Custom Business Software: A Worthwhile Investment for Your Company?

When it comes to software, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Every business is going to need something a little different.

If your company is looking for a custom business software solution, you may be investigating both off-the-shelf programs and custom software. Many excellent software solutions are available, with countless happy customers. However, even the most versatile off-the-shelf program may not meet the unique needs of your business. But with a budget, timeline, security, and other factors to consider, the choice between standard and custom software is far from simple.

In this post, we’ll break down the benefits and drawbacks of investing in custom software and offer a few alternatives, so you can make an informed decision about what’s suitable for your organization.

Benefits of Custom Software Development

The single most significant benefit of custom software development is in the name: Complete customization. Excellent software developers can build an original solution from scratch that includes every tool, feature, and functionality your company could dream of. This might include:

  • Specialized functionality that supports your mission and value proposition.
  • A user-friendly interface that both your employees and your customers like interacting with.
  • Seamless integration with other programs your company relies on.

When you’re not confined to a pre-existing software’s design, function, or integration limitations, there is virtually no limit to what you can ask for. So if there’s a feature you’ve always dreamed of, it could very well be a viable option with the support of a top-notch custom software developer.

Custom Software Boosts Operational Efficiency

With custom software, you don’t have to jury-rig a mediocre workflow based on the limitations of an off-the-shelf solution. Instead, a custom program allows you to have the various tasks and functions determine the design rather than dealing with a program’s design constraints. As a result, your business can regain countless hours of lost time when you begin using a system designed to support your exact workflow.

Due to the incredible flexibility of custom software, many people may be surprised to find that custom software can be more cost-effective than an on-the-shelf solution. Because off-the-shelf software is designed to serve the interests of as many businesses as possible, it often does a decent job for most things but doesn’t deliver the same experience you want.

This can mean spending more on custom integrations, middleware, and other workarounds to meet the user’s unique needs. And trying to fit square pegs into round holes can become very expensive.

When investing in custom software, you only pay for the specifications you need and want. There’s no need to budget for unnecessary functions or endless modifications to make them meet your needs. Instead, every dollar goes toward a custom program designed around your business needs, with nothing wasted on features that don’t support your mission.

Challenges of Custom Software Development

While the benefits of custom software are tremendous, there’s a potential drawback: Time.

Every project differs, but developing custom software may require a significant time investment—perhaps weeks or even months, depending on the size and scope of the project.

Plus, genuinely effective custom software is the product of a deep understanding of your company’s needs. Therefore, the software developer will likely spend significant time with your team members to learn as much as possible about existing programs, frustrations, desired outcomes, and special considerations. In short, companies hoping to receive a game-changing custom software program must prepare to invest significant time in the process.

That being said, any time spent on the development process will likely be earned back once the software is being used. The goal of custom software is to streamline processes and improve operations. Meetings can be a small price to pay for the hours upon hours you’ll regain once you’re using a software program that eliminates unnecessary steps.

Key Takeaway: Custom software development offers many advantages for small businesses, but reaping those benefits requires a meaningful investment of time and energy.

Alternatives to Custom Business Software Development

Off-the-Shelf Solutions:

Off-the-shelf software is a prebuilt application that you can be implement quickly and, if you’re lucky, without extensive customization or development work.

A few of the more common examples include companies like QuickBooks or If no customization is necessary, these can be quicker and more cost-effective than custom software. Additionally, some off-the-shelf software companies place a premium on customer service experience and have a strong commitment to optimizing the customer’s investment.

Open Source Solutions:

Open-source solutions offer free access to code that can be modified as necessary by businesses looking for an alternative to off-the-shelf software but don’t need a custom developer. Popular open-source tools include WordPress, Apache Tomcat, and MySQL. Open-source projects allow a great deal of freedom when creating new features or adapting existing ones to meet specific requirements. And there’s no need to start from scratch each time a change is becomes necessary.

Of course, deploying an open-source solution requires some technical know-how. But if you have a team member with the right skill set, it can be a great alternative to a custom software program.


Custom software can be an excellent solution for companies of any size looking to solve challenging business problems. Custom software is incredibly flexible and surprisingly cost-effective, but exceptional software requires a meaningful time commitment. 

Companies looking for a faster fix might succeed with off-the-shelf or open-source solutions. But for companies willing to invest the time, custom software can have a massive impact on operations and help them achieve their goals faster.

If you’re considering an investment in custom software, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Then, do your research to find the right solution for your unique situation.

We mean that. If you’re considering custom software and have questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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Software development project management: Achieving value through alignment.

