CUSTOM SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT IN 2021: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
Does your business need to run more efficiently? Are you inundated with a patchwork of costly licensed third-party systems that do not meet the specific needs of your organization? Does your company suffer from disparate databases or poorly integrated technologies? You are not alone.
To stay competitive in this rapidly changing business environment, every organization needs effective, integrated software solutions to meet or exceed company goals. Off-the-shelf software solutions are good short-term fixes; however, they often do not scale with your business and stakeholder needs.
Many organizations find that they need custom software solutions that precisely suits their processes and workflows to out-compete their challengers. But there are pros and cons with custom software development.
What is Custom Software?
You probably already know this, but bear with me a moment. Custom or “bespoke” software is an application specifically created to achieve the unique business-centric requirements to meet the exact needs of an organization. The software does only what you need and want it to do.
Custom software can include a wide variety of business applications, including customer relationship management systems (CRMs), mobile apps, e-commerce marketplaces, data visualization platforms, business process automation (BPA), logistics management, internal/external customer portals, automated invoicing, IoT and M2M solutions, and more. The possibilities are only limited by imagination and budget.
Pre-developed or “off-the-shelf” software platforms are usually easy to implement and are lower-cost solutions through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) annual/monthly pricing model. However, technology leaders have found these services often fall short when it comes to meeting the diverse needs of quickly growing or larger companies. This has prompted a huge surge in the demand for the swift development of custom software solutions to stay competitive and keep up with changing customer expectations in the rapidly shifting digital landscape.
What are the Pros and Cons of Custom Software Development?
When your organization expands or transforms, your software will need to change with you. If the software was created by professional developers using today’s best practices, then it can be adapted quickly and effortlessly.
Custom software can allow for more intuitive interaction and address the needs of your organization better than commercial software. Your processes become automatic and streamlined, reducing errors, decreasing licensing costs and maintenance, and vastly improve efficiencies. But it can have some drawbacks as well.
THE BENEFITS OF CUSTOM SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT
Complete Product Ownership and Exclusivity
This one is a no-brainer — you own the application — it is proprietary to your company. You will not be beholden to another company’s features, functionalities, updates, rules, or financial situations. Additionally, once you stop using third-party software, you will not retain any functionality apart from possibly a database download. The technology will simply stop working.
It is much easier scaling your business without being stagnated by the generic functionality of third-party software. You can develop a custom software platform that conforms to your business processes and needs without shaping your business model to fit the functionality of the application. In the long-term, this just makes sense.
Business growth always comes with new requirements and processes. When you hire a software development company, they should design a product that can easily grow with your organization and its changing needs. Software that is developed exclusively for your organization ensures that the needs of your stakeholders are properly addressed and automated exactly to their requirements.
Custom software allows organizations to hyper-personalize the user experience — which can be as simple or complex as you need. Not every user position or role within your company has the same needs in terms of the software functionality. Administrative, sales, HR, marketing, general staff, and junior level roles all have different requirements and needs. As well as additional requirements for security levels or for your customers. Custom software offers the opportunity to create an experience that is uniquely suited for individual users.
Customized Integrations and Adaptability
Many businesses not only have the need for a custom software solution, but also the need to integrate several software programs (via API or other method). Third-party software often does not offer flexible integration solutions that can leverage data from other legacy platforms.
Employing various third-party software for different processes often disrupts data flow as it is dependent on other apps and integration platforms to enable effective communication between different systems and processes. Developing a custom software environment can resolve many issues concerning the transfer of information between successive processes.
Business Process Automation
Eliminating repetitive tasks and processes should be a top priority when developing a bespoke software solution. Custom software has many advantages over deploying multiple pre-packaged software solutions to accomplish optimization goals. Properly designed software will allow your organization to complete tasks within a single, integrated system and greatly improve efficiencies through automations specifically designed for your unique business model and processes.
With data breaches and hacks exponentially increasing in the modern digital world, maintaining a secure data environment and appropriate data access authorizations should be of paramount concern. Individuals are growing much leerier of sharing their personal information — and rightly so. They want to ensure their transactions are safe and secure at all times.
The data exchange within internal processes requires implementing strict security standards. Custom software development provides the power to determine the best data-security technology or protocol appropriate for your business and integrate those practices into your software.
