The world is a global village where everyone wants to be the leader. Regardless of if you’re the buyer or seller, people can now access the world with just a tap on their devices. With this constant struggle for excellence, the competitive advantage window is getting smaller for businesses daily.
Software that looks good, but doesn't deliver on goals and objectives of the client, is of no use and will disappoint its users. Software that has everything under the sky but is quite slow will similarly scare people away. This is where the old parable of Goldilocks comes into play and the search for something that is "just right".
In solving such problems, software development plays a pivotal role. Custom software is also known as bespoke or tailor-made software is developed for a specific user, organization or a group of users within an organization while keeping unique goal and objectives in mind. It is designed in an efficient and flawless way to meet the exact needs more closely.
It is different from an off-the-shelf software which is designed to appeal to a large market segment with price as a deciding factor.
The Disadvantage of Ignoring Custom Software Development
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is the fact that the software being used is not customized for your organization needs. Customization ensures that your own policies and procedures are accounted for. The alternative is that you are forced to accommodate a system that does not work with the way you have designed your business governance, policies, regulations, compliance and model.
Packaged, off the shelf software is designed to appeal to a mass market. Often this means the initial upfront cost is lower, hence it's an appeal. However, additional costs to interconnect the software to other internal systems need to be accounted for. In addition process and redesign, costs should also be considered. Another factor to consider is that complex systems often require professional services for setup and deployment.
Security is another concern that needs to be considered. Off the shelf, the software has a larger footprint. This often means that malicious parties have more to gain by targeting companies with this software. Additionally, server or cloud resources are shared and co-hosted to reduce the cost. Which intern raises the risk of data privacy and security.
Hardware costs are also something to consider when deciding upon a solution. Custom software can often be written more efficiently as it is more focused. By not having to support every operating system or application, it's possible to have a tool that is a fraction of the size.
The Big Step from Hardware to Software Centered Operations
One of the essential element in an organization is to move from hardware to software centered operations. With advanced systems, the budget-constrained department can realize significant efficiencies. The following are the main steps to move from hardware to software operations.
- Discovering and Tracking: This is the crucial step in the successful deployment of hardware and software. Disclosing all elements will not only save your money but also help you in the well-organized operations.
- Software Distribution: IT departments may face many challenges when distributing new software. This can include virus checking, operating system patches, minimizing change windows and more. It's important to automate as much as possible to minimize user intervention.
- Help Desk Support: While automation can take you far, at some point, intervention is necessary. A help desk is the best tool to give relief. For a comprehensive management strategy in a software organization, help desk support provides instant answers to any query.
The Realization of Custom Software Need
Improving an organization should be a primary goal. There are many methods to ensure this but the core element of this is having custom software that conforms to missions, goals, and needs. For organizations that need out-of-the-box options, custom software is the best answer.
Here are the main steps you should know in moving towards it:
- Assess your needs: You should ask some basic questions about what you are trying to accomplish. Once you have an understanding of your requirements, you will be in a better place to judge whether you need custom software or not.
- Check out your competition: Sometimes it's a good idea to understand what your competition is doing. Find out if they are using an off the shelf product or not. Even if they are using an off the shelf option, can you make something better to help your organization stand out?
Selecting the Right Model
Companies providing custom software development solutions are focused on delivering a best-practice model. The basic engagement models define the responsibility, role and infrastructure requirements. They are defined in four key ways:
- Resources - utilizing additional incremental resources to complement an existing team or organization.
- Offshore - a team that is dedicated to the organization but is physically located in another country for cost-benefit reasons.
- Fixed Price - clearly defined specifications are a key requirement of fixed-price engagements
- Time and Materials - an alternative is one with flexibility at its heart. Time and materials bills by effort instead of by the job.
Choosing the Right Technology Platform
Once you decided to go for custom-built software, you need the right platform. Understanding what you are trying to do will guide this decision. If your needs are for an always-on solution, you probably want to look for something that can be in the cloud. In this case, you’d be looking at Google or Amazon or something along those lines
If however, your need is more client-server based then you could be looking at a solution written in C++, Java or similar. It is important to understand who your target is and what exactly you are trying to do.
Whichever platform you choose, you need to consider integration with existing in house apps and tools. There probably is not one silver bullet that will do everything you want, so you might have to make some compromises. If that’s the case, prioritize what is essential vs what is nice to have so you know what you can give up.
Companies need to design a solution that offers growth. Sustainable user growth, feature additions, and functionality, when put together, give rise to a more useful solution. Some things to consider when looking for a scalable solution are:
- Functionality: The functionality of a software rests on growth. Building everything in version 1 might be laudable. However, it will cost a lot and take an excessive amount of time. It's important to build a product that meets the needs of the business but has the capability of being expanded upon.
- Database Infrastructure: Errors in database infrastructure hinders many scalability options. A relational database is the best solution that allows many ways to access information.
- Adding Feature: Stagnation is death. You need to ensure that new and relevant features are continually being added.
- Documentation: It makes it easier to highlight potential challenges when adding new features. Regular and comprehensive documentation fix many issues by itself in scalability.
Understanding The Right Workflow
A workflow is a systematic approach to repeatable business patterns. It is built around accomplishing fast delivery and smooth operations. The right workflow reshapes your service area, and transform the system into a more efficient and advanced operation.
You should keep these in mind in understanding the right workflow for custom software development.
- Well Established Business Approach: Select and establish a standardized workflow and look deep into the major threats. Cover the milestones and achieve the delivery task.
- Shallow End First: Use the high-level milestones for every product and track them as per your need.
- Keep Looking Back: In moving further it is important to look back to see if your progress is not creating problems with previous results.
- Stay Open to New Ways: Always be open to embracing new paths to go the establishment of your software and know their potentialities.
Quality is The Key
In every field, quality and transparency of services are what catches people most. If a company promises to deliver services but in actuality, you do not get what you want, that is a major drawback.
Quality means that you do what you say you're going to do in a timely and cost-effective manner. It requires an understanding of a company's business objectives and goals. This sort of a relationship takes time to develop and grow.
With software, quality is even more important. It is easy to introduce new bugs into a product whenever new features are launched. Testing needs to be conducted to ensure that this is not the case.
It is a Continuous Process
You can’t just wait if you see a bug or an error in your software.
When you end-up finalizing your demands and selecting the company for your needs, you have to ensure you get a support contract. There needs to be continuous testing, maintaining, and updating in its system according to the latest trends.
The updated and current software is the best tool to have plenty of users and will always need continuous back-end support.
When it comes to custom software, it’s important to realize that there is not a magic bullet that will solve all of your problems. Off the shelf software, for example, is built to appeal to the masses and is based on common issues and problems. With custom software, however, it is possible to build a product that actually meets your businesses needs.
Not only is this more cost effective in the longer term, but it is also significantly more efficient. Custom software can grow with your business and with a solution in place that actually maps to the job you do and talks with the systems you use, you’re going to realize significant improvements in time, quality and cost.