Whenever a need arises for a company to modernize or automate their business operations, a critical question is raised: “Is investing in custom software worthwhile?” It is an important decision, one that requires careful deliberation. One of the most common critiques of custom software is the upfront cost that is incurred. There is also the waiting time period that needs to be considered. In this article, we will talk about the many advantages of custom written software that far outweigh financial (and other) costs.
What Is Custom Software?
Before we get into the numerous advantages of tailor made software, let’s talk about exactly what custom software is.
Custom software, also known as bespoke software, is software that is built from scratch to match the client’s requirements. Defined in a relatively simple way, it is a software product put together all the way from its foundation to its ends to fit the needs of the user looking to purchase it. Custom software products are often compared to the readily available array of off-the-shelf software products, which, instead of being tailored to user specifications, come packed with their own vast range of features and attributes. These are usually more focused on a more generalized user experience.
Custom software is always made-to-order, so the user needs to have a specific function and design in mind, as well as the requirements that they need met. These are then communicated to the developers. The developers work on these requirements and create a software solution that works as a strategically perfect fit for the user.
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Advantages Of Custom Written Software
If you are undecided about investing in a quality software product for your organisation, the following list of advantages of custom written software that we have compiled will help you make up your mind.
One of the most important advantages of tailor made software is in its name: it is fully customized.
With off-the-shelf software, you get a standard package that contains a limited number of features. This package may not meet your needs entirely – what if a simple yet critical functionality is missing? You will have to pay extra for add-ons or integrations. This will result in additional costs on top of the already hefty amount you will be paying as license fees. You will also be forced to pay for existing features that may be entirely unnecessary for you.
Since businesses usually have very specific needs, generic off-the-shelf software is often an unsuitable choice. With custom made software, a direct line of communication is established between you and the developers. You can convey all your requirements to them and they will incorporate them into the software product as per your wishes. You will pay for what you get. You can ask them to make any necessary changes during the development process. Most development agencies also give their clients the option to have extra features added to the software product at a later time. Thus, another one of the advantages of custom written software is increased flexibility.
Like any other part of your business, your new software product is going to be an investment. Spending money on a software product will result in numerous business efficiencies and returns. However, which one is better, off-the-shelf software or bespoke software, in terms of getting your desired results?
Here’s a scenario: You are thinking of implementing new accounting software in your paper-intensive organization. This software will help shift your everyday business processes from paper to digital, saving you a lot of money and resources. Now, you have two choices:
Purchase a moderately-priced license for a pre-existing software package that you can implement in your organization right away
Hire an expensive software developer who will take a few months – at best – to create a brand new system built especially for your company
The choice seems quite obvious, doesn’t it? Most people, in order to save time and money in the short run, go for the first option. “Some features are missing? No problem! We can compromise a little bit!” They might not even take into consideration whether or not this software needs special hardware to run. They will do anything to save a few pounds here and there. However, in the long run, these periodic license fees and pointless expenses will pile up and amount to a much larger number than, perhaps, the entire cost of the tailor-made software. Bespoke software will not only be built to cater to your needs (instead of the other way around) but will also be owned by you, making it a one-time upfront expense.
Adopting a new software system should bring about ease and convenience instead of causing additional problems for a business.
Organisations whose employees are not familiar with any sort of digital medium at all may need to take special care when introducing any contemporary technology into the workspace. The new system needs to be easy to learn and use. Off-the-shelf solutions are often more focused on functionality rather than usability. They come bundled with a ton of features, half of which your business might have no use for. That would leave your employees confused and overwhelmed.
If your employees are used to working on the old system, it would be best for the new system to be as similar as possible to the old one so that the users do not face a lot of difficulties getting used to the change. Their everyday activities must not be disrupted.
These problems can easily be tackled by opting for custom made software. You can define your requirements in such a manner that your employees’ comfort is prioritised. Your bespoke software developers can then take care of everything.
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Many people argue that off-the-shelf software is a quick, ready-to-implement, time-tested solution, which makes it better than custom software. While that may be true, they forget one of the most important advantages of custom written software: it is optimized to meet your needs.
There are often a lot of problems integrating off-the-shelf software with other existing systems. During the implementation phase, you may run into unforeseen complications stemming from incompatibility with old systems. In the case of bespoke solutions, you can communicate your technical capabilities – both hardware and software related – to the developers. It is then their job to make sure there are no compatibility issues and the implementation phase goes smoothly. If there are any other tools that you use, your new software needs to take those into account as well and provide seamless integration.