Whether it’s a kitchen remodel, a quilt, a movie, or a custom software design, people get fired up for new projects.

Because humans love to create.

And businesses create value by balancing momentum and creativity with desirable business outcomes.

Otherwise known as project management.

Antonio Nieto Rodriguez has written extensively about the fact that we now live in a project-driven world. Project Management (PM) is part and parcel of daily life for successful software developers.

What follows are some of the essential PM principles and phases Harmonic Data uses to deliver value consistently.

The Power of Resonance in software development project management

First, a philosophical note: As musicians, our founders like to apply the musical concept of resonance to the art of project management.  

Music communicates through vibrations. 

But many factors influence the quality of sound. For example, the strings vibrate with a violin, but the wood, cracks in the finish, and even the room itself create subtle nuances to the sound.

We like to think of projects and project management in the same way.

Team members, processes, and workflow all influence harmony and alignment so that the end product provides the best value with the least dissonance. For example, the team shouldn’t try to solve the problem until it’s clearly defined.

Once we are aligned on the purpose and quality of the project, we can work our way through the following phases.

Phases of Project Management

Institutionalizing efficient processes for project management focuses the people on the right problem at the right time.

So let’s start by dividing our project into phases and identifying the goals for each stage.

Harmonic approaches project management like a movie production. Creators “build” the story in pre-production, production, and post-production stages.

In any good story, characters experience challenges and attempt various solutions before vanquishing the antagonist and resolving the conflict.

Creators plan the pre-production phase, choose a script, cast the actors, and prepare for production. In the production phase, they shoot all the scenes. Finally, in post-production, editors weave all the clips together, adding special effects until the film is ready to be distributed.

At Harmonic, we approach projects much the same way.


We split the pre-production phase into two segments: planning and assembly. 

The Planning Phase

In the planning phase the focus is on developing a clear understanding of the problem to be solved (aka the dragon to be slain). 

This part of the process involves an extensive dialogue with the client. Because although clients know what they’re trying to do, their processes are often so ingrained that it’s difficult to step back and see the problems from a fresh perspective.

The Workshop Phase

For meaningful dialogue to happen, workshops are much better than meetings.  

In meetings, communication often flows one way; workshops, however, encourage dialogue. Here’s where the invested parties definine the problem together and push for a deeper perspective.  It’s similar to how two eyes and two ears offer slightly different perspectives from one eye or ear to the other, allowing us to triangulate and better locate the source object. 

Harmonic workshops consist of two types: brainstorming and “skunk works.”

In brainstorming huddles, teams break down and understand the problem, explore the possibilities and formulate the potential of this new project. We invite clients to attend workshops and be part of the process.

Skunkworks workshops happen only after the problem is understood. Here, participants devise various options for solving the identified problem. Possibilities must be put to the test, challenged, and revised until the best workable solution emerges.

The Assembly Phase

Once the problem and solution have been defined, it’s time to plan a strategy and gather the necessary resources: tools and teams.

Pre-production code comments:
- Clarify timelines/deadlines.
- Agree on cash flow speed.
- Identify ROI opportunites and target audience.
- Leave room for future phases/sequels
- Don't skimp on pre-production planning and workshops! You'll save time and money and ensure your project meets it's potential.

The Production Phase

After defining the problem, developing a plan, and gathering the resources, it’s time for production to begin.

A few paradigms help keep production moving: boundaries, urgency, and drive.  

  • Boundaries represent the parameters of a project, like restrictions, variables, and immutable facts. These boundaries are instituted via consistent messaging and training for team members and clients.  
  • Urgency comes from the client’s needs. Since each project represents an opportunity for clients, delays can mean lost time and revenue. So a project needs to be completed within a realistic timeframe: one that balances “get it done right” with “get it done.” Projects could extend indefinitely by chasing perfection. So rather than chase perfection, it’s best to chase functionality.
  • Finally, drive, though similar to urgency, is more internal than external. It stems from emotional investment, creative process, and the personal satisfaction of creativity. Skilled project managers work diligently to foster environments that support drive.

One way to encourage drive is to make processes simple and bureaucracy free. Overly complex systems and processes stifle creativity and aren’t sustainable long term.  

Pre-production code comments:
- Urgency = Path and Cadence, defined with the client
- Good communication smooths out changes and makes space for opportunities
- Early, incomplete wins can be more important than waiting for a complete solution
- Drive = Burn Rate, not everyone prefers a fast pace
- Production is about choosing the right path and cadence.


In the post-production phase of project management, the product is ready to implement, and it’s time to train the clients.

