Beyond Boxed Software: When, Why and How to Consider Custom Software Development
Have you been looking for software to run your business, but you can’t find it? Perhaps you’re not even sure where to look or what search terms to use.
For example, let’s say you want your sales team to create quotes to send to customers for approval, would you look for:
- Quoting software?
- Sales software?
- Order entry software?
- Proposal software?
Does the software then need to know if you have inventory on hand? Does it have to calculate pricing? Send emails and reminders to customers? Do you need to show images of your products?
As you can see, the software search process quickly becomes more complicated than you might imagine.
Starting your software search
As your business technology advisor, the first thing we would do is to gather your requirements and help you look for commercial software that fits your needs.
With so many business software applications on the market today, the search can feel overwhelming. It’s a good idea to reach out to others in your industry and/or role to find out what they’re using.
Once you have a list of software solutions to consider and a list of your requirements, it’s time to get the IT team involved with the software evaluation process. Feel free to use our software search spreadsheet, which you can customize to meet your needs.
We STRONGLY encourage you to get an IT perspective before making a significant investment in any software program. You will save time, money and headaches by making sure:
- The software features work the way you think they’ll work
- The new application will fit into your tech stack
- You consider all the exceptions and workarounds
- You get an outsider’s perspective on ways to simplify processes
Defining clear objectives
If you’ve ever undertaken a home remodeling project, you know how quickly a project can grow. Selecting software can be similar. Start your search by defining your top three business objectives, such as:
- We want to get quotes in customers hands within 24 hours
- We want our entire sales and management team to know what quotes are out to bid at any given time
- We want our quoting system to pull product availability and pricing from our inventory management system.
Do you have SOPs – Standard Operation Procedures?
The biggest challenge we run into when conducting a software search for clients is understanding what exactly you’re looking for.
- Has anyone documented the steps in this process?
- What software features are required vs. nice to have?
- What are the edge cases (exceptions to the rule)?
Having clearly defined, written standard operating procedures (SOPs) is critical to the software evaluation process. Without them, evaluating software can be like a game of telephone, especially when multiple decision makers are involved. The real goal and business requirements can get misinterpreted or lost along the way. Your SOPs keep everyone on the same page.
Software that’s close, but not quite good enough
If we can’t find boxed software that’s a perfect fit – but it’s close – like does 80% of what we need it to do, we’ll look to see if the software comes with an API or SDK. An API (Application Programming Interface) provides a standard, secure method to connect to another database or business application. An SDK (software development kit) enables us to extend the software application’s functionality within the software itself.
Learn more about software selection and software development
In the rest of this series, we’ll cover more about what goes into selecting and managing the custom software development process, so bookmark this page and come back to learn more about:
- Weighing the risks and rewards of custom software
- Understanding the software development process
- Choosing a software development company
- Why we use Django and Python
- Best practices for custom software rollouts
- Why use a continuous integration pipeline
- The risks of untested software
In the meantime, if you are looking for packaged or custom software, and you’d like our help evaluating your options, please reach out.
As a technology advisor for growing businesses, our goal is to get you the outcomes you want. That may mean recommending an off-the-shelf / SaaS business application, a low code app, or custom software development. We can help you consider all your options to make the best decision for YOUR business.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I consider custom software?
Custom software has a lot of appeal to it, but you need to make sure it’s the right fit for you. Talk to an IT professional to figure out what the right software solution is for you.
Do I need custom software?
Custom software isn’t always going to be the best option for you. You might be able to do just fine with an Out of the Box solution. Defining clear objectives before starting the selection process is going to make it go much smoother.
Is custom software better than out of the box?
The answer to this depends on your specific business. Sometimes you can tweak something out of the box to meet your needs, and sometimes custom developing the software is going to be the best.