Custom Software vs. Off-The-Shelf Software

5 Reasons You Should be Considering Custom Software.

A lot of small and medium-sized businesses end up going the route of off-the-shelf software systems to accomplish many of the organization's business activities. From selling tickets and registering users to managing vendors and sponsorships. It makes sense. Someone built a technology specific to your industry, created exceptional marketing copy that sells all your key issues and makes it extremely cheap for you to onboard.

When I meet with organizations looking for technology solutions to their businesses challenges, they are a bit misinformed about the “custom software” opportunity - and frankly, a bit leery of the whole thing. This article will address just a few of the reasons that custom software should be a consideration for your next technology challenge or opportunity.

  1. YOU are fully involved in the build process and are a major part of the end product.
    You didn't get a say when that application you were using changed their pricing model. You've put that feature request in at least 10 times and keep getting the same answer, “Thank you for your request, we are working diligently to bring new features...yada, yada, yada.” Mmm hmm. That's just it. Their roadmap is their roadmap, and they may have business priorities that trump your needs.

    Conversely, when you have a custom application built for you, YOU are the primary voice in the product features. And you are the one who gets to decide what's in the application roadmap and how features are prioritized around your company's needs.

  2. Adapt software to YOUR business...instead of the other way around.
    The whole point of sourcing a new software system for your organization is to be able to support and automate parts of your internal or external processes. One of the biggest frustrations I hear from my clients is that out-of-the-box software forces them to change their processes to fit the flow of the software instead of the software adapting to their processes. Your company's processes and the way that you do things are a big factor in what makes your organization unique and different. You shouldn't need to change the way that you are doing things (unless there are inefficiencies) just because the software program forces you to do so.

    With custom software, the software is built around and for your processes. You tell us how you do things and how you'd like to be able to do things, and then the software is built to support that specific set of processes. Building to suit your business is a completely different experience than what you'll get with something that was build for a mass audience. The thing to remember with off-the-shelf-software is that it has to fit a very broad audience - even if it's industry-focused, there are still a lot of differences in the ways people conduct business. Software should empower an organization's processes, not force changes. Think of it this way - once you implement new software and roll out organizational changes, the cost of switching would be detrimental, so you're either married to the new software company and are along for the ride of how they change and develop, or, you build one system that suits the way you do business, and grow it organically with more customization over time.

  3. Start small and scale once you see what you really need.
    One of the biggest assumptions that I hear from prospective clients when they are considering a new software solution, is that they feel like they can't afford a custom solution or that it's going to take way too much time to develop the software that they really "need.” We find that the the best way to end up with the best software is to start small with just a handful of key features that you actually need and then continue to scale up the platform as your business dictates it. For example let's say there is one specific part of a customer facing business process that you need to streamline, maybe a registration process or some kind of membership application process. Start with just that piece of your system, streamline that one simple process and then once that piece of your system it has been improved, you'll see opportunities for how you'll want the system to grow over time and over several versions of your application. Building in this iterative way grows the system organically and deliberately gets you a better, more cost effective product. It's simply not true that a software platform has to be huge and fully featured to streamline elements of your business.

  4. Your business is unique and MUST differentiate to stay competitive...don't look like anyone else!
    One thing I know as I speak with business leaders and organizations from all over the country, is that competition is fierce. Especially competition that is coming in the form of the digital global marketplace. Your business is competing for customers against the entire Internet of options. So when I sit down with a client to discuss with them their options of building a new website or web application, they ask questions about whether we can just use a template to save them some money. Well, sure, we can. Or, you could develop a solution that helps you stand out, provide a tool for your customers that no one else has provided or build other functionality that truly sets your business apart in a meaningful way.

    In our experience, we've built custom tools for companies and witnessed that just by providing a tool to their users, they've truly differentiated their brand and have created more business for themselves. This is every business' opportunity, we just need to find it.

  5. Build a valuable business asset that you can monetize now and later.
    Lastly, there is a real opportunity to build a valuable asset for your company. Many times organizations worry about the investment that they're making it into a custom software platform. But the truth is the custom software wow yes it is an investment, but it becomes a value producing asset to your organization. We've done extensive research into the software technology reseller market, and there is a real opportunity for organizations who develop custom software to either resell or license their software to others. You could end up with a platform that other companies would pay a lot of money to license and create a whole new stream of revenue or separate model by licensing your technology to others who need it. Not only does the software itself build value into your company, but the data that your platform captures. Companies pay a lot of money for user behavior data - why not build your own? Creating a plan for and leveraging your own data can prove invaluable to an organization. In one of our clients' companies, they have access to data through their custom application that they've not been able to capture in their 20 years of operation. Now, it's like they have new eyes in their industry, which gives them an advantage over their peers.

I know I sound like I'm on a bandwagon here - and maybe I am - given my 10 years of being a part of every kind of digital build imaginable. I now see the extreme advantage that custom software has over anything you'd find that comes with a 30-day trial. Implementing new software is a huge undertaking for companies, and I never like to see an organization jump into a 3rd party software only to find that they hit a functionality vs. need ceiling. Especially when I know that custom software is within everyone's reach and can work with most companies' budgets.

Don't believe me? Give us a try! I'm happy to hear what you need and provide you with a game plan, there is nothing for you to lose and I know you'll be pleasantly surprised. Reach out on our site or via build@builtwellstudio.com.

Jayme Thomasoncustom software