When it comes to custom software development, one of the most difficult decisions that companies have to make is selecting the right partner to build their software.
But one might ask, is there really a need for a custom software solution? Don’t we have by now every kind of software that we might ever need to buy off the shelf?
Well that is equivalent to asking does every company run it’s business in the same way? Using the same systems and processes? The answer is definitely No.
Every company has their own secret sauce that provides them with a competitive advantage in the marketplace and differentiates them from competitors.
Let’s recap some of the top reasons why it makes sense to go for custom software rather than off-shelf solutions for your business:
Why Custom Software?
Capture Your Uniqueness
One cannot expect to compete profitably in the marketplace with a one size fits all solution developed for the masses. There’s a need for specialization. For capturing your company’s own unique systems and processes, automating them and connecting them with the various roles and departments within the organization to drive optimum efficiency at scale.
This ensures that everyone in the organization, even newly hired employees, are following the processes that were put in place by the founders. There is little room for error and people get trained on doing things the right way from the start.
Follow Your Own Roadmap
Every software product has a road-map for continued development. And off the shelf solutions crowdsource their roadmaps which creates a big problem. What works for someone else might not work for you. In fact, it might hurt you. A few years down the road you might realize you need to reinvest in new software driving your costs to the roof and causing massive disruptions to your operations.
Whereas with custom software you align the software’s roadmap with your company goals which makes things a lot easier and ensures continued ROI on your software investment.
Build Your Own Integrations
Custom software ensures interoperability with existing software that the company is already using or plans to use which again helps in capitalizing on current investments and competence. No need to buy new software and no reason to train your staff on how to use it.
Define Your Own Security Measures
With the increasing rate of cyber theft in the past few years, companies are more concerned for the security of their valuable data in the systems. To prevent hackers from stealing your important information, business people continually search for better solutions.
With custom software solutions, reducing cybercrime becomes an easy job. As the software makes it difficult for hackers to understand the ins and outs of your system, they cannot attack you either with your personal information. With unique software developed by custom software developers, you can be assured of world-class cybersecurity for your upcoming business.
Schedule Your Software Version Upgrades
Upgrades can be planned and scheduled during off-peak hours or at times when there is low user access. This prevents data integrity and corruption issues as well.
Prioritize Your Bugs
With off-the-shelf software, you cannot expect continuous maintenance. In case of error, all you can do is to report the company from where you have purchased this and wait for it to be fixed in the next update which can take weeks or months in some cases. But with custom software, it can be immediate and it can also be prioritized based on severity or on mission-critical features. The point is that your operations will not stop indefinitely.
When it comes to quality, custom software certainly outperforms off-the-shelf products. Because these products are designed for a large unit of users or business people, they can be packed with features your business doesn’t require.
Also, they may not provide you with the quality of the product your business demands. When you need high-quality software, custom software development is the right choice. Together with the desired quality, it can offer you better results and help you improve the overall performance of your business.
Define Your User Roles
Off-the-shelf software solutions only allow a limited number of business people to use the software. In the case of a small business, this might not be a problem, but for large organizations, it becomes a serious problem. With custom software solutions, there is a limit on the number of users. Since the software belongs to you completely, it provides access to as many users as you want.
Would you rather talk through a chat bot and go through multiple hoops to find a real human being then queue for 20 mins before getting to a real person? Another important reason why leading companies choose custom software is the availability of a wide range of support. With reliable support, running your business smoothly and successfully becomes easy. The experts from the software development team can help you solve all the problems your company may encounter, efficiently and quickly.
Searching For The Right Partner
Looking for potential custom software agency can be done in several ways:
A Google search for “Custom Software Agency + Your City Name” will reveal the top candidates in your local area both as organic search results and advertised results. Remember to be specific, use technical keywords, but try not to type in long phrases that can narrow down the search results.
Check out marketplaces like clutch.co or goodfirms.com where many firms position themselves.
Ask Your Network
Post a question on your LinkedIn page or in groups you belong to asking for references.
Attend conferences like Collision Conf or Web Summit. Usually conferences such as those will attract many custom software vendors because there will be huge demand in right there and then. You will be able to talk to them in person and discuss your needs, etc.
