Should you buy existing software or build something new? We might be a little biased toward custom software development, because that’s what we do. But WeAre is a business too, and sometimes commercial off-the-shelf software makes the most sense for our business needs. We get it. You want to make the best choice for your business, so we’ve created this guide to be clear about the benefits as well as what we do to reduce any downsides. But first ..
Custom software development is a process distinguished by its focus on a particular end user or purpose throughout the entire software development process, in contrast to commercial off-the-shelf software that aims to have broad appeal for entire market segments.
Now that we have the definition out of the way, let’s get to the 4 main benefits of customised software.
When you want software to be exactly right for your particular business, custom or “bespoke” software can be tailor-made to fit your requirements. This is its greatest strength.
Generic software can work perfectly well if you have a generic requirement like a system to manage inventory. However, there might not be any existing options if you want something more specific, as in the case of Renta when they needed a more complicated inventory of equipment rentals requiring periodic maintenance which could use rental data from a smart mobile app for customers. Custom software can integrate with your other services and optimise your workflow in a way that your competitors can’t easily copy.
Furthermore, if your needs change or your business evolves over time, generic software won’t grow with you. You can’t easily pay a major software vendor to add a new feature you need, or change its UI to include advanced settings for your new technical team, or play nicely with the competing brand used by your new business partner.
You may have heard that custom software has a high up-front cost. This would be a major obstacle to companies without the spare cash for large investments, no matter how good the ROI could be. Traditional development is indeed costly, but WeAre does it differently. With a DigiOffice approach, we keep costs low and manageable for your company’s budget by using agile methodology and modern technology.
Custom software also offers more rights and control, because you’re not just a customer but a partner. You’ll have a transparent and fair pricing model instead of being at the mercy of big companies squeezing out more profit by increasing license fees for everyone locked into their ecosystem (looking at you, Microsoft 365).
Off-the-shelf software might do its job well enough, but it can’t work with you to find new optimisations. Useful things can be learned during the interactive process of turning business requirements into software specifications. Sometimes companies haven’t considered the possibilities until they discuss ideas with a software development team. This can happen both on a large scale, when long, costly processes get automated, and with small quality-of-life improvements. Someone might ask for a basic feature to generate PDF reports from sales data, but then it comes to light that the decision makers are too busy to read long reports, and what they really want is a dashboard that shows key metrics at a glance.
Software development takes more time than clicking a “Confirm Order” button. However, modern development practices can create a minimum viable product (MVP) much faster than traditional development, and it can be well worth the short wait.
Some difficult and time-consuming steps will happen in either case:
The main difference, then, is that custom software also requires a development stage. This stage can start very early, even during the very first step of budgeting. Your business can ask for a range of price quotes to help you decide whether to invest in a higher value option or a cost-effective minimalist option. During the second step of identifying business requirements, WeAre can help root out the underlying needs as mentioned earlier.
Furthermore, you can have a voice during development by trying out prototypes and evaluating whether the product is on track to meet your needs. This is the beauty of agile software development. The more traditional approach of “waterfall” development is very slow and one-directional, and the customer can’t provide feedback until the software is nearly finished. WeAre avoids such rigid approaches and works hard to shorten development cycles with industry experience, rapid prototyping, automated testing, and streamlined development pipelines. These strategies power all of our projects, particularly ReApptor, our low code platform.