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Nearly every innovative company faces this decision as they grow: Do you stick with off-the-shelf (OTS) software for your enterprise and business process needs, or do you invest in custom software development? Do you deal with the daily workarounds to get OTS software to work for you, or do you sink resources into getting some snazzy program that includes fancy analytics and business intelligence data?

What makes companies consider custom software development in the first place? Developing your own custom software might actually make better business sense for your company if you:

  • Have business needs that cannot be completely answered with a commercially-available product
  • Need features other software products do not offer
  • Have tried existing software, and the complications created by trying to force OTS software to fit your business needs outweigh the advantages

For all these reasons, a custom software application can be a promising alternative to what’s available on the market for your business today.

What is custom software – and what are the advantages?


Custom software development is the creation of specialized software applications that fulfill a specific request or task. An application like this could be used to fulfill one purpose for your organization, or it could encompass all your business processes and integrate them together. It can be as comprehensive as you like. Custom software is typically designed to meet the specialized requirements of a group of users or an organization better than what traditional or off-the-shelf software can.

For example, imagine using a flat-head screwdriver to tighten hex-shaped bolts. The short answer is that you can’t, but sometimes you’re forced to use a flat-head screwdriver because a hex-shaped tool isn’t available. With enough jury-rigging and bruised knuckles, you might be able to secure the bolt with the flat-head screwdriver. But is the bolt really secure? How do you save time and effort (and skin) the next time? The solution is to use the right tool for the exact task. Sure, it might be expensive at first to have to go out and find (or make) the right tool, but in the long run, the task will be easier every time you do it.

That, in a nutshell, describes the advantage of creating your own custom programs.

How does the development process work?

In custom software development, the software developer and the client work closely together to decide what the planned software’s purpose is, who its intended users are, and what the exact business requirements are that the program should meet.

First, you have to carefully consider if what you want to do truly requires custom software development (which is what this guide is intended to help you with). Is it really going to be worth the investment, or do you just want to be able to say that your company has custom software? (Because in some start-up circles, having custom software is almost a status symbol of sorts.)

Decision-making factors include:

  • What business or industry are you in?
  • Do you have specialized information security and privacy concerns
  • How much data is involved, and how complex is it?
  • What are the existing commercial software products already in use? Are they rigid and lack scalability?
  • What are your budgetary and financial constraints?

As difficult as these factors can be to weigh, as you go through the decision-making process, at some point, the benefits should be clear. Your investment in custom software development should:

  • Connect your employees, customers and partners.
  • Manage your key processes and clear bottlenecks.
  • Leverage your business’s assets and products.
  • Reduce cost, reduce time needed to complete tasks, and increase overall efficiency.
  • Help your business discover – and handle – new opportunities for revenue and growth.

Once you decide to take the plunge, custom software development uses a multi-tier, multi-platform approach that encompasses your business operations and can touch more than a single piece of software. Your entire environment is under scrutiny in this process, from any online forms completed by your customers to data collection to invoice and remittance processing to producing a financial statement mailed out by a commercial printing operation. Working with a software developer, the entire business process is mapped end to end.

Conversely, a custom software application could end up being anything from a small piece of your process to an enterprise-wide program. It could include a self-contained website, a mobile application or an improved business process. For example, you could end up developing a new way to compare prices and apply for auto insurance using a mobile phone app.