What is Custom Software Development?
Developing software or an application that meets specific business requirements is a necessity for survival in today’s competitive era. Custom Software Development is the process of conceptualizing, designing, building and deploying software for a specific individual or a group of individuals within an organization or as a third-party arrangement.
Custom software is built to address the needs of specific users and is considered more efficient than commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS). Since COTS targets a broader set of requirements, it is ideal for a wider audience. Off-the-shelf software is promoted and marketed in a way that different businesses can embed them in their day-to-day business applications.
One of the best examples of Off-the-Shelf solutions is Microsoft Office, as it can meet the generalized needs of a wider audience at the global level.
On the other hand, examples of custom software development can be found in a business environment. For instance, student portals for students and staff, e-commerce solutions for the streamlined shopping experience and many more.
Let’s understand more differences between custom software and off-the-shelf software.
Custom Software Vs Off-the-shelf Software
The build versus buy question continues to affect enterprises looking for software solutions. Off-the-shelf software is ready-to-use as soon as it is installed on a device or computer. On the other hand, custom software is designed and developed to meet specific requirements.
Both of these technologies have a considerable gap in terms of functionalities, usability and performance. Each technology has its pros and cons and here is an outline of the same.
Coding is becoming easier with each passing day. Earlier, programmers used to spend weeks on running lines of codes. Nowadays, students get trained in coding at the high school level and the increasing number of open-source code snippets are readily available for any functionality. Intuitive drag and drop interfaces provided by IDEs make it possible to develop highly advanced applications without even writing the code. Basic knowledge of coding can suffice to allow the needed customizations quickly.But, the ease of coding does not mean that software development is a cakewalk. Coding is only one aspect of the entire software development process. Requirement gathering, UI/UX design, testing, and upgrades are other crucial stages of the development process that require experienced and skilled resources.
Developing custom software might seem like a manageable proposition despite the high skills required. Developmental tasks can be a distraction for enterprises from their core focus. Internal IT resources can be already involved in daily maintenance activities and development tasks could affect their efficiency.
With custom software, enterprises might have to bear drawbacks until the issues are solved and that’s how the software finally grows. Using off-the-shelf software, enterprises can learn from others’ mistakes.
Besides, the core focus of off-the-shelf software developers is just the software and they implement agile and other best practices for the development of software. They also stay updated with emerging technologies to be on the competitive edge. Therefore, before an off-the-shelf software is developed, it is tested broadly to ensure that glitches are ironed out.
But, buying off-the-shelf software is not as easy as purchasing mangoes off a supermarket. An enterprise still needs to perform the requirement gathering exercise for finding the right product. Even off-the-shelf software solutions also need to be assessed for UX design, required infrastructure, compatibility with different devices and ease-of-use. Moreover, off-the-shelf software cannot scale as your business scales since you don’t own it.
In an era where data analytics is essential to stay on the competitive edge, organizations require seamless integration of the software with other enterprise-level systems.When it comes to integration possibilities, off-the-shelf software may not be able to integrate seamlessly with other software systems.The extra investment and time in developing a custom software can be worthwhile as it can be designed and developed in a way that it may allow seamless integration. A software developer can consider the existing system when creating the blueprint for the software development project and ensure the new software works seamlessly within the current IT ecosystem.
Scalability is one of the crucial factors when considering technology for your business. The software you require for your business should be scalable enough that it should accommodate the current as well as future requirements. As your business expands, you might have to add new features and functionalities. Therefore, it is better to get software development in a scalable way. Off-the-shelf software cannot provide this facility.
There’s no doubt that off-the-shelf software provides you with flawless customer support. But sometimes, they do not get updated for a long time due to which you might have to work with an outdated product, leaving a negative impact on your business.Custom software allows you to make whatever changes you need and whenever you want. You are responsible for making decisions related to new upgrades and features when developing custom software. You don’t need to wait for new releases to add new functionalities to your software.
If you want a software solution for your specific business requirements, custom software would be ideal and you would get guaranteed satisfaction.
Pros and Cons of Custom Software Development
- Specific solutions to needs
Since every business has some specific needs, custom software is the best solution for their needs as it is designed to meet the particular requirements of individuals or groups of individuals. Also, it improves productivity since you get what you want, giving you a competitive advantage.
Security is at the core of every software and business because nobody wants an application that can be easily compromised from outside or inside. Custom software can reduce security risks by allowing you to add as many security measures as you want. You don’t have to depend on the restricted security features of any off-the-shelf product.
- Easy integration
Custom Software is designed to allow easy integration with existing software and programs in your business. Software developers can help you design software for seamless integration, allowing easier adoption and improved productivity of the business.
- Freedom of use and control
The custom software provides businesses with the freedom to update and use the application, allowing complete control over the software. You own the custom software and you have all the rights to update it or use it the way you want.
