What to think about before you make a custom software decision.

Assuming your business is at least moderately successful, the odds are good you’ve learned to navigate feelings of uncertainty. And uncertainty can certainly be an obstacle when you’re deciding whether to invest in a new solution. Because big software decisions often involve change and money, they can feel risky.

But fear not; we wrote this article to help you dispel the doubt by focusing on what you do know in order to traverse the treachorous terrain. We’ve got some key criteria to consider when hunting for the ideal software solution. We’ll cover everything from budget to business goals so you’re equipped to make a confident, successful decision.

Here are five things to keep in mind as you begin exploring your software solution options:

1. Resource reality check—know your constraints

Very few people will name “the budget” among their favorite conversation topics. In fact, it’s all too easy to postpone the conversation in favor of more exciting details. But an honest assessment of your budget and your resources is critical from the very beginning of the software solution decision process. Otherwise, you can spend weeks imagining your dream software solution, with all the bells and whistles—only to be disappointed when you realize you can’t afford it.

It also helps to understand your limits in other areas, such as timeline and technical expertise. When you understand and embrace these constraints, you can focus on finding creative and innovative solutions that suit your unique situation.

2. Features and functionality wish list

In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want—or at least not everything you want. But if you know what’s most important to you, you can get pretty close.

Take some time to identify which software features and functions are most important to you. If necessary, make it a group effort, so everyone can advocate for what they need. And get clear on the difference between “necessary” and “nice to have.” You can use those lists to guide your decision-making and, if you hire a software developer, communicate your top priorities. When everyone knows what’s most important, you can find a solution that is realistic, practical, and effective.

3. A you-first user experience

Are you choosing a software solution that will affect your customers’ experience? It’s important to understand what your customers need from your software and how it will serve them. This is even more important when that software solution is customer-facing. A frustrating or difficult interface can reflect poorly on your organization.

Consider the situation from your customer’s perspective. Who are they? What’s important to them? What are they looking for when they come to you? How can you advocate for their needs, expectations, and experience when choosing a software solution? How can you go above and beyond for them?

While we’re on the topic of user experience, be sure to think about customer support, too. If one of your users, whether it’s an employee or a customer, runs into trouble with your software, who will help them? Do you need a solution with baked-in customer support? Or are you willing to hire a support person yourself?

4. The off-the-shelf software versus custom software conundrum

There are countless software options on the market, from free programs to expensive, high-tech solutions. There’s probably at least one off-the-shelf option that might do a “good enough” job. And if you’re working on a tight budget, you might decide you’re perfectly happy with that route.

This is where it helps to retake a look at your priorities. If an off-the-shelf software program checks all those boxes, then you’re in luck! But if you can’t find anything that meets your most critical needs, custom software may be a better option.

5. Embrace the unexpected adventure

Don’t assume that the path ahead of you is linear. In fact, be glad it isn’t! There’s probably a software solution or idea out there that you’ve never even considered. Be open-minded about your options, and think twice before shooting down unusual ideas. You may be surprised—and delighted—to discover that your best case scenario comes from an unexpected source.

This is especially true if you work with a custom software developer. Experienced software developers can make recommendations based on what they’ve learned from other projects. You may be able to borrow features and workflows from totally unrelated industries. And that cross-disciplinary experience may lead to excellent results.

The final frontier: Making the right choice

Finding the ideal software solution is no small feat, and the process can be anything but predictable. However, if you define your priorities and resources from the get-go, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache and dead ends.

Stay focused on what’s most important, and be open to new possibilities. With the right mindset and a clear vision of your goals, you’ll eventually find the perfect software solution – or a developer whose expertise aligns with your vision.

Remember, navigating the software jungle can be a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. By following this guide, you’ll be well on your way to making a confident, successful decision that benefits your business, your team, and your customers.

In the end, the ultimate goal is to find a software solution that suits your unique needs, budget, and objectives. So, take a deep breath, embrace the journey, and may the software force be with you!