Professional software products are an important part of the working process for most companies in virtually every industry. Every company needs management and accounting software, and some sort of software solution for online presence. Larger companies implement customer service systems, human resources management software, sophisticated e-commerce software or web portals with extended functionalities corresponding their field of industry. All these systems are mostly developed by other companies, so-called software vendors, implemented and supported by the vendor or by the internal IT team.
There are two main approaches to acquiring software systems for enterprise use. The easiest way for a non-IT company to automate its business processes is to purchase a package of off-the-shelf software and invite software engineers from the vendor company to deploy it. This approach works well with basic online shopping solutions, hotel reservation software or open source project management systems. It is convenient for small and medium enterprises with traditional business models, though larger companies can integrate ready made solutions into their system by customizing some of their functionality, if possible. Nevertheless, standard inexpensive software solutions are not reliable enough when it comes to banking software, healthcare or mobile programming.
Ready-made software often fails to meet expectations of large businesses and innovation-oriented fast-developing companies. Their main disadvantage is lack of scalability. Of-the-shelf software is a finished product with limited possibilities for enhancement and upgrade. It may have issues with software integration, or it may be compatible only with software systems of the same software vendor. It cannot evolve along with the company, and sooner or later must be replaced by another software solution, more capable and more expensive. Custom software development can generally lead to the same expenses in the long-term perspective as purchasing new products, as it can be adjusted to emerging challenges and business needs.
Custom software systems are always tailored to exact business requirements of the customer and adjusted to his unique business model. They are scalable and normally supported by long-term maintenance agreements, and help comes immediately if the upgrade is needed. Of course, the customer must define his key business objectives as clearly as it is possible from the very beginning, although it is allowed and, in some models of software development, even desired to give feedback to developers, so they can make corrections to the program during the development process. The aim is to ensure the right business logic behind all elements of implemented software and make it work under the real-life conditions.
A compromising decision can be made if the company’s funds are limited. Some parts of the software company can be purchased as ready made solutions, and the key systems can be developed by request and put together by software integration. For example, a typical CRM solution and a standard database can be integrated with a custom online shopping portal, some bespoke business analysis software and even with an enterprise mobile application that can provide the complete business data from all those systems. Seamless integration is a highly professional kind of service that requires deep expertise in several fields, but it will be cheaper than developing the whole system from scratch.
Custom software development can lead to noticeable expenses. But if the customer owns the resulting product, he can sell it to other companies. There are a lot of options like partner programs with other companies working in the same industry or “white label” distribution. Technology companies can develop the solutions they need for work by their own, but in many cases even they can do electronic document management or buy enterprise software products because of the high level in specialization that is characteristic for the IT industry.