of developers has many benefits, such as control and close monitoring of development. Handing over the creative process to a trusted provider can also yield many benefits, such as distance from the project and a neutral party to provide honest feedback on ideas.
In-house teams can develop custom products, and they will have a good understanding of your business needs and company culture. However, if you do not already have these team members, hiring and training developers can be costly and time-consuming.
Outsourcing custom software development means that you have access to a large talent pool and often with developers who have created similar products to the one you need. You can choose to work with different vendors for different projects or implement a different engagement model according to the project requirements. You should be aware of your contract conditions to ensure you have full and final ownership of your products, and the ability to change all security settings in-house after the final settlement with the vendor.
Things to Know
- Domain and technical expertise: Ensure that the vendor has experience with projects relevant to your industry and the software solution type you desire. Experienced developers will share with you their prior work experience and case histories if you approach them with a serious request for development.
- Team: You should research the backgrounds of developers to understand their style, skills. The more diverse the skill set of your chosen software development team the more high-quality the work is likely to be. That does not mean that a development team that works within a limited scope is not good, often these teams are better at specialized industries or services.
- Support and maintenance model: The vendor should be available for support, upgrades, and updates as per the agreement of your contract. If you are paying to develop a solution be sure to include this in your costs.