Custom Software: What Does it Mean for Your Business?

By: Joseph Evans

You have probably noticed that your company has been accumulating many different processes and systems over the years. It’s not uncommon to have one platform for accounts, internal software for content management, one for automation, and another one for tracking and reporting. The likelihood of all these systems working well together is slim and this can leave employees feeling like their overall efficiency is stunted. The employees want to integrate these systems somehow but just don’t know the way forward.

Person talking to a group

If you’re a business that is thinking about integrating your software solutions but don’t know where to start, a custom software development packages could be the answer to your frustrations and help solve your business needs more quickly.

The important thing to keep in mind is that it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ scenario. If you’re a growing business, an off the shelf package may not work for you as there are too many variables at stake, and it’s important to manage them all effectively as your business scales.

‘Off-the-Shelf’ or ‘Custom Software’ Package?

When assessing your software needs, you need to think about your business and how it fits into the overall landscape of your market.

If your current software doesn’t meet your needs, you essentially have two options:

  1. Change the way your business works in order to accommodate the software (‘off-the-shelf’ package)
  2. Or customize the software to fit your business needs and processes (custom software package)

The level of agility and flexibility in your business is going to be the driving factor in determining your needs. A large corporation is going to have vastly different requirements to a small agency with less than 20 people.

In order to decide, you need to determine ‘the gap’ – how cost and time effective it will be in order to implement either solution.

If the difference between how existing software works and how your business works is not too great, minor changes to your business operations to accommodate new software may be the way forward.

On the other hand, if the changes you’ll have to make are too drastic, too inconvenient, or would affect your business model, then changing your business processes to accommodate software would probably be too disruptive.

The bottom line is to understand your business needs and know if it’s a good fit.

What Is Your Aim?

Perhaps your business needs to continuously update content on your website and are looking at implementing a content management system. Maybe your sales teams are spread over the world and everyone is using a different method to track customers. In this case, a centralized client relationship management tool is in needed.

It’s important to consider these points:

  • Will the business grow significantly?
  • Will the structure of operating evolve over time?
  • Does the success of your business potentially depend on cutting edge technology?
  • What are the time constraints for implementing a software solution?
  • What are the budget constraints?

Let’s dive into these two options in a little more detail. 

Off-the-Shelf Package

An ‘off-the-shelf’ solution is a boxed, package product that is generic across all users, and offers very limited customization options – so think Microsoft Word, Quickbooks, or Freeagent. Off-the-shelf packages may be affordable, but they might also include options that your business doesn’t necessarily need.

It’s important to bear in mind that off the shelf packages often have a yearly license or an annual upgrade. These often come with updated features and enhancements that aren’t relevant to your offering.

You might have to change some of your business processes in order to accommodate an all in one package, but if this can be done with minimal disruption then it would be worth looking into.

When Should You Choose an ‘Off-the-Shelf’ Solution? 

An off-the-shelf solution is a good idea if you’re in a highly regulated industry. For example, if your business is in healthcare or finance, it might be better to stick with a singular approach because the vendor would have incentives to keep up with compliance regulations.

What Is Custom Software? 

Custom software development is a bespoke package of software that is designed, created, and deployed for a specific set of users. Essentially, it’s an integrated solution for a business, designed to fit its needs. Think of it like ordering a tailored suit, specifically made for the requirements of the organization.

Custom software involves applications such as:

  • Integration into the cloud
  • Web portal applications
  • Mobile applications
  • Data solutions

They exist primarily to make workflow easier, to streamline processes, and make the wheels of your business run more efficiently.

They’re great for businesses with large sales teams, e-commerce solutions, media businesses, and anyone that has several operations processes to manage.

For example, the Parking Spot uses customized software to locate near-airport parking for US customers. 

How Does A Custom Software Package Work? 

A custom software package works by integrating all aspects of your IT infrastructure together, removing the need for individual applications. This means things like your emails, communication system, project management system, accounting and documentation logs are all under one unified solution.

Lego bricks showing customization

If you’re wondering as to whether a custom package is right for your business, you should consider these points:

  • Are any of our processes inefficient, manual, disjointed, or labor intensive?
  • Could we replace any processes that are no longer meeting our needs?
  • Are we growing or expanding the business?
  • Do we rely on multiple software applications to do one thing?
  • Would it save time and efficiency to integrate the systems we have?
  • How do we communicate with each other and customers?
  • Can these platforms be integrated and are they effective?
  • Would new functionality strengthen us against our competitors?
  • If we had an automated solution, would our data be more real time and accurate? 

Why Is Having An All-In-One Software Solution Useful?

Software that is specifically tailored to the way your business naturally works provides the least friction and the biggest leverage for your day-to-day operations.

For larger organizations, having a custom package allows for greater efficiency. It means that you can integrate solutions like web-based chat portals, or remote-based project management software, allowing your teams to minimize time wastage and maximize efficiency.

Person working on a dashboard app

Furthermore, custom solutions are great if you are a team that is growing exponentially by the second.

With such rapid growth, infrastructure problems are often apparent as the old processes need to be replaced with faster and more efficient ways of working. With a custom solution, designers will work with your business and iterate when necessary, meaning that it’s great for scaling an organization.

You may think that custom solutions are expensive but that is not always the case. They are often cheaper than trying to integrate various forms of software into existing infrastructure.  For example, moving to a cloud solution is often much easier than connecting to various hosting platforms.

Also, by having a robust software solution designed to fully support your business, it leaves you the time and the energy to make more money. It means that you also avoid yearly price hikes from all the different software products you’re subscribed to.

Most businesses end up migrating to a custom software development service because of the pace of technological innovation. With the upcoming rollout of 5G, systems are being upgraded at an extraordinary pace, and this means some companies with outdated technology can struggle. 

Do You Need Custom Software Development?

The only way to know if having a custom software development service is right for your business is to have an assessment.

This helps you identify what are the current bottlenecks in the business and helps you also spot opportunities to free up team members and alleviate heavy workloads through the implementation of an all-in-one solution.

For example, here at alligatortek, we worked with MAT, a family owned trucking company in Chicago, Illinois. They specialize in international supply chain trucking and warehousing, line haul and freight services. When they came to us for help, they had a significant challenge with their international shipping department. They had to track all the packages that were coming to the US via international flights. Their dispatch team were manually entering details like shipment information and customs clearance, meaning they were working very hard and tracking multiple streams of data.

With alligatortek’s custom built system, MAT had real-time flight arrival information on hand for its dispatchers. When flight details are entered, an alert dispatches a driver to pick up the shipment.

The system automatically calculates the freight availability time for different airlines, allowing employees to monitor customs clearance information and track dispatch drivers. The drivers are also able to view a package’s estimated processing time at the airport, a feature that estimates how long it will take to unload the plane’s cargo and helps drivers prioritize their package pickup. MAT’s new system saved a significant amount of time for their employees.

This is just one example of the speed, efficiency, and other great benefits that come with a custom software development system.

Having a custom software development system allows you to be flexible with the demands of the market, allowing for scalability and the ability to quickly respond to customer feedback. This means it can help future-proof your business in a rapidly evolving technological world.

When all your systems talk to each other efficiently and effectively, your business gets a breath of fresh air, freeing your staff to do what they do best – delivering great service to your customers. 

Interested a custom software development solution for your business?

Check out our blueprint for more information 


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