custom software development

Is Custom Software the Right Move for Your Business?

Business needs vary widely from one organization to the other. For this reason, your team must concentrate on the continual improvement of processes and techniques to stay ahead of the competition. Custom software is a great way to do this.

To help guide your decision process, we had a one-on-one with Jamie Mikami, a software developer who also happens to be the VP of Operations here at CSG Pro.

In our discussion, we explored common questions teams have about custom software, covering the full spectrum from adoption to implementation. Keep reading to see if custom software is the right move for your business.

When does custom software make sense?

Customer software is when you write code or create a solution that caters to the unique needs of an organization or individual users.

Many teams face challenges when they try to implement an ERP solution to align with business processes. When it comes to custom software, there are several areas where it’s truly valuable.

  • When teams deal with different processes that are not currently addressed in an efficient or cost-effective manner.
  • When teams feel the need to have intellectual property rights for their processes.
  • When teams are overwhelmed by manual processes and there is a serious decrease in inefficiency and the quality of work.
  • When your old solution is in need of an upgrade to meet current user experience, infrastructure, or security concerns.

Custom software—built with collaboration goals in mind—offers a dedicated environment to plan and execute workflows seamlessly. As a bonus, you’ll avoid the hefty cost associated with licensing and upgrading that is associated with off-the-shelf software.
Custom software is exactly what it sounds like…custom. It’s designed to meet the needs of your business and your team.

When does off-the-shelf software make sense?

Off-the-shelf software, or simply out-of-the-box software, is a product with recognizable features and functions that are within the design and construction of an application. Designed for mass-market appeal, off-the-shelf software doesn’t require any form of custom coding or development.

Out-of-the-box software is often preferred because of its fast and cost-effective nature. There are numerous ERP systems in the market, which means you have a huge number of pre-existing products that only require you to buy and install and get on with processes.

You need to look for a solution that fits the goals of your business, including the budget you have. This budget should take the implementation and maintenance of the software into account.

The fact that off-the-shelf software is ready-made, appears cheaper, and available for immediate implementation makes it an excellent choice for some organizations. But, certainly…not all.

How should orgs think about the cost of custom software and off-the-shelf software?

The cost of a commercial product compared to one developed for your organization’s needs are often misunderstood. Custom software seems expensive upfront since the software is developed to solve organizational challenges and all development costs are often paid by a single client.

Despite being a bigger investment, the total cost of ownership (TCO) and operating costs can be relatively low. You pay a high price for the initial product, then reap efficiency gains in the future. The developers work with you step-by-step to handle your issues in a way that works specifically for your business on your timeline.

On the other hand, the development cost of an off-the-shelf software product appears low because it’s effectively distributed across a wider audience. However, the lower initial cost doesn’t make the software cheap in the long-run.

Off-the-shelf software has hidden costs that consistently add up over time due to inefficiencies, service upgrades, licensing, subscription fees, ill-timed updates, and customizations. Yes, your off-the-shelf software will often require expensive customizations that can delay and increase the initial licensing costs, without providing a true custom product in the end.

Another issue with out-of-the-box solutions is the misconception that teams will be able to adapt quickly. Your team must have formal training to know how to actually use the software.

What are the pros and cons of custom software?

When it comes to the pros and cons of custom software, think about the problem you’re planning to solve and how you need to solve it.

Pros of Custom Software

One of the main advantages of custom software is that it’s tailor-made to your needs. This software is here to address your issues in a very efficient manner. You can truly get what you want from this solution as it is flexible and customizable.

Cons of Custom Software

One of the challenges I see is that organizations have high expectations when it comes to project delivery, yet teams sit back and wait for results without getting involved in the process. The truth is that custom software is an investment of both time and money.

Your internal team’s contribution is critical in making the process as efficient as possible when you’re working with custom software developers. I have never seen a developer who can read your mind, so take the time to talk through your process in detail to help transfer that knowledge.

What’s the most common mistake people make when buying custom software?

Theoretically, solving problems with software development is relatively easy—find the best custom software development team to turn your ideas into reality.

But, how do you make the right choice when it comes to custom software developers? There are numerous factors to consider when selecting a software development partner to work with—and here are two common mistakes decision-makers overlook.

Ignoring Collaboration During Project Execution

When looking for the right custom software development partner, it’s important to make sure the software is not just working for you but with you. It’s a partnership. Collaboration methods from both sides should be clear from the onset.

Most software development projects never succeed because of miscommunication and misunderstanding between the client and the dev team. Establishing a clear and consistent communication model at project kick-off will only make the process more efficient.

Failure to Specify What You Need for Your Business

Some organizations order custom software but they are vague about what they want. Initially, they state the features they need in the software. Then they fail to be part of the entire process that requires interactions and honest feedback to achieve optimal results.

In this case, the organization invests a huge chunk of money. Yet their failure to collaborate creates problems when the software is delivered and it doesn’t address what the team actually wants to achieve.

Clear communication with the developer, including the purpose of the software and what you want to achieve, helps the dev team create exactly what you need.

What is the CSG Pro approach to scoping and developing custom software?

Sometimes organizations need a tailor-made approach in order to achieve their business goals, and off-the-shelf simply doesn’t deliver on that promise.

At CSG Pro, we always take an agile approach when it comes to custom software development. We term it as “agile” but it still follows the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) to provide you with a complete solution.

Collaboration is the key to our success, by working with you as a partner in the process to create the solution that best fits your specific needs, you end up with a product you can use efficiently. This means your team is part of our design, development, and discovery decision-making processes until we achieve what actually fits your business needs.

Regular meetings and interactive sessions are all part of the process to help ensure you get the product you want when you want it—and for a cost that fits your budget. You get to watch your solution mature before your eyes and we prefer to involve you in each step along the way.

What does the CSG Pro custom software development process look like?

We follow a fairly standard SDLC process. Once we have all the key details of your project, we move to the discovery process where we assess your existing system to come up with possible remedies to your biggest pain points.

Next comes the design and development process. That again requires collaboration with your team to provide an overview of the process. This collaborative process includes regular progress updates and customer feedback to uncover what will work optimally for your team.

After we complete your solution, we need to efficiently deploy and manage it with your team. This step can be a shared process. We hand the keys over to your team, or we keep control at this point and continue to help evolve your software to meet your needs as your company evolves.

Unlike off-the-shelf software that involves hidden costs, the custom software model outlines the actual cost associated so you don’t have budget surprises down the line.

It’s worth noting that all software is prone to mistakes. At CSG Pro, we want client involvement so we can identify these bugs in the testing phase. We often speak about failing fast, so that you don’t pay for extended mistakes.

What would you say to someone stuck in the “make or buy” software decision?

From a person that has taken the time to consider the pros and cons of custom software and off-the-shelf software, it all comes down to how efficient the process is. And, of course, the ROI.

That said, it’s important that the process is transparent. Total collaboration and honest feedback from your team will help minimize hidden costs in the discovery and development process.

Taking all this into account, I would say that a solution that is designed to cater to your business needs is the way to go to increase long-term ROI. Make sure you take into account your business requirements before making the final choice…and please, take your time to review off-the-shelf solutions. You need software that helps you achieve the best results.
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Need more custom software guidance? The CSG Pro team is ready to support your business needs. Reach out now.

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Gavin McLaughlin
Gavin McLaughlin
gavinm@csgpro.com

Gavin McLaughlin is a Business Transformation Consultant with an eye towards the strategic application of data analytics. He has spent the last seven years helping clients develop balanced scorecards and aligning organizational investment with their strategic goals.



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