And, how to choose custom software development
Bespoke software is…
Simply put, bespoke software is custom developed software.
Compared to ready made or off the shelf software, bespoke software is tailored for your business.
Software developers build it just for you.
It’s worth stating that I am only referring to professional software development. And, not hobbyist. If you want a person that can sling code from their garage and you want the lowest hourly amount, stop reading now!
There are three things to consider when thinking about custom software. Right off the bat, you could just buy off the shelf software.
And, why not?
How should you think about off the shelf?
The critical question to ask is, will it satisfy your needs for 3–5 years? You need to forsee changes in your business. The danger is committing to a solution that you have to change a year from now.
Off the shelf is software is built to general practices. Think of email software.
You install, download or purchase by some means. You buy a license. You commit.
ERP software is a good example. And, if this works for you, it is by far the lowest cost over time.
This means, the off the shelf software you choose, satisfies 80% of your needs.
In this case, you are fully using its features. It means that you have a process for managing updates. You know how to train your team. Your Dev. Ops or IT teams know how to deploy it. They know what to do when things go wrong. They have been trained or have trained themselves.
And sure, with any software you have to consider this.
The myth is that buying a ready made solution somehow erases the need to manage the software.
You are left wondering, if I bought this software, why is my team still spending so much time on it?
Ask yourself what are your true costs?
You can also choose to go completely custom. This involves hiring your own team or engaging a partner that has a team.
In both cases, this team will need to be skilled in software development. And, with some research you find a team that understands your business.
The worst, is a bunch engineers waiting for you to spoon feed them requirements with no clue of what your business does.
The last choice is the hybrid approach.
You buy software. You hire a team or you partner. This team takes the software you buy and changes it to your needs. A good example is buying a suit off the shelf and then having it tailored.
In some cases, the hybrid approach can shorten software development time. The idea is that you lower costs. And with the right partner, you go to market on time.
Here are the 5 advantages of bespoke software.
1. Your Company Needs are Unique
Sometimes needs are so unique that off the shelf solutions don’t work. The workarounds that you make for ready made software are costing you money- a nickel at at time.
It’s likely that you have an engineer somewhere with duct tape and glue. And I bet, it’s still not what you want.
You can spend lots of time banging that cookie cutter solution with a hammer. It will never be what you want.
The worst case is you loose opportunities because your team is focusing efforts on propping up a solution that does not fit your needs.
If you are in business it’s likely you have something unique to offer your customers.
2. Competitive Advantage
If you build it, you can make it do what you want. If the market changes, you can change your software to respond to market demands.
Others won’t have what you have.
Custom software will reflect your business workflows. It will allow you to build your vision and branding into your offering.
With a bespoke solution you can build the features you need, and only those features.
And if built the right way, you can build a flexible solution. Having access to developers with the ability add features, is usually enough to blow your competitors out of the water.
3. Your team will actually use it
If you have purchased custom software and your team really isn’t using it, well…?
How many times have you bought a solution after lots of research only to find your team is exporting data to excel anyways?
One of our prior partners spent more time than I care to share on a business intelligence solution. They found that their analysts were using separate spreadsheets.
They lost time and money. They could have built exactly what they wanted.
But instead analysis showed they only used 20% of the ready made features. And to make matters worse, if they used the other 80%, it would not have served their specific needs.
Their build versus buy process failed to consider their unique needs.
Most spend their time figuring out the least amount they need to spend. They don’t really calculate the value of what they are getting.
The best approach is to thoroughly understand your business needs and build that.
Typically you don’t just buy one solution. If you have purchased a ready made solution, you quickly realize all the subsystems it must connect to.
Perhaps you have a CRM system and data must flow into it. Maybe you have another off the shelf system that’s already connected to your CRM. Now, all three systems need to be integrated.
With any solution, you will need to build business processes around them. The more systems you have, the more processes you need. You waste time. And you are not serving your customers.
Why do this?
Ask yourself how good are your margins really? If you are moving duplicate data amongst disparate systems, are you really saving money?
Bespoke software is an opportunity to get it right. And not right for the masses but right for you.
Most significantly sized software packages requires a minimum of 6-months to roll out. This time is a cost to you.
What would you guess the time is for a custom solution?
5. User Buy-In
What’s the best way to service your customers?
You ask them what they want. You build it and give it to them. They are happy and you are happy.
With your custom solution, you can build exactly what your customers want. If it’s internal software, you can build the thing that makes your team the most productive.
A really cool benefit, is you get to grow with you customers. They see their ideas in your offering.
What’s the takeaway?
You have to make the right choice for you.
My advice? Think ahead.
Sometimes off the shelf solutions work. In todays market, no one builds their own email client.
But in lots of cases it pays to think about the future and how much use you get out of whatever path you choose.
While custom solutions seem expensive, ask yourself what your true costs are? How much use are you getting? Is your team productive?
You want a team that looks beyond what they do to what you do for your customers.
In our experience, there are creative ways to get custom software that fits your budget.