Custom software solutions can be quite alluring to the everyday, growth-minded business owner. Integrating bespoke software into your workflow can help you navigate productivity hurdles, streamline mission-critical processes, and reduce the need for manual inputs through automation.
Be that as it may, custom software development services can be costly and resource-intensive, so it is vital that you carefully weigh the benefits against the potential drawbacks of software custom development before taking the plunge.
With that being said, join the UDig team as we dive deeper into both the good and bad of customized software development. We will also provide tips for determining if custom software solutions are right for your business.
In this article, we will cover:
Custom Software Development vs. Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Solutions
Before you can effectively determine whether you need custom software solutions, it is essential that you understand what your other options are.
The primary alternative to bespoke software is a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution, which, as its name suggests, is a commercialized product, offering out-of-the-box functionality with little to no configuration necessary.
Although COTS applications are, generally speaking, far more cost-effective than custom software solutions, they are designed to meet the needs of a wider audience. Therefore, even if the platform you choose is tailored to your industry, it will not include any features or functionalities made specifically for your business. As such, a COTS solution will likely address your core business challenges, but it may not be the perfect fit for your workflow.
Custom software development, however, works to fill the voids that are left behind by COTS platforms, and opting for customized software development can help you distinguish yourself from your competitors and enable you to optimize core business processes. During the design process, software custom development teams will get to know your needs and then create solutions that are tailored to your organization.
That said, not every business function requires custom software development. For instance, you wouldn’t hire a software custom development team to build an email application for your business. Instead, you would use a standard offering like Outlook or Gmail because these existing applications can effectively meet the needs of your business at a fraction of the cost of bespoke software.
Of course, when it comes to something like email, choosing between a COTS application and customized software development is an easy call, but the decision is not always so simple.
Does Your Business Need a Custom Software Solution?
Custom software development is an expensive undertaking, and though bespoke software can certainly be the growth catalyst you have been searching for, misguided technology investments can impede your progress and leave you without the resources and capital necessary to achieve your long-term organizational goals.
With so much at stake, it is vital that you make the right decision, but the question lies in knowing how to tell if your business actually needs customized software development. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, unfortunately, but you should consider a custom solution if your company exhibits any of the following factors:
- Unmet IT needs
- Inefficient business processes operating across multiple systems or spreadsheets
- Wants seamless integration across varying systems
- Needs to double down on a competitive advantage
- Wants to eliminate dependencies on software vendors
Having any of the above apply to your business as it currently stands does not necessarily mean that you need bespoke software, though it is an indicator that you should explore your options.
Before you begin the process of upgrading your company’s tech stack, however, you must specify one more important detail: what it is that makes your business different from the competition.
What Are Your Company’s Competitive Differentiators?
Software custom development services are meant to help execute competitive differentiators and capitalize on emerging business opportunities, so to determine whether customized software development is a good investment for your business, you must first clearly identify your own competitive differentiator. In other words, you must figure out what it is that you and your business do better than everyone else in your vertical.
Your competitive differentiator may be an innovative product, a unique business process, or you may set yourself apart instead by offering better pricing and support. Once you determine precisely what makes your company and its offerings unique, you can better decide when and where to pursue bespoke software solutions.
Selecting the Right Tech Stack for Software Custom Solutions
A technology stack, or “tech stack,” is the set of solutions used to develop a software application.
Both custom software solutions and COTS applications are composed of a tech stack that consists of a web or application server, a programming language, a database management system, and an operating system (OS).
Every component of a tech stack will impact the performance, agility, and functionality of its associated software. The OS runs the software and ensures reliability; the database management system stores and manages all of the data that the application gathers and uses; the programming language is the framework that the developers use to manage the application, add new features, and fix bugs, while the server handles requests and responses from users.
The tech stack components that you choose will not only impact your bespoke software’s performance but will also affect the cost of the project and the longevity of your application. Choosing widely-used, reliable technology stack components will help you create a functional, robust solution that yields a strong return on investment (ROI).
Key Considerations When Choosing a Tech Stack
When building your tech stack, you need to consider the following five factors:
- The Requirements of Your Project
First and foremost, consider the unique requirements of your project(s), as well as your business goals. Identify any existing systems that you want your tech stack to integrate with and make a list of “must-have” software features and functions.
- Development/Maintenance Costs
Some tech stack components will require specialized expertise or expensive software licenses, which can increase the overall cost of your project. Be mindful of these ongoing expenses to ensure that your project stays on budget.
Maximize the viable lifespan of your bespoke software by ensuring that you build it upon a scalable technology stack. By doing so, you can modify the software and its functionality as your company’s needs evolve.
- Time to Market
If you want to get your custom software solutions implemented quickly, select technology stack components that are widely used to assure that you can find tools, resources, and developers to support your deployment process.
With cybercrime rates at historic levels, it is vital that you prioritize data security when forming your tech stack. Choose solutions that are designed in accordance with the latest best practices so that you can keep you and your customers’ data safe.
Apply the Build Some/Buy Some Approach
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make when investing in custom software solutions is believing that they have to build everything, but that is simply not the case.
