What is Custom Application Development?
Custom application development is exactly what it sounds like–computer software that is tailored exactly to your business, your customers, your needs. Whether the software is a web-based application, a mobile app, or both combined, it provides you with the features that are specific to your exclusive needs and will grow with your business under your direction.
The opposite of custom application development is packaged or off-the-shelf software. Already created with a wide range of businesses in mind, these software solutions may have the features you need for your customers and employees, but they will most certainly have an array of features you do not need or want. You pay for the full suite of options even if they are not pertinent to your business. Additionally, the applications might be customized a bit allowing you to add your logo and change a few colors, but they will not be custom to your company culture and attitude.
Benefits of Custom Application Development
Reduce Technology Spend
Many business owners believe that designing custom software will cost more money than using something already existing in the market. That can be true, but it can also be false. The focus of the conversation needs to be around what is special about your business and differentiates you in the marketplace. If software solutions already exist and are not your differentiator, you want to connect to them, not recreate them. Email is a perfect example. Your custom software will probably include an email component to communicate with your customers or employees, but you will not build a new email software. Instead, you will connect your software to an existing email provider. You will spend your software budget on developing the solutions that directly benefit your business and will improve your bottom line.
Over the long term, when you add in the license for the enterprise version of a packaged software, the setup and training, technical support, and license renewal, often for the same price or less, you can develop your own custom software. Maintenance is easier and in your control. If you want a change, you can make it. If the packaged software wants a change, they make it–they can even remove the feature you use the most and leave you scrambling to find new software applications with what you need, forcing you to start the process all over.
Improve Overall Security
The news reports new security breaches on a regular basis and no company wants to be the next headline. Downtime to your business, negative publicity, and loss of client trust can cost more than your business can afford. A major advantage of custom software solutions over off-the-shelf software is increased security. Software applications used by hundreds or thousands of companies are worth the time and effort for hackers to attack vulnerabilities. A user in another company who opens a phishing email can expose the entire software application to attack, harming your business even when it was not your employee who was at fault.
In addition, custom software development provides the opportunity for you to have the specific security you need for your business. That off the shelf software may have only moderate controls that are enough for most businesses, but if you handle particularly private information or have sensitive clients, you will want to develop higher security protocols than the average software solution provides.
Increase Competitive Advantage
You know your customers, what they want, what they like. When you design custom software for them, you provide a better user experience making your business the one they want to engage with and tell others about. When you make life easier on your customers, they turn to you again and again. Let’s face it. Amazon has made it easier to find, purchase, and receive items than driving to a local store and wandering the aisles. Customer-centric ease of use is a huge advantage over the competition.
Now think of the other side of the equation – what do you want to know about your customers to provide you with an advantage? When building custom software applications, you develop exactly what you need to help your business grow. Your software, your needs, your design. As an added bonus, the software will have the personality of your company and your users. You will never look like everyone else but will stand out in the marketplace.
Provide Control and Confidence
Think about how many times software you use has been “updated” and caused frustration for you or your team. The features have changed, and you are surprised and stuck starting your day by googling and hunting for directions on how to use the change. When you own the software, you have complete control over when and how new features are created or removed. You can evolve your software as your business evolves making it perfectly scalable and in sync with your specific needs.
Other times, reliability suffers, and your team is shut out of doing work while waiting for the applications to return to action or spending their day opening support tickets and waiting on hold for help. Right now, you might be just another support ticket, but when it’s your software you can quickly get the answers you need to get your team back to productive work.
Business Size and Custom Software
A very common myth is that small businesses cannot have custom software applications. Many small companies neither have, nor want, an internal IT department. In truth, many have no idea where to begin to develop software and researching software development teams can take you down a path to different software philosophies and weird job titles. Do you really need to know what a scrum master is and why they need to be agile? Although you do not need to know, when interviewing a software development partner, it is a great question to ask. If the person on the phone can make any of your research terms make sense, you have a great start to finding a partner with strong communication skills.
Should small businesses have custom software? Absolutely. Custom software development makes it easier for small businesses to grow. You can increase efficiency by automating tasks and get more done with less staff. You can delight customers with technology that provides faster response times, better customer service, and ease of use to give customers confidence in your abilities. Investing in custom software can help your small business do big business.
What do you need to develop your software? You need a software development partner with experience in helping businesses of various sizes. They should understand small business needs, but also have experience with bigger clients–after all, you will want to make sure they can grow with you. Here are a few items to look for in your software development partner:
Range of Software Development Services
You want a partner that can build both mobile apps and web-based applications. They should be able to discuss both with you, listen to your needs, and guide you to the right option for your business. Additionally, a good partner should provide services beyond just development services. Ask questions about how the design process works and listen for how they will work with your team to get the designs right for visuals and functionality. You will also want to learn about testing and acceptance processes for applications. How often will items be ready for you to test and how will they assist you in ensuring the quality of your product? Partners should discuss with you how much time they will need from you and your team in order to build your software. You will want a team that builds with you and for you as your input is valuable.
Visibility and Communication
Custom software development is complex, but the people who work in it every day should be able to make it sound easy. After all, that is the true indication of an expert–they make the difficult sound simple. An experienced and talented software partner will have a development process that they can explain in a slide or two. They should have developed solutions to help you to design and build the software confidently. Successful companies offer services like an initial estimate without charging you and you should be able to understand what you see. Companies that do not communicate well from the start generally do not improve with more of your time or your money.
As mentioned previously, you do not want to pay to recreate the wheel, just to add those wheels to your new software ride. When preparing for a meeting with a development partner, have a list of all of the software applications your team uses ready. Integrating your existing software should be part of the conversation. There may be items you want to connect directly to the new custom software to eliminate inefficiencies like entering data multiple times for your staff. A seamless integration is vital for both your customers and your team. Software that happily exists when linked together can make a world of difference for you.
A Plan for Future Features
Before you begin your first custom software development project, your proposed partner should be discussing the future with you. Software evolves–it is inevitable. Open any app on your phone and look at the release notes in the store. You will not find one at release one. The evolution does not have to be scary or costly. Much of the time, you will make small changes and additions as you receive feedback from your customers and employees and as your business changes. If the development company is only interested in big releases or ongoing monthly payments, they may not be the right fit for you. You want to be able to evolve on your budget and need clear answers to what that will look like with the partner.
Although right now you are not considering hiring on full-time development staff, there may be a time in the future where your success means you might choose that route. A great software partner is happy for your success and will assist you in transitions. This can mean helping you to find and onboard a developer while still providing other roles like architects or analysts. It may mean jumping back in if you face a gap in staffing from a long vacation, a team change, or a delightful growth spurt. You want a partner who truly wants to help you succeed.
Why You Might Be Missing Out
At some point, many business owners will ask themselves if they can afford to build custom software. But that’s the wrong question.
Customers and employees alike expect a smooth and easy digital experience with most every company they encounter, no matter the industry. That’s why instead of asking if you can afford to build custom software, you should ask if you can afford to not build the right software for your business.
In today’s digital world, custom software application development can be a game changer for businesses of any size. Think of it as an investment – even if you pay more up front, but it will be worth it when you save on long-term costs, get exactly what you need, and use it to differentiate yourself in your market.
If you are curious about what type of software you could build to benefit your bottom line, Geneca offers a free and easy consultation where we listen to you and help you see what is possible. Reach out today!