A one-size-fits-all software solution isn’t always the best choice for your business.

Using off-the-shelf (OTS) software can be a quick way to get your business up and running, but an app designed for anyone won’t always work for everyone. Some features may be too robust, while others may feel too weak or be missing entirely. You might find yourself researching workarounds or trying to get two different apps to play nice with each other.

In other words, you may end up spending a lot of time and money to shave down that square peg so it fits into a round hole. So, where do you even get started?

You can start with this quick guide we’ve put together to help you learn about custom software development and decide if it’s right.

What is custom software development?

The reason Goldilocks found the porridge too hot or too cold isn’t because there was something wrong with the food—it just wasn’t designed with her preferences in mind. The same principle applies in other contexts, but for your business, they represent mistakes in software selection that cost you both time and money.

Custom software development is a process that allows you to work with professionals to design software that’s suited specifically to your needs and your business size: an app that’s just right.

Unlike OTS software, which broadly appeals to a large audience, custom software meets your business’s specialized needs. What you spend in your initial investment often pays for itself in efficiency and productivity down the line.

Why do I need custom software development?

If you’re in an industry like finance or healthcare, security is paramount. Your clients depend and rely on you to keep their information confidential: a breach could spell disaster.

Due to OTS software’s popularity, companies that use them can be a juicy target for hackers looking for the biggest payoff they can find. Customized software can not only address your specific security and privacy needs but also keep you out of that OTS target group.

The efficiency of your team is also affected by the software you’re using. OTS software is typically not optimized for your specific needs, so your team members may be forced to develop time-consuming workarounds or supplement their workflow with other software. Each department may have its own OTS software, making interdepartmental communication and cooperation difficult.

Customized software allows you to consolidate your software solution onto a single platform. It can provide every department with the exact tools they need and make seamless integration easier between departments.

OTS software can seem like an appealing choice when dealing with budget constraints, with many charging on a per-license or annual basis. However, as your company grows, these costs have the potential to balloon. Annual fees become more expensive as you require more features, and per-license fees can get out of hand as you add more employees.

Custom software development does have an initial higher investment, but customized software can scale with your business in a way not found with OTS software. So as your business grows, custom software may prove to be better suited and possibly even cheaper in the long run.

It’s also important to consider that someone else builds off-the-shelf software, so it could change over time. The creator might remove or add features that you deem critical for your business.

When you look to software to help run your business, you need applications with guaranteed features and the ability to fine-tune those features. Custom software development gives you the reliability of maintaining the tools you need and the flexibility of tweaking what needs to work better.

Is custom software development right for my business?

While custom software development offers many benefits, it isn’t a magic fix or cure-all for your business. Depending on many factors, such as your industry, company size, and clientele, an OTS software solution may suit your business needs best.

You should consider custom software development if:

  • The software you use would make or break your entire business.
  • Your business is in a highly regulated industry such as finance.
  • Your business relies on interdepartmental communication and cooperation.
  • The security of your clients’ information is of paramount importance, like in the education or healthcare industry.
  • You have specialized, niche needs that aren’t properly served by OTS software.
  • Your industry’s standard is to use custom software.
  • Your business relies on several programs that don’t communicate well with each other.

Your business may be better suited for off-the-shelf software if:

  • Your business workflow isn’t organized, and you’re looking for custom software to solve that. Custom software development won’t fix what can be solved through organizational improvement.
  • Your business relies on several programs, but they communicate just fine with each other.
  • You’re looking for the clout associated with a branded software product when customized OTS software would actually suit your business needs.

Finding the Goldilocks solution

Both OTS software and custom software have their own distinct advantages, and choosing which direction to go with your business’s software solutions boils down to finding that just-right answer that works for your business. Sometimes, the porridge is too hot or too cold, but other times, it doesn’t matter how hard or soft the bed is.

One of the critical factors in your decision will be determining what needs and features have to be just right. Figuring this out can involve a lot of work and introspection into your own business practices. Here’s some in-depth information on custom software development to help make your decision process easier.

Making this assessment now can put your business on the right track to operating efficiently and place you a cut above the competition. Just don’t wait so long that those bears come home to find you sleeping in their bed.

RTS Labs is here to help with your digital transformation needs. Whether you want to avoid these issues or make the process easier, we can help you move your enterprise into the digital age. If you need help creating or executing your digital transformation strategy, click HERE to get in touch with us today.