If you elect to build everything from the ground up, your project will quickly exceed its intended scope and budget. On top of that, building everything is not only impractical but also incredibly inefficient, especially when there is a multitude of great COTS tools, technologies, and frameworks out there that can be integrated with your custom applications.
There is no need to build authentication software, for instance; simply use something off the shelf. The same goes for email and messaging functionalities. If something off the shelf is already built and meets your needs, incorporate it into your project.
Gauge the Efficacy of Your Custom Software Development Process with Dora Metrics
DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) is a research program designed to better understand what drives software development, delivery, and operations performance. DORA researchers have identified four key metrics that are indicative of a DevOps team performance, which are as follows:
- Frequency of Deployment
How often your organization releases code and updates into production
- Change Lead Time
The amount of time it takes your team to put changes into production
- Rate of Change Failure
The percentage of deployments that have caused a production failure
- Time to Restore Service
The average length of time it takes your team to bounce back from a production failure
While there are many ways to assess the performance of your custom software solutions team, DORA metrics are seen as the gold standard, which is why we recommend using them. Each of these metrics is carefully selected because they reveal specific details about your team’s performance.
For example, your team’s lead time for changes and deployment frequency gauge its velocity, and its time to restore service and change failure rates measure how consistent and stable the team’s performance is.
That said, simply tracking DORA metrics is not enough. Throughout the development process, you should continuously work to improve along these metrics to achieve better business outcomes and strengthen your ROI.
When to Hire Consultants
If you are exploring custom software solutions, consider bringing in an experienced consulting team to help you navigate the complex process of creating bespoke software. They can identify tech stack components that would be a good fit for your company’s short and long-term goals while also working to maximize your ROI and condense the time to value of your project.
If you’re not sure whether bringing in third-party consultants is the right move, here are a few signs your business may need some outside support:
You Need to Build a Custom Piece
If, after exploring the technology market and assessing the needs of your business, you decide that building custom software is the right move, now is the perfect time to bring in technology consultants.
You may want to keep everything in-house, especially if you have everything figured out and have hammered out the broader details of your project. We get it, but that is exactly why you should hire a consulting firm.
Even if your internal development team can handle the build process, bringing in third-party consultants that can objectively analyze the viability of your project is a great idea. They’ll be able to provide some fresh insights, identify potential challenges that you may have overlooked, and help you set the stage for a successful software custom development project.
You Need Custom Software to Execute Your Competitive Differentiator
Discovering how to magnify and execute your competitive differentiator in a way that yields measurable business benefits can be challenging. However, this difficulty is mitigated when you leverage custom software and a technology consulting firm.
Put simply, a third-party consulting firm can help you explore which competitive differentiators to accentuate and with which technologies. An experienced agency can provide insights into how you can effectively leverage your differentiator through the strategic creation and implementation of custom technologies.
Pairing your differentiator with robust custom software solutions will give you a definitive edge over your competitors. Not only will you be able to provide a better product or service, but with the help of a skilled consultant, you will also be able to streamline the delivery of your offering through technology.
Even if you’re not yet fully clear on your differentiator, it may be a good idea to bring in a technology consulting firm anyway. If you need to explore your value proposition, the right firm can help you develop and multiply a competitive differentiator through experimentation and discovery.
Taking on a Custom Project Will Stretch Your Team Too Thin
Ask yourself whether your IT team can take on a bespoke software development project while still fulfilling their day-to-day responsibilities. If you want your project done anytime soon, your answer is bound to be “no.” Most businesses don’t have much in the way of unused software development bandwidth and IT capacity, as maintaining a bloated tech team is cost-prohibitive.
Therefore, as you gear up for your software development project, you have two options: The first involves hiring more full-time IT staff, which is costly, time-consuming, and leaves you with a question of what to do with the increased staff after the custom software is completed. The other is to bring in IT consultants and use them to augment the capabilities of your in-house team.
Working with a third-party firm is your best move, as you can rapidly tap into the expertise and resources necessary to get your project moving forward. If you need to access additional resources, simply reach out to your partner, and they will be glad to accommodate you.
You Need a Partner to Get You Over the Hump
There may be points in which you simply need someone to help you navigate that last challenge or give your internal team a productivity boost. Custom software development consultants can do exactly that. Bringing in a third-party team to augment your team can be a big morale booster, and your team will have someone to turn to if they encounter a problem they don’t have an answer to.
Ideally, you want to bring in third-party support at the outset. That way, your consulting firm knows the scope and demands of your project from day one, meaning they can lend more effective support and guidance.
You Are Unsure About What to Build and What to Buy
Deciding what to build and what to buy can be obvious at times, but in other instances, the decision can certainly lack that sense of clarity.
A third-party consulting firm can help you identify existing software solutions that would be a good match for your business, and they can also work with you to pinpoint processes that would benefit from custom software solutions.
By guiding you through the process, your consulting partner can enable you to maximize your ROI while also working within your budget.
Unlock the Power of Custom Software Solutions with UDig
UDig’s custom software solutions consultants can help you identify when, where, and how to invest in bespoke technology for your business. We can also identify when it is best to implement COTS solutions as opposed to custom software.
To learn more about our consulting services, we invite you to schedule a consultation with the UDig team. You can also take advantage of our free technology business case template and quantity the ROI of projects before they get underway.