Custom Software for Small Business: All Development Details You Should Know
By António Gualdino Posted
Nowadays, the majority of enterprises need software solutions to operate efficiently and stay relevant in a highly competitive environment. The market is full of different solutions tailored to enhance various internal processes and deliver extra value.
When searching for a suitable software solution, small businesses usually face a dilemma: choosing ready-made systems or investing in customized software development. At the first glance, off-the-shelf software seems like a more affordable option, but further down the road, the majority of businesses start to struggle and decide to switch to custom software development.
But why does this sudden switch happen and how does the implementation of custom solutions impact small businesses’ performance? In this article, TechRivo is going to answer these core questions to help you comprehend the real value behind custom software development.
Table of Contents
What Is Custom Software Development?
The process of custom software development implies the creation of a software solution tailored to a certain company’s specific necessities and requirements. From the initial development stages, a development team focuses on solving a specific business challenge a business aims to solve through the introduction of a custom solution. Such a goal dictates every decision along the way, from the selection of tech stack to UI style.
Usually, development companies follow the software development lifecycle which includes six steps:
- requirements specification;
- designing the product architecture;
- product development;
- deployment and further maintenance.
Custom Software Solutions vs Off-the-Shelf Solutions
Custom software development often opposes the adoption of ready-made solutions, which are pre-made and designed for mass usage and fulfilling general requirements. While both types of software can be useful for small businesses and help them achieve their goals, there are significant differences between these two options.
First, there is a question of price. A lot of small businesses consider it as a main factor for decision-making, as they operate small budgets and focus on optimizing expenses. Therefore, the option of choosing a ready-made solution that will cost a relatively moderate subscription price per month looks appealing, pushing small businesses to select off-the-shelf solutions rather than initiating cumbersome and costly development projects.
And here we go over the second point: the value a solution brings to the business. A software piece that costs more can generate more benefits over the years, making it more profitable in a long run. Due to high customization, bespoke software has more chances to contribute to long-term growth and turn into a meaningful investment.
Third, the functionality of custom and ready-made software may drastically vary, even if it is the same type of software, e.g, a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Usually, off-the-shelf systems will provide you with a wide set of features, while customized solutions offer less rich, but more useful functionality, as it’s tailored exactly to the necessities of a certain company and won’t include something you won’t use.
Fourth, a substantial difference in ownership also changes the relations between small businesses and software pieces. The enterprise keeps full responsibility for the solution, meaning that upgrade, maintenance, and security are in the hands of a business and its software development team, whether it is operating in-house or outsourced. In the case of ready-made software, full control over the solution remains on the vendor’s side, which maintains and updates its product at its own discretion.
Overall, ready-made solutions are as valid as custom ones. However, they will help you cover some of your processes on a superficial level without the customization small businesses will need to access the full value that custom software can deliver.
Benefits of Custom Software Solutions
Custom app development is definitely a process that demands a significant amount of investment, and attention both from the client and the development team. Nevertheless, the outcomes small businesses can get from custom solutions overlap the efforts dedicated thanks to the major advantages they generate.
Designed for Your Business and Your Business Only
The main benefit of such solutions is obvious: they are made for your business. Basically, a software piece is adjusted to your internal processes, necessities, and expectations instead of a situation where the enterprise is bound to adjust to a new system.
From the initial phases of the software development process, your system is built specifically for you. This remarkably expands your opportunities and grants you a lot more freedom in solution conceptualization, development, and upgrades.
At the same time, a custom software application might be easier to implement in comparison with ready-made solutions. While still offering some level of customization, off-the-shelf systems usually stick to certain pipelines and designs that might differ a lot from your processes. Your employees might struggle to adapt to them, igniting resistance to accept the newly introduced solution. On the other hand, you can make custom solutions match precisely your established processes, so your crew won’t need to readjust.
High Flexibility and Scalability
As an owner of a custom solution, you get full control over it. You don’t depend on any third parties, and you don’t need to negotiate or get permission from anyone to alter your software if such a necessity arises. Hence, you achieve high flexibility and can take your solution in any direction you want.
