How to Know When to Build a Custom Software Application for Your Business

By Paul Giordano

As a leader in your organization, every strategy and tactical decision you create supports long-term growth and profitability. In start-ups and small companies, a more conservative approach often means that the “build versus buy” software decision is an easy one: build critical data-driven apps within Microsoft Office (Excel or Access), buy the “small business” addition of accounting software, or use less-expensive subscription-based internet solutions. Limited budget, lack of immediate technical help, inexpensive, fast – there are lots of good reasons why these software choices make sense.

Ironically, the likelihood that you need custom software for your business changes when the business starts to become successful.  Your success comes from unique competitive advantage, and yet very seldom does “off-the-shelf” software match the proprietary, value-added strengths that make your company an invaluable partner to your clients and profitable to its stakeholders.  Cheap, canned software alternatives force businesses to avoid proper scalability and nimble behavior that might mean passing on opportunities for even faster growth and success.  When this happens, inevitable external factors and unavoidable inefficiencies can force companies to make an expensive conversion to custom-built applications much later in the company’s lifetime.  If they had taken a closer look earlier, they would have found that the conversion would have been less costly and less painful earlier on.

Are you at this early pivot point, right now, where you can get the most value out of a custom software solution?

We have helped many clients through this moment in their growth. In one case, we built a solution that allowed a major manufacturer to trace their supply materials throughout their entire manufacturing process. In spite of promises from the off-the-shelf software vendor, pure lot traceability was impossible in the current system. We built it, and now lot traceability is a reality and a business-sustaining advantage for this client. In another case, we converted a very complex and data-rich manual documentation process into a purely automated process. For this client, the documentation IS the business, and thus we enabled them to exponentially increase the amount of business they could manage within a given set of time. In both cases, custom software was the key, and custom software became a source of profit and growth. 

To make the idea more tangible, here are some specific reasons you might need a custom business application:

  • You cannot interface with a client’s system due to limitations of the software: Software A needs to talk to Software B. How does that work if Software A is written in Excel?
  • You cannot provide visibility to potential customers: at some point, building manual reports from spreadsheets costs more than an automated solution.
  • Your throughput is limited by a manual bottleneck: off-the-shelf cannot handle that special value-added activity that your company does so well.

Still not sure?

  • What if it costs less than you thought?
  • What if you could improve accuracy?
  • What if you could free critical resources for other tasks?
  • What if you could leverage mobile capabilities?
  • What if you could add workflow and provide a single version of the truth?

Custom software provides the key to unlocking your ideas. Give us a call and we can help you advocate for your vision by meeting with your team to listen to your challenges, share our experiences, and discuss what can be reasonably done within your budget.