Protecting and Extending Your Brand Identity
It is no longer acceptable to provide your customers or stakeholders with different user experiences on different communication platforms — website, mobile app, e-commerce platform, user portal, customer service center, social media channels, etc. Developing a custom software solution that seamlessly integrates and extends your brand across all platforms will provide the omni-channel, personalized experiences your constituents are seeking.
Custom Software Competitive Edge and Long-Term ROI
While developing a customized software solution will have greater initial costs and internal resource demands for execution, it does not require enduring (and ever increasing) licensing fees. Over time, developing your own proprietary software solution can result in a much better ROI and improved efficiencies. Additionally, by offering a customer experience that fits your exact business model and can be personalized by user, you will differentiate your business from the competition.
Both custom and off-the-shelf software usually require a significant investment of time and money. Both will affect the future success of your company. The key to success is that they are easy to use and maintain, will scale with your business needs, and deliver measurable financial viability over time.
The Disadvantages of Developing Custom Software
While there are many advantages to developing your own custom software solution, there can be drawbacks to abandoning your third-party systems. It really boils down to the circumstance your organization is currently in and your long-term strategic initiatives.
Developing Custom Software is Expensive
As previously discussed, it takes a huge investment to develop your own proprietary software platform. Corporations invest hundreds of thousands to millions in creating their own software solutions. While the software may pay for itself many times over in the future, the initial investment can be overwhelming for many businesses.
The Software Development Process is Time Consuming
Apart from the enormous financial investment, you will often need to dedicate internal resources to complete the software development process. At the very least, you will need one full-time internal champion to oversee the project and act as a liaison between the development team and stakeholders.
You will need to invest a lot of time providing requirements to your in-house software development team or your chosen outsourcing firm. Custom software projects can take months to years to fully develop a deliverable solution.
Additionally, off-the-shelf software usually has been rigorously tested for defects and undergone detailed usability tests and customer feedback. Custom software requires a significant time commitment to test the software from a user’s perspective and may go through several iterations before delivering the final product. The time spent in various software development phases may be draining for you or the teams working with your software development partner.
There is Little Room for Error
Making wrong decisions in the software development process can be very costly. It is important to create the most effective software solution to serve your customers better without compromising on your profit margin.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Custom Software Development
There can be several reasons custom software development projects fail. They can range from hiring the wrong dev company or internal talent, not understanding the business needs, an inability to reach consensus on priorities, unclear requirements, bad project management, lack of planning and prototyping, weak internal ownership (sponsorship) of the project…the list goes on and on.
In 2021, probably the most common mistake is not starting with a customer-centric focus. While most projects start with a fantastic idea, when the project is delivered, organizations find that the problem solved was not the problem their customers needed to be solved at all.
Software development success depends on every part of your project putting customers first. To develop software that is completely customer-focused requires organizations to rethink how they approach their software project (and their business as a whole). Rather than seeing technologies flow in a straight line from their business to their customers, customer experience and service delivery must be at the forefront. In a nutshell, when it comes to developing custom software, start with the customer voice first and then build from there — this will take some time.
Focusing on your customers’ needs seems obvious, however, according to research from IDG, only 25 percent of CIOs say CX is a top priority within their organizations. However, software development projects that start from a customer-first perspective and truly take the time to understand the voice of the customer (VOC) are more successful, profitable and provide the hyper-personalized experiences customers expect and demand.
The Shameless Plug for Ascendum’s Custom Software Development Services
Ascendum is a full-stack custom software development firm dedicated to delivering pioneering ideas and solutions that incrementally enrich our clients’ business operations and customer experiences. With more than 1,900 employees worldwide, our clients come to us for new ideas and boundary-pushing solutions.
Ascendum’s creative global team of tech strategists, designers, developers, and data engineers act as a collaborative catalyst to drive positive change, continually improving and evolving our clients’ digital transformation strategies. We create innovative solutions by uniting design, data engineering, and design-led development.
For more than 13 years, Ascendum has delivered successful mobile, web, and data engineering solutions to Fortune 500 companies, mid-sized organizations, and government institutions. Our award-winning development team has created more than 600 sophisticated enterprise digital engineering, mobile, and web applications.
Ascendum is dedicated to exceeding our clients’ expectations by rapidly accelerating their digital transformation strategies. Contact us to learn more about our custom software development services and how we can take your organization to the next level of success. See the list of Top Software Companies in Cincinnati.