At the same time, you can easily scale your solution, which is definitely an advantage a lot of small businesses forget when first acquiring new systems. With the passage of time, your company is going to expand, and the software you use should reflect these alterations and scale accordingly. You might struggle with ready-made solutions, as their capacities will hang upon a vendor, who might not be able to provide you with the necessary volumes to facilitate your growth.
Full Control over the Software Piece
Once again, your small business is the exclusive owner of custom software solutions. You don’t need to bother with licenses or monthly or yearly fees, and you don’t need to rely on vendors’ support team. The code is constantly available to you, and you can easily review, copy or change it if needed.
Basically, custom systems become truly your assets, and while this might add responsibility to your team, it also removes the scope of problems you could face if choosing the other option.
Cost-Efficiency in a Long Run
Let’s talk about a hard issue: price. Software development for a small business may require from several thousand to a hundred thousand dollars, depending on the solution size and complexity. When you first get an estimation for the custom software development project, you could get scared of huge numbers and give up the idea of building your own tailored solution.
However, this question is more complex. To evaluate if the price is too high, you need to compare expenses with the value you will get. For example, a ready-made solution will cost you around $100 per month, and this looks like a reasonable and affordable price, while the custom software development will require $50,000, which is a pretty significant expense. But what if a custom system is going to help you drive more deals and earn an extra $100,000 during the next two years? The broad view changes your perspective, allowing you to analyze the feasibility of investment better.
At the same time, you need to remember that the custom software is made to serve you for years if not decades. And often, when counting the full price of all your licenses and subscriptions for ready-made apps, you will get the same number custom software development will cost you.
The restricted circle of users gets access to customized software. This is a huge contribution to system security, as people, unfortunately, are the biggest threats to cybersecurity. The fewer people can interact with your solution, the smaller the chances that anyone can accidentally leak their credentials or expose vulnerabilities.
Custom solutions are also mostly closed-source, while ready-made ones are usually delivered as open-sourced, making them baits and potential victims for hackers.
Simple Integration with Other Enterprise Software
Small businesses operate under an ecosystem of solutions responsible for various internal processes, hence, it is always important to ensure seamless integration between new and old pieces.
Pre-made solutions have already established APIs you can not change to match your environment, and it might add difficulties to integrations. In turn, custom software development allows you to consider the specifics of your ecosystem beforehand and tailor a system in progress to its requirements.
How To Acquire Custom Software Solutions for Your Small-Sized Business?
If our arguments have persuaded you to choose bespoke software development, you are encountering the next question: what should we do next? We prepared a short step-by-step guide for you on how to start the custom development process for small businesses.
Identify Your Goal
As with any other project, you should comprehend where you are aiming. Your system should aid you to solve the challenges you face, so first, you need to identify the issues disrupting your work. For example, it might be a lack of automation, inefficient customer relationship management, unstructured and inaccessible data, etc.
As soon as you understand the challenges, you can formulate the goals you need to chase to overcome issues, and this will dictate the type of software you need.
Comprehend Your Requirements
The next step is to create a list of features your system should contain to help you achieve the final goal. You don’t need to go into thorough tech details, but you need to build a vision of the desired system and how it should work.
For that purpose, you can do research and study similar software pieces present on the market. This will help you to dive into the topic and comprehend on a deeper level what value you can access through custom software development.
Select a Custom Software Development Company to Cooperate
Usually, there are two ways to approach custom app development: you can build up an in-house development team or initiate cooperation with a software outsourcing company. For the majority of small businesses, the second option makes more sense.
Hiring an in-house crew is a long and expensive process, which can be justified if the company plan to develop software on a regular basis. However, there is a small chance that non-tech small businesses need this intensity rather than a one-time initiative. Hence, companies opt to outsource custom software development to remote professionals.
The market for custom software development companies is huge, and small businesses can find a partner who will be able to fulfill all their needs and expectations. When comparing potential partners, pay attention to next aspects:
- relevant tech and industry expertise;
- sufficient experience backed up with a portfolio;
- testimonials and feedback from past and current clients;
- the approach to custom software development and project management methodologies;
- justified pricing;
- communication style.
Co-Founder and CEO of TechRivo. António is a long-time entrepreneur, interested in human development and relationships and their connection to business strategy and technology.