Earlier, businesses didn’t need any technical support to manage their operations. As long as they had a cash register and a few marketing tactics up their sleeves, it was easier to attract customers, manage inventory, and earn decent revenue.
However, with the technical revolution gaining speed, companies – across the globe – had no other option but to embrace digital transformation and step into the digital landscape. The easiest way to achieve this goal is to invest in custom software development.
As the name implies, custom software development refers to the process of devising a custom digital solution to resolve specific business objectives. For instance, a warehouse may require a dedicated inventory management solution to track stocks, manage inventory and maintain the required transparency.
The reason why custom software development has picked up pace in the recent few years is that it allows companies to get a digital solution that streamlines various complex operations and increases overall productivity. Employees can shift from daily mundane tasks and utilize their skills to contribute to the company’s growth.
This comprehensive guide will introduce you to the entire custom software development process and how you can design a bespoke digital solution for your brand as well.
An Introduction to Custom Software Process
In simple words, a custom software process refers to the entire life cycle of designing and deploying a custom application for a particular organization. As we mentioned earlier, custom software is specifically designed to cater to the needs of specific users and resolve extremely specific requirements.
“87 percent of all IT experts believe that custom software development is the right approach for organizations to stand apart from the competition and attain better productivity”
Due to their exclusive nature, custom software are usually designed for an extremely small group of users. Like any other digital product, developers have to rely on development methodologies such as Agile, DevOps, and Rapid software development to execute customer software development.
Moreover, companies either hire in-house developers or outsource the process to a dedicated software development agency to third-party development agencies to build the software.
How Custom Software Development Differs from Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) Solutions
Many business owners planning to develop custom software also come across the term commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products and often struggle to differentiate them from the former.
To put it in simple terms, commercial-off-the-shelf software are usually targeted towards a wider market. These are ready-to-use commercial products that target a wider set of user requirements. This allows the software publishers to package and market COTS products to a wider audience.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the major differences between custom software development and COTS.
|Custom Software Development
|Custom software are designed to resolve extremely specific business queries for a particular organization
|COTS applications are tailored to target the generic requirements of various businesses
|The development cost of custom software is relatively higher
|Businesses can acquire COTS products at affordable prices
|Business owners have the complete liberty to customize their software as per their requirements
|Here, business owners do not own the source code and thus don’t have any authority over customization
|Since custom software are designed from scratch, the time-to-market is relatively longer
|COTS are available to the masses and business owners can deploy them within a few weeks
|With custom software development, the stakeholders can overlook the entire development process and try out the product whenever they want
|Some COTS publishers provide their software on a free trial basis, which means business owners can test them without making the final payment.
COTS vs Custom Software: Which Approach is Better for Your Company?
Now, despite its endless benefits, designing custom software is not the ideal solution for all businesses. Startups and small organizations usually don’t have the required financial resources to build a custom application from scratch.
Neither can they afford to wait for several months to build the product from scratch. This is why startups and small-scale businesses are far more likely to choose commercial-off-the-shelf software. Since these applications are equipped with all the necessary features to resolve generic business issues, these organizations can utilize them to run their operations more effectively.
However, if you are a large enterprise with more complex business operations and a larger customer base, it would be better to invest in custom software development.
Unlike off-the-shelf digital solutions, you’ll have complete authority over the design and source code of custom software. It means you can customize the application as per your business objectives and automate complex operations to streamline various business processes.
Custom software will also give your company a unique brand identity and gain a competitive advantage, especially if your goal is to engage customers with it. You’ll have the liberty to integrate user-centric features and acquire long-term clientele more effectively.
Still, if you’re confused between COTS and custom software, here are a few tactics that’ll help you make the right decision.
- Start by analyzing your business objectives and evaluate if they could be resolved with a ready-to-use COTS solution
Compare the cost of designing a custom software from scratch and acquiring a commercial-off-the-shelf license. If the former is cheaper (if you choose to hire remote developers), it would be better to get custom software.
- If you’re inclined towards COTS solutions, always choose service providers who offer free-trial periods. This way you’ll have enough time to validate the performance of the particular software and decide whether it’s the right choice for your organization or not.
- You should also look for API integration support with COTS solutions because it’ll allow you to integrate the required features in the future.
- If you’re planning to scale your business in the near future, custom software development will be the right approach as you’ll have complete authority over your product.
Key Principles to Design Custom Software from Scratch
So, if you’ve already made the decision to build custom software, here are a few key pointers you must remember to design a business-centric solution.
