When planning your digital project, you’ll be faced with a major dilemma—opt for custom software that you’ll own or go for pre-built software and pay for a license. Your decision will have a significant impact on your organization. In this article, we’ll shine a light on custom software and give you a full review of its main advantages and disadvantages so you can make the best decision for your business.
Definition of custom software
Custom software is unique by definition: no one else has it. It’s designed according to your organization’s particular requirements and meets your technical specifications. It can take the form of a web, mobile or embedded application and is created according to specific needs, which won’t be easily met by the off-the-shelf software on the market. Custom software is designed and developed specifically for you. Imagine that you’re having a house built: you’re in complete control from start to finish.
Pros of custom software
A solution tailored to your needs and business issues
The most obvious advantage of custom software, in the eyes of many business leaders, is its unique nature. The software is thought through from A to Z according to your concerns. Co-creation is an approach where the customer designs the software with the supplier. This is an important characteristic since you’ll be asked to define your needs and priorities in order to create software that truly meets your objectives.
Competitive advantage in the market
Your solution is unlike any other on the market, giving you a head start over your competitors. The goal of custom software is to increase your productivity, including that of your employees, partners and clients. You don’t want to do what everyone else is doing and would rather tackle your issues from a different angle. And everyone knows that differentiation and innovation make all the difference.
Here’s an example: one of our clients in the food industry was so innovative with its custom platform that it managed to become number one in its market in a few years by minimizing the amount of staff it hired for its operations. Using software designed specifically for the organization, it was able to outperform the competition by providing its customers with more flexibility and speed, enabling it to benefit from higher operating margins and therefore continually invest in the digital platform and its physical infrastructure.
The business world is evolving at a rapid pace and it’s no longer necessary to follow the strict rules of a pre-built product. You can start small with a custom app that meets some of your urgent needs (also called an “MVP” or “Minimum Viable Product”), then improve your software according to your needs and feedback from your users. The software can grow and evolve with your company, because you can change its structure whenever you want. If your needs change along the way (and of course they will!), you can adapt your application accordingly, which is less true when you have a pre-built solution with rigid parameters.
Full control of the software
The concept of control is very important to companies—especially when it comes to technology. As the owner of the custom software, you’re the only one that has control. That is particularly important, because being at the mercy of the supplier when you need an update or an added functionality is not a great situation to be in. Imagine wanting to add functionalities but being prevented from doing so by the company that makes your software: “Sorry, we plan to add that functionality within two years.” And if you want to hire their team to develop the functionality faster, you’d better get your chequebook out! Custom software helps you to be more agile and resilient while facing the many fluctuations of a constantly changing industry. When you’re in control of your own in-house application, your organization isn’t handcuffed to a single supplier. If you’re not satisfied with your supplier, you can always switch to another one because it’s your own software after all.
Data availability and security
So we’ve talked about having control over your application, but what about having control over your data? Most of the time, the data collected by licensed software is stored on third-party servers that may even be located elsewhere in the country. That reality can become a real security issue when your application handles sensitive data, such as transactions, personal and confidential information, financial data, etc. A custom application can be hosted wherever you want and you can choose (or change) your service provider according to your specific security criteria. In addition, since you’ve retained control over your server (or cloud) hosting provider, you can negotiate a custom service level agreement (SLA). This agreement sets out the response times that your service provider commits to should there be an outage that makes your application unavailable.