It’s in the post-production phase that documenting the creative process yields results.  Discussing and recording what works well and what challenges surface provides opportunities for growth and improvement.  Not only for the current project, but also future software development project management opportunities.

Even though the product is delivered, the project management process continues. Product maintenance, feedback loops, and growth opportunities are all vital to the ongoing project management effort.

In essence, project management teams should always consider the “what’s next?”   Projects bring people together to solve problems, which builds relationships and opportunities to solve more problems. Think of product delivery not as the end but as a new beginning that reframes possibilities for “what’s next?”

Post-production code comments: 
- Solid documentation aids adoption. - It’s not just about delivery—be sure the users are sold on the solution too.
- Don't underestimate the importance of a strong Post-Production phase!


Defining software development project management pays dividends. By identifying the goals for each phase, teams solve problems more efficiently. In addition, focusing on one aspect at a time facilitates thorough thinking and problem-solving. 

Finally, new processes must become new cultural norms in the organization. It simply becomes a “this is what we do” mantra.  

And what else could you ask for in a group of people committed to delivering consistently high-quality projects?  

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Why software development companies choose mastery—and you should too

A business case for mastery.

Everyone has heard the expression “jack of all trades, master of none.” But there’s a second part to this famous 16th-century quote most haven’t heard. Here’s the full expression:

“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”

Referring to someone as a “jack of all trades and master of none” isn’t necessarily an insult, more often it’s a suggestion that a person has no real expertise. But the original saying is more complimentary. It refers to those with a more varied skillset as being more valuable in some situations than those who master a single focus..

Many career paths are better suited to the “jack of all trades.” For example, Virtual Assistants who balance a variety of tasks at once and adapt quickly as the situation changes. Or teachers who apply administrative, classroom management, and emotional intelligence skills, along with mastery of their subject matter.

However, note the words oftentimes as opposed to “always” in the quote above. In many situations, there is simply no substitute for true, focused mastery.

Mastery stands out.

Masters make their mark in virtually every field:

  • Danielle Steel rarely writes anything other than romance novels, and she’s sold over 800 million copies of them.
  • Amaury Guichon is a pastry chef whose obsession with chocolate sculpting made him a viral internet sensation and landed him his own Netflix show at 30 years old.
  • Undoubtedly, the best athletes could perform well in just about any athletic activity—some experts even believe James could have had an equally successful career in the NFL—but they have become legends by focusing on their sport of choice.

This same principle applies to software development mastery. There’s always a need for the jack-of-all-trades developers who happily take on just about any project. And many of these companies do great work. Some might argue that it’s less risky to say yes to a variety of opportunities.

But the truly great software developers—the ones that change the face of the industry—are the masters of their craft. They are the thought leaders, the experts, and the headline makers who don’t get distracted by shiny, new moneymakers—they stay the course.

Two paths to software development mastery

One path to mastering software development is focusing on a particular platform or technology. For example, a developer who focuses on mastering a platform like Filemaker can become the go-to resource for those solutions.

There are advantages to learning the platform’s ins and outs and optimizing its features to create effective solutions. This can lead to higher quality work, faster delivery times, and a reputation as a go-to expert for that particular platform.

Another path to software development mastery is to develop expertise with a specific solution type, like healthcare field record management. In this case, the developer may or may not use a specific platform such as Filemaker. Their advantage is the deep understanding of the industry and the specific problems that need to be solved and the ability to create custom solutions from scratch.

Both paths can lead to software development mastery, but each requires a different approach.

Your path should be based on market demand, long-term prospects, and your strengths and interests. Consider what kind of company you need to become to serve your ideal customers.

How to leverage mastery to grow your business.

Of course, the first step to mastery is to draw on a body of masterful work. That means years of under-the-radar work before anyone knows who you are. You don’t get to claim the title until you’re the best. But once you’ve done the work, you can position yourself or your company as a leader.

Some may discover you by chance, but if you want to rise above the competition, you must market your wares.

Think about ways you can showcase your expertise. How can you get your company in front of the right people and show them what you can do?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Submit papers and articles to magazines and publications.
  • Give presentations and join panels at conferences.
  • Lead free webinars.

Remember, basic marketing isn’t enough to establish yourself as a thought leader. You need to be delivering value based on what you’ve mastered. Pay attention to where your target customers are and who they’re listening to. Find a way to insert yourself into that space and be present. Seek to understand what’s on their mind, what worries them, and what they dream about. You can use that knowledge to craft a message—and a product—that speaks to them directly.


At Harmonic, we’re not content to do decent work. We choose mastery, so if you’re weary of mediocre software and ready to invest in something exceptional, let’s talk.

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