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 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 Salesforce.com. 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. Please ask if you’re considering Harmonic for a custom software solution and have some questions.