Hiring a reliable software developer will also ensure that you don’t have to worry about the software being buggy. A responsible developer will thoroughly test their product before transferring it to the users. Most development companies also carry out dedicated user testing sessions where the end-users (in this case, the members of your organization) are asked to take the systems for a test run and make sure everything works perfectly.
Now, let’s talk about how support and maintenance are two key advantages of custom written software. In the process, you will also find out what the differences between the user contracts for both types of software are.
In the case of off-the-shelf software, you purchase a license for a certain product, after which you can start using the product in your organisation. A few months later, you realise that your business has to start catering to a new fraction of the market. In order to accommodate this segment, you need to upgrade your software package. The creator(s) of this product, however, will not allow you to make any changes to the source code since you are not the owner.
You could try asking them to make certain changes to the software according to your changing needs but the answer will, most likely, be a resounding ‘No.’ What happens if the owner suddenly decides to sell all their assets and retire to the mountains, and the software product that you so heavily rely on for critical business processes ends up being abandoned? There will be no more updates, no more upgrades! Time to find another software product and go through the hassle of switching to a new system all over again!
Now, let’s suppose you secure the services of a professional bespoke software development company. Firstly, any reliable agency will award you the ownership of the product that you pay them to develop. This means you can do with the system as you please. Is there some new feature you want to add? Not a problem! The developers can do it for you in a jiffy!
In some cases, businesses have their own in-house IT team who takes over after the initial implementation and continue to make any updates required in the future. If you do not want to go down that road, you can avail an affordably priced maintenance and support services offered by the development company. For a nominal fee, they will carry out routine updates and maintenance on your software product to make sure your business continues to operate smoothly. A number of development agencies also offer IT support to their clients. If your employees are having a hard time operating the software, the developers will happily help them out! Off-the-shelf software could surely never outdo these advantages of custom written software.
One of the top goals of every business is to consistently grow over time. As time passes, your business will grow too, and as it grows, so will its needs. Certain measures need to be taken to make sure that your software needs are met as you achieve business growth.
Most bespoke software developers ensure that the software they develop is built on technologies that support expansion. With a trusted resource, you can achieve levels of scalability that may not be possible with off-the-shelf software. You can also add a provision in your contract that allows for certain measures to be taken by the developers in case you experience unpredicted growth in future.
One example of business growth is the addition of new employees to the business. With scalable bespoke software, all your new employees could easily be taken on board and made part of the software product. With off-the-shelf licensing, you would have to purchase additional licenses. On top of that, there may be no guarantee that the ready-made software will be able to handle the additional load. In such a case, you would have to scrap your entire system and make a giant shift to an entirely new system on short notice, causing an organization-wide upheaval.
One of the most imperative aspects to take into account where software usage is concerned is the safety and security risks that accompany it. They cannot be overlooked when setting out to meet one’s software needs.
Custom software provides a secure and thorough integration to the nature of business the user chooses to apply it to. Security being the area of focus, the bespoke specifications allow for it to be a safe solution, with the developers themselves being the first line of defense, maintaining the source code as an in-house, heavily guarded secret. With several coding contingencies in place, custom solutions ensure that your system’s safety is never compromised via complex dead ends. Vulnerability is virtually non-existent. Thus, improved security is one of the most important advantages of custom written software. Market-ready options, on the other hand, being an affordable choice for most, are easier targets since security threats can easily get their hands on these systems and study them for potential exploitation opportunities.
While we are still on the topic of advantages of custom written software, let’s not forget about the lead that it can help you gain over your competitors.
Due to the widespread availability of market-ready software, countless organisations end up using the same software products. If you were using the same system as your competitors, how would you be able to set yourself apart? Bespoke software implements unique features to enhance business operations in different ways. You can include certain functions (that are not offered by generic commercial software products) into your software. While this may not be one of the greatest advantages of tailor made software, it definitely gives you a certain edge over your competitor organisations by allowing you to better your business operations in ways that are not possible for your competitors.
As a business owner, you might now have a fair idea of how to go about investing in a software solution for your organisation.
While bespoke software requires a large upfront investment, it will surely be worth it in the long run. With its high ease of use and automation levels, you will see a marked improvement in employee productivity and business efficiency. The scalability and flexibility will allow your software to adapt to your growing business needs over time. A unique solution designed specifically to cater to your business’s requirements will also help you gain an edge over competitor organisations.
Keeping all these advantages in mind, the decision ultimately also depends on the size of your business, the complexity of your day-to-day activities, the availability of resources, and the scope of business expansion.
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