Should you invest in custom software?

By Lori Mackson on 08 Sep 2017

The truth is custom software isn’t right for everyone. It can be expensive, usually takes longer to implement, and may require maintenance. On the flip side, we’ve worked with over 100 companies in the last 10 years to build custom software that has changed the way they run their business and improved what they can deliver to their customers.

How do you know if custom software may right for your company? Start by asking yourself the following 10 questions:

  • Do you need to make changes to any of your processes?
  • Could you speed up a process through automation or by replacing outdated applications?
  • Are you looking to grow or expand your business?
  • Are you using multiple pieces of software to complete a single process?
  • Do you need tools that integrate with other systems?
  • Is your business different from the competition with your own specific processes?
  • Could you benefit by increasing the accuracy of your business?
  • Do you wish your software was easier to use?
  • Does it hinder your employees or customers from getting the job done efficiently?
  • Are you looking to improve communication internally or with your customers?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may need custom software. But don’t call a custom software development company just yet. There are many great off-the-shelf software tools available for purchase. At Mutually Human, we are in the business to help you solve your problems with software. Sometimes that might mean recommending a more cost-effective solution that already exists.

Custom software can benefit unique business problems.

Off-the-shelf software is constantly updated to meet the needs of many common business problems. We use off-the-shelf software such as Trello, Zenefits, Harvest, and more to specifically help us manage things like lists, HR, and timesheets. Although, we’d love to build our own tools in order to customize them perfectly to our needs, these solutions come close enough to what we need and are cheaper and easier than a custom solution.

The more unique the problem is to your business, the higher the chances you’ll need a custom solution. Using tools that aren’t designed specifically for you can sometimes be very detrimental to productivity, efficiency, and overall creativity. You may begin to execute things based on what the software allows you to do, rather than what is best for your business.

Custom software is for long-term needs.

If this is a piece of software that needs to fill a temporary gap, you might want to try to find a cheaper off-the-shelf software product or combination of products to get you through.

If you have a long-term need, you may need a custom solution. Custom software is designed and developed to adapt and grow as your business does. Careful thought must be put towards considering the technological evolution in order to build products with the future in mind.

How important is software to your competitive advantage? Finding points of differentiation from the competition is important to any business, and developing custom software is an increasingly important way to do that. Spending precious time and resources on complementary functions can rarely be justified.

Custom software helps you stand out. Think about what is key to your customer experience? What helps you deliver your product or service? Does your business need technology to make part of your customers’ experience faster or more accurate? Do your employees need a system that will reduce time spent on tedious activities so they can focus more on revenue generating efforts?

Custom software can lend a competitive advatnage.

Finding points of differentiation from the competition is important to any business, and developing custom software is an increasingly important way to do that. Spending precious time and resources on complementary functions can rarely be justified.

Custom software helps you stand out. Think about what is key to your customer experience? What helps you deliver your product or service? Does your business need technology to make part of your customers’ experience faster or more accurate? Do your employees need a system that will reduce time spent on tedious activities so they can focus more on revenue generating efforts?

Let's compare buy vs. build when it comes to software:

Buy Off-the-shelf

Pros
  • Lower upfront cost
  • Implemented faster
  • Support is often included or can be added
Cons
  • May require you to build or change your process to fit the software, rather than your business needs
  • May need to add external manual processes if the software doesn't support your full process
  • You have no control over the fate or future changes to the software

Build Custom Software

Pros
  • You can start with minimum necessary requirements and add on later
  • Helps innovate your process
  • Can be tailored to your exact business need and processes
  • Adapts and pivots with your business as you change and grow
  • Improves competitive advantage
Cons
  • Higher upfront cost
  • Potentially longer implementation
  • Requires staff or vendor support

If you determine you are ready to continue down the path of building a custom software solution, you still have another big decision. Who should build the tool? We’d love to talk about your project. We love to craft software solutions to help solve problems and improve the lives of people. Email us at hello@mutuallyhuman.com or call us at 616-475-4225.

Business.com has some thoughts about considering custom software.

Here’s what Forbes has to say about build vs buy.

About Mutually Human

Mutually Human is a custom software design and development consultancy specializing in mobile and web-based products and services. We help our clients design, develop and bring to market innovative products and services based on insightful research and strategy aligned with business objectives. We’ve helped Fortune 500 companies, state governments, and startups.