If the software can be uniquely valuable to your business, then custom software offers a great opportunity. But it requires substantial investment, and you will be living with the decision for years to come.
Conversely, a huge range of off-the-shelf software is now available, and it is increasingly flexible and powerful. And modern off-the-shelf products are normally cloud-based with subscription pricing, so they are easier than ever to own and operate.
But large off-the-shelf implementations are themselves difficult and complex projects, and they will not provide your business with a point of difference. In fact, normally, these projects are deliberately aiming to drive established best-practice into business processes and to enforce standardization and rationalization.
Custom software development on the other hand is complex and risky, but it can deliver uniqueness and genuinely valuable innovation. This isn’t cheap, though, and many custom software projects fail—custom software is valuable because it’s not easy.
What are the benefits of custom software?
Custom software can deliver stand-out user experiences and functionality. This may allow your business operation to do something different and better than the competition; it may allow you to deliver valuable innovations.
But business leaders need to ask themselves this challenging question: Is this a genuine innovation, and would customers value it?
Custom software can be a means to create new market opportunities, to build engaging brand experiences for your customers, and to radically reduce cost or service. It can bring innovation and digital thinking to the heart of your business culture.
Find out how we are helping a mid-market business with a bespoke software project.
What are the disadvantages of custom software?
Custom software projects are very difficult to plan and manage, and because anything is possible, it is often difficult to manage scope.
Conversations between non-technical business leaders and highly technical software developers are often fraught. It’s very difficult for non-technical leaders to assess the completeness, security, or quality of software, and developers often struggle to explain the implications of their design decisions. Estimates are notoriously unreliable, and problems may only become apparent very late, so relationships can become strained.
All custom software requires ongoing fixes and changes, either to address errors (which are inevitable) or keep up with the constant evolution of IT. As there really is no end to a custom software project, you need to ensure that experts are always available and involved. And tools and approaches that work for small-scale software are not appropriate for large, important software products, so if the project is successful, there is a constant need to upgrade.
Many business leaders are frustrated that the costs never seem to end.
How can I ensure custom software delivers innovation?
Businesses that embark on custom software need to understand the likely cost and effort in the short-, medium- and long-term. They need to create a robust business plan that demonstrates the value and remain entirely focused on delivering it.
They need to ensure that have the necessary technical skills and leadership skills to deliver the software on time and budget and to deliver the intended business outcomes.
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Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT Directors, CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with SME and mid-market organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.