What To Look For
When you find your candidates, visit their website and carefully go through it. Here are some important areas to watch out for:
Take a look at their portfolio and case studies. They usually include detailed descriptions of their previous works, functionalities, technologies used, etc. Also try to see if they built something similar (or close enough) to what you want to build. You don’t want to be the first experiment in a new area where they are trying to build presence.
Companies tend to publish their clients’ testimonials on their websites or previously mentioned firm catalogues. Client reviews will give you an idea of the collaboration process and the vendor’s relationship with previous partners. Try to contact those who gave the testimonials on your own (by finding them on LinkedIn for example) to get additional feedback.
Many custom software development agencies have a blog where they share their technical as well as business knowledge. Take into consideration the number of years they’ve been on the market and whether they have the qualified engineers you are looking for. Check if they are posting about their preferred work processes. As an example, a company that follows Agile principles will bring a lot of benefits to the overall quality of your product as well as have a better working relationship with you during the development cycles.
Go on their “About” or “Contact Us” sections located usually on their website’s footer. Try to see if there are links to their social media profiles like Twitter or Facebook. What you are looking for here is companies who are passionate about what they do. Those will normally post regularly about new technologies and innovations in the field. They will also post about new breakthroughs, services and products they built. These are all good signs.
Selecting The Right Partner
Once you’ve gone through the steps above it’s time to dive deeper into the decision making process. The next step in the process is to consider the following points.
Different custom software vendors have different areas of expertise. Some may specialize in apps with a specific type of functionality, and some will specialize in building apps using one specific programming language. If your software idea has technical limitations or necessary specifications to follow, you’ll want to choose someone who’s an expert in this area.
If you’re trying to finish your software project as quickly as possible, you won’t be able to choose a one-man operation that already has multiple projects in queue. The bigger the capacity of your custom developer, the faster and more efficient your project will be completed.
You may prefer to have a custom developer based in your home country, or even one in your city. This will allow for face to face meetings and visits to their office which can give you a lot of insights on who you're dealing with. Choosing a vendor in another country could save you money up front, but you might have to deal with different time zones, and languages which could become frustrating barriers down the line.
As you start contacting your potential vendors consider the flow of communication. Is it easy to get in contact with a representative? Do they seem to understand what you’re saying easily? Do they articulate themselves effectively? Do they respond quickly? If you have communication problems early on, it will be a major red flag.
Cost is often a byproduct of the factors listed above. Custom software vendors with great reviews, a lot of expertise, and great communication will definitely be more on the expensive side compared with other vendors that don’t stack up. Often, you get what you pay for in this regard. Still, you need to consider your budget as well and sometimes this means that you need to make compromises. As long as you’re aware of the points we discussed, you will have a clear idea on what you’re willing to trade off to save some money. For example, you may be able to live with less than ideal communication if you have proof that the vendor delivers high quality software on time and budget.
There are many other elements that an outsourcing contract should include and an attorney should review your contract before you commit to it with your signature.
Here are some things to consider when drafting your contract:
Intellectual Property (IP) Rights
You are the owner of the code that will be produced during the outsourcing process
and all the copyrights are assigned to you.
There will always be personal data in every software that collects user information. It is crucial that your vendor takes security seriously and have measures in place to protect your data privacy. For example, VPN, encryption and firewall are a must for protecting electronic documents. All source code should be stored and version controlled in GIT.
Make sure that the software being developed is GDPR compliant especially if you plan to have European customers or conduct business activities in Europe.
A contract should include the length of the collaboration and the conditions under which each either side can terminate it.
Both companies should make sure that there is no conflict of interest and to not engage in activity with another competing business.
At its core, custom software is at the heart of digital transformation for businesses of all sizes and in all industries. This doesn’t ring more true than during a time such as this where it became clear overnight that businesses can close shop within days if they are not ready for online operations and remote collaboration. The stakes are high and the benefits will outshadow the investments.
Opting for custom software development will not only give companies a competitive advantage, it can mean the difference between continuing operations or closing shop.