We’ve all been in that situation before: you need a new suit and have been dreaming about the bespoke masterpiece that’s crafted from 120’s cotton, measured to your exact parameters, and precisely designed. The tailor will even throw in a customized poplin shirt to go along with the hefty price tag. But instead of going after sartorial perfection, what do you do? You probably end up going online and buying the first thing in your price range that catches your eye. Instead of going into work looking like Daniel Craig from Skyfall, you end up looking, more or less, like everyone else.
It makes sense that most of us wouldn’t go the bespoke route when it comes to buying suits. They are, after all, an extreme luxury, and there are plenty of alternatives out there that cost half as much and still offer the confidence of buying a quality product. But why do we extend the same worry of buying a custom suit when it comes to whether we’d develop custom software for our business?
Much of the apprehension most managers and executives have when it comes to adopting custom software into their work flow stem from misconceptions. “It’s too expensive.” “We can’t afford the extra time developing software from scratch.” “Off the shelf Software is just easier.” “Custom software has more bugs because it’s untested.” These are just some of the ways that we rationalize the choice to not develop custom software. But are these points really valid? In the following we’ll debunks some of the most common “myths” when it comes to developing custom software.
Off the Shelf is just as Good
When it comes to myths about custom software one of the issues we see people struggling with on a daily basis is the belief that, because off the shelf software is more heavily commercialized, it can do the same job—if not a better job—than custom software. Yes, many off the shelf software platforms can meet customer needs quite easily, it just depends on what you’re really looking for and how you want to use the software you’re purchasing.
For example if you want to integrate an internal social messaging system that only your workforce can use, then off the shelf software such as Chatter from Salesforce or Slack (the newest heavy hitter in enterprise messaging software) will probably do just fine. If, however, you want to develop an internal “social ecosystem” which gives you a place to park your business’s digital identity by helping you connect and analyse the different social networks that keep you connected to other businesses and non-profits (not to mention allowing for the benefit of employee collaboration) then custom software is probably the way to go.
The simple truth is that if you’re looking for software that can help you augment your mission critical social networks and align them into one place that can benefit your entire team, then there is no “one size fits all” solution as each business, and their social needs, are different.
This is probably the biggest myth we see customers scratching their heads over. If the word “custom” is put before anything, it’s going to be pricey right? Well, if you’re talking about cars or jewelry, then you’re probably right, but when it comes to custom software it’s not as simple as analyzing basic upfront costs.
Overall, developing custom software is actually cost-competitive with off the shelf software—which typically charges user fees on a per seat basis. For example, if you’re a mid-sized company with a growing sales and marketing team you may currently have 10 members on your staff that need to use a CRM application, but next year this number could grow substantially. With off the shelf vendors your costs will go up with every user you add to your CRM subscription, but with custom CRM software your deployment price will be the same whether you need to empower 10 users or 1,000 users. What’s more is that any custom software you purchase will be built around your company’s processes specification, which means substantially lower training costs when it comes to getting your employees up to speed on using your new software.
Too Many Bugs
To be frank, this can be a problem when it comes to implementing custom software (or any off the shelf software), though it won’t be a problem because your software is untested—It’ll be because the company you’re purchasing your custom software from is untested. Any good custom software developer will design the application you need in a stage by stage process that allows for all possible bugs to be found out before deployment. There are many reputable custom software vendors out there with great track records when it comes to product delivery. It’s also important to note that each and every piece of software on the market has bugs—this is why big commercial vendors offer upgrades every 2-4 years. Bugs in software are simply unavoidable from time to time, no matter what route you go.
If you do, however, choose a custom software developer to fulfill your business needs, any reputable supplier will go through multiple rounds of internal testing as well as user acceptance testing in order to make sure that your software is ready to use. But what happens when you do develop bugs? Your UAT team will have direct access to custom developers who can then immediately get to work on fixing the problem. Compare that to the responsiveness of off the shelf packages that cater to a mass audience.
Only useful in Niche Markets
This last myth couldn’t be further from the truth. All different types of business can benefit from implementing custom software into their daily workflow. No matter your company’s size or niche it behooves you to contemplate which is better for your business: the “build” approach, or the “buy” approach. Here’s testimony from Chuck Cohn a CEO and contributor to Forbes.Com :
“For my tutoring business, we initially started with off-the-shelf software because it was fast and cheap, but we eventually found that the lack of customization relative to our day-to-day operations ultimately led to inefficient, manual processes. As we grew, these challenges became more and more pronounced and scalability became harder to reach.”
The main thing to keep in focus when you’re contemplating a shift to hiring a custom software vendor to build the applications your business needs is to analyse whether the custom software you are in the market for provides you with a competitive advantage over your competitors—if not, then it might just be a better option to go off the shelf. Also, if you are a small business you should make sure that your software costs align with how you want to scale. While custom software can end up costing you less down the road, off the shelf may be the thing your business needs now as it’s trying to scale.
What are your thoughts on custom software? Do you agree with the “myths” we’ve laid out here? If so feel free to comment and give us your ideas using the form below.