- High Cost of Development
The cost of developing custom software is quite high for businesses, while market forces lower the cost of off-the-shelf software solutions. The cost of maintenance and support also adds up to the expenses of custom software. However, the cost of custom software development seems worth its functionality once it is implemented.
- Requires a lot of time to build
A full-fledged custom software application for business takes a lot of time in its development since business needs may not always seem clear as many would think. A lot of time is invested in research and analyzing to be clear on all requirements and figure out those that are not clear or direct.
- Risk of working with the wrong developer
The risk of working with the wrong person or company is a common issue for the majority of industries, not only for software development. Choosing the wrong vendor can waste your time and money.
Since you would come across plenty of custom software development companies in the market, you might end up choosing those who provide low-quality or unprofessional software development services. Therefore, it is recommended not to rush when hiring a developer. Spend more time on research to protect yourself from losses later.
Before you embark on your custom software development journey, consider the above pros and cons to understand what your business requires.
We have mentioned some of the best practices for custom software development followed by our team that can help you build successful software.
Best Practices for Building a Custom Software
- Define goals and requirements
Once you decide that you want to develop a custom software application, you need to evaluate your business requirements and identify specific goals. Therefore, it is essential for enterprises first to research what’s best for their businesses and what their competitors are doing. All your needs and goals should be gathered in the Software Requirements Specifications (SRS) document.
- Select a development methodology
Since software development projects are so complicated, it is essential to identify a specific software development methodology. Many software developers nowadays use an agile development methodology to manage projects when building custom enterprise applications. The agile technology allows you to make continuous improvements to the software in development.
- Complete Documentation
Documentation is crucial for all stages of implementation and development since it allows you to define what you currently have and what you need. Documents for software can be project plan, requirement specifications, Low-Level and High-Level Design, test reports, test plans, user documentation and status reports.
All these documents can help track the status of a project, maintain the understanding of software and remove dependency from the core development team by allowing to be used as a reference in the future by someone else.
- Code Simplicity
Max Kanat-Alexander, a developer at Google and Community Lead and Release Manager of the Bugzilla project introduced the idea of code simplicity to eliminate unwanted complexity in software development. Code simplicity works along with other software development principles that can help you design and develop robust and quality software.
- Continuous End-to-End Testing
Test-Driven Development gives you more confidence in terms of code quality. Before implementing the new software across your entire business workflow, test it carefully.
Do not assume that the software will not have any bugs after just one round of testing. It is essential to perform continuous testing that involves the process of testing early, often and everywhere at every step of the development and delivery process.
- Code Coherence
Working in a team requires to have a consistent style for the codebase. You can get various tools available in the market that allow you to enforce a consistent style within the codebase. For example, Editorconfig, JSCS and ESLint.
- Time and Budget Estimation
A realistic budget can save your software project from facing extreme pressure. With agile methodology, the scope can be enabled to expand quickly as the project progresses, but an estimate that is completely off the track can create problems in results and quality. A better estimation comes with experience and you may find many useful tools that you can assist you with software development project estimates.
Planning budget and timeline before the development phase are the best practices of building a custom software successfully.
- Code Reviews
Everyone indeed makes mistakes. You should have an attitude that allows you to acknowledge your imperfections. Don’t feel shy and ask your colleague to review your code to ensure good code quality. Code reviews can help reduce bugs in the software and, therefore, results in successful custom software.
Practices mentioned above can help you build a scalable and robust custom software application.
Process for Developing a Custom Software
You can find various software development models, including the Spiral model, Waterfall model and Agile software model. Among all these models, the agile model is the most popular one. Each software development model has a specific approach to ensure the successful delivery of the product. The methods might differ; however, there are some phases that every model includes.
Here are some necessary steps that help software development companies achieve success:
1. Initial requirements gathering
It is the initial phase when you consult a software development company for your project. During the initial requirement gathering stage, a development company holds many meetings with the client to gather all project requirements. It is a stage when designers and developers understand project specifications, goals to be achieved with the software, who are the users of the software and how do clients want the product to work. Collecting all that information helps the software development company to get a sense if you can be a good match for the client’s project.
A software development company can select the right approach for development based on project expectations. Choosing the right method helps a development company implement the project with minimum risks. In this stage, the initial costs and timeline can also be estimated.
2. Requirements analysis and planning
After gathering the requirements, the development company starts analyzing them to develop a strong base for the software application. That is why the requirement analysis and planning is the most crucial stage of the entire development process. It is essential to perform analysis carefully for the development company to meet all client needs. In this stage, client goals are converted into a plan so that two visions can meet.
Before moving to the next stage, the client demands need to be documented and verified by both sides. Clients’ requirements are recorded in a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document based on which the product is designed and developed. Requirement planning also ensures that there will be no misunderstandings.
