Custom Software – the Adaptable Problem-Solver

There are a broad range of problems companies experience which custom software can solve. Since time is money, the objective is often bottom line-driven. But other challenges – improving customer communications, developing exhaustive audit trails for compliance purposes, allowing better data integration and sharing – are all excellent potential candidates for a software development project.

In spite of the problem-solving nature of custom development, it’s more common than you think for business owners and IT managers to wonder if they even need custom software.

Our initial response is always the same: “it depends.

One of our medical device clients summed it up best in our first meeting.

They wanted us to develop custom software to “act as a go-between” and integrate their various existing software packages to improve functionality, productivity & ease-of-use.

General Guidelines

There are some general guidelines that can help companies determine whether custom software offers more value than off-the-shelf software package options.

Consider Today’s Workforce

Do you have processes or practices that can be standardized? The era of lifelong employees is well and truly gone. In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that average tenure was 4.6 years. Employees today are even far more likely to move on. The standardization (or institutionalization) of a process or practice can be the key to maintaining stability through changing a workforce. (This is often achieved through critical business process automation.)

Assess Intellectual Property & Competitive Opportunities

How much unexpected value could a new system add? Understand the hidden or potential value of building custom software. For instance, it can serve as a key institution to house intellectual property (e.g., custom processes), and can contribute to company stability and value.

A custom solution can also serve as a competitive differentiator by highlighting efficiencies or other value for customers. There are a number of ways it might distinguish your brand from the competition. For example, you could offer a custom customer portal with enhanced ease-of-use or provide real-time feedback to proprietary processes, etc.

Can You Make Do?

How adaptable are you? Whether to build custom software solutions or use existing, off-the-shelf software sometimes comes down to company culture. Can your employees adapt to doing business the way existing software systems require, or do you need software that adapts to your people and how they work? Are your workflows with existing software acceptable? Just tolerable? Or unworkable?

Automate Tasks

Do you need to automate tasks that are currently done manually? This is especially important in regulated industries, such as finance, pharma & biopharma, healthcare, etc. to reduce the likelihood of data entry errors.

Progressing Towards Custom Software

In some cases, the need for a custom-tailored software package is a result of maturation. Your company may have grown to the point where additional value or power or capabilities are needed to ensure further growth.

A Go-Between for Off-the-Shelf Software

In this type of situation – and it is quite common – the answer as to whether a company needs custom or OOB software is ‘Yes!’ You’ll need custom integrations to bring your existing, unrelated systems together.

Varsity Tutors CEO Chuck Cohn shared in an article in Forbes

“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.”

Read the Article

Perform Build-or-Buy Analysis

The bottom line: in order to determine if your firm needs custom software, it is critical to perform a detailed survey of what off-the-shelf solutions exist. Do a comprehensive build vs. buy analysis to assess cost, impact (positive or negative) on operations.

Not Sure What to Do?

If you would like to discuss whether custom software is the right fit your firm, feel free to email or call us at 919-877-7977 to discuss your software challenges.