3. Visual and Technical design
Once the development company understands what they have to build, they need to identify how to do it. Each software solution requires a specific approach; therefore, designing system architecture is crucial for each project. The internal design of all the modules of the software is mentioned in the SRS document. Parameters that are taken into consideration in this stage are design modularity and risk assessment.
The external design may also be created during this stage. Deliverables of this stage include wireframes, technical architecture, database design, high fidelity screens, marvel prototype, user stories and database schema.
4. Development & Implementation
This phase can be the longest one because the actual product is being developed. Developers start programming the software, following the Software Requirement Specification document and visual and technical design. If the stages before the development stage have been completed with close attention to details, coding can be accomplished seamlessly.
Each development team performs the development activity from a different angle depending on the type of software development model. Most of the companies nowadays implement the Agile methodology that includes iterative meetings called daily Scrum meetings, during which each team member reports progress and issues on their tasks.
Testing is usually done after the product is developed and before it is ready to be released for finding and fixing defects and deficiencies. During testing, testers perform different types of non-functional and functional testing. In the testing stage, the critical features that are tested are core application functions, installation on localized machines, compatibility on different devices and text input.
In case, a bug is detected, it is fixed and tested again. The testing process is continued until the software meets quality requirements. The software needs to be tested by both the development team and the client’s team.
6. Deployment and Maintenance
A software application is released after it is tested thoroughly. But some people call the project “done” once it is released. When you start using the software, you might come up with some unexpected problems. Based on the priority of issues, they can be either fixed right away or can be improved later.
Maintenance is one of the advantages of custom software applications because a development company takes care of your project even after the release. As a part of maintenance service, the software development company manages any upgrades and added functionality,
Qualities you should look into a custom software development team
Developing a custom software application is not an easy task. Therefore, people look out for software development companies that can understand their requirements precisely and deliver robust and scalable software. But understanding requirements is not just enough. You need to look out for some characteristics and qualities that can help you find a reliable partner.
Here are some of the qualities you must look into a custom software development team:
- Experience and Tech Skills
A software development company can only be considered as the leading development company based on the applications they have been building and the success rate that businesses have attained. Software development companies with strong technical skills and leadership skills will have a good portfolio of the projects. A company with an in-depth understanding of the latest technologies and experience of working with startups and Fortune 500 companies can produce and deliver a scalable product.
- Communication Skills
Strong communication skills are crucial to understanding the customer’s goals and requirements. With proper communication skills and knowledge about the project, a software development company can carefully design and develop software that can bring value to the client’s business. Communicating with clients from time to time is essential for a long term relationship with clients.
Software development company using enterprise-grade communication tools like Zoom, Skype for Business helps teams connect with clients efficiently.
- Strong Business Skills
Possessing technical and programming language is not enough. A software development company also needs to have strong business skills that allow them to uplift ideas and convert them into reality. Checking their background of past projects and references can provide you with a better idea about their experience in the custom software development field.
- Pricing Structure
Before you sign a contract with any software development company, ensure that they provide you with a clear picture of the costs that will be involved in all phases of the software development. It is better to avoid hiring a company that keeps the costs hidden.
Mistakes to be avoided when building a custom software
Though custom software can reduce costs and improve productivity, it has some downsides too. Therefore, before you invest in custom software development, you should know about common pitfalls that need to be avoided.
- Developing wrong features and unwantedly complex solutions
When investing in custom software, everyone has hopes for how it can add value to their business. When you think about building software based on your imagination, you might go off the track and waste a lot of money on the wrong functionalities. It is essential to enable the interaction between the product and end-users in the early development stages to avoid expensive mistakes.
With a prototype, people get involved in all the stages of the development and it can help convey their vision. Developing a prototype before development can help visualize the actual product and answer questions about features or functionalities.
- Making important decisions as soon as possible
Decisions made early in a project can be risky. Early decisions can have unavoidable and crippling consequences during the lifetime of a project. But it does not mean that you don’t have to make decisions at all. Instead, you first need to collect the requirements of your product and make a decision about what should be done to achieve the goal.
For example, decisions about features and their development close together can ensure that the required features are delivered and leave less room for changes.
- Not providing acceptance criteria for each feature
Acceptance criteria are predefined requirements that must be fulfiled to mark a software development task as successful. It defines the scope, desired results and testing criteria for functionalities that the team works on.
Defining all desired outcomes before the development begins helps promote shared understanding. Acceptance criteria should be understandable by developers.
Acceptance criteria should provide a user perspective and it should be concise and clear.
Custom Software Development has numerous benefits. With increasingly specialized companies and complicated internal systems, custom software has become a necessity for most businesses. Custom does not mean “expensive.” Leveraging the existing solution and customizing it with new features can help you gain multiple customization benefits without enormous cost.
If you are looking for a team of experts to develop custom software for your business, consult our custom software development experts who have the potential to build custom software using emerging technologies, including IoT, AI, Blockchain, Web and Mobile.
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