1. In-house Development vs Outsourcing
For any business owner, choosing between in-house development and outsourcing will be the first and most critical phase of custom software development. Of course, both these development approaches have their own merits and demerits, choosing the right one will mainly depend on your business needs.
For instance, if you run an enterprise and have the required financial resources to afford an in-house team for six months, you can go ahead and hire in-house developers. However, if you’re looking for a cost-effective approach, outsourcing the development task to third-party developers will be a more reliable option.
However, it’s worth pointing out that hiring the right development partner is not a cakewalk. Since there are dozens of options to choose from, business owners usually find it challenging to make the right decision. So, here are a few quick pointers that’ll help you compare different service providers and hire the best development partner for custom software development.
- Start by defining your app requirements and have a clear vision of what you want to build. As simple as this may sound, having a clear vision of what you need will make it much easier to narrow down your list to the final prospects.
- Before looking for custom software developers, make sure to define a dedicated budget that you’re willing to spend on custom software development. This will help you decide whether you should hire onshore or offshore developers.
- While interviewing selected development firms, make sure to check their technical expertise. The goal is to hire development teams who have high proficiency in the modern-day development tech stack.
- A company’s portfolio is another important factor that’ll help you make the right decision. Go through the portfolio thoroughly and check whether the developers have worked on similar software or not.
Read our detailed guide on how to hire the best software developers for your custom software.
2. Choosing the Right Development Methodologies
There are different software development methodologies developers can use to build a digital product from the ground up. However, the methodology that you choose will decide your software’s final performance. Here are some of the most popular development methodologies
- 1. Waterfall Model
- 2. Agile Model
- 3. Lean
- 4. Spiral Model
- 5. Feature-Driven Development
Of course all these development methodologies come with their baggage of pros and cons, but Agile development is the preferred choice of many developers. According to the Harvard business review, companies witnessed 60% growth in their business revenue after migrating from conventional practices to the Agile development model. Another report by Statista suggests that Agile remains the second most popular development methodology after DevSecOps in 2022.
As a custom software development agency, we prefer Agile development for the majority of our projects, mainly due to its ability to deliver faster time-to-market. Since Agile implementation separates the entire project into smaller iterations and allows multiple teams to collaborate through scrum incorporation, developers have the liberty to deliver a quality product within the specified time frame.
However, this doesn’t mean that Agile is the most suitable development approach in every case. Based on your individual business objectives, you may also benefit from several other development methodologies as well. So, let’s quickly break down each one of these practices to help you make the right decision easily.
1. Waterfall Model
The waterfall model is the earliest and rarely used development approach. In this development model, the objective is to complete a single phase of the development cycle before moving on to the next phase. Consequently, it’s clear that this approach would trigger several loopholes for high-scale projects.
Lead Software Development (LSD), more commonly known as MVP development, is an evolved version of the conventional Agile methodology. Here the goal is to develop software with the bare minimum features that are essential for its working. By designing a minimum viable product, business owners can validate its performance among a particular set of users and act upon the given feedback to design a user-centric solution.
3. Spiral Model
The spiral model is another commonly used development methodology that developers usually utilize while working on large-scale complex projects. While implementing the spiral model, the entire team focuses on gradually releasing and refining the product through multiple prototype designs. This way developers can build highly scalable digital products that cater to specific business requirements.
4. Feature-Driven Development
As the name implies, feature-driven development is an agile model where the primary objective is to devise a product while prioritizing its core features. This development model is ideal for business owners who want to integrate multiple features into their digital solutions to acquire better user engagement.
3. Building an Engaging UI
When it comes to digital products, user experience is the most important factor to engage potential customers. Even if you’re designing the software to manage in-house operations, you must prioritize the user experience to ensure your employees can utilize the software to its fullest potential.
Devising an engaging UI for custom software is not easy, especially if you’re planning to launch a large-scale application. However, with the right approach, you can optimize the user interface to deliver a better user experience.
Here are some of the effective ways to build an engaging UI for your custom software development process.
- Make sure that your software is intuitive and provides user-friendliness
- Choose a consistent color scheme while designing the UI to gain unique brand identity in the market
- Your software must be easy-to-navigate so that the target users can easily navigate through different modules.
- The designers should use visual touchpoints effectively, allowing customers to interact with the software without any hassle.
4. Decide Between Cloud and On-Premises Server Hosting
This is another critical decision you must make before embarking on the custom software development process.
You can host data of your custom software in one of two ways, i.e., either install an on-premises local server or sign up for one of the cloud-based service providers such as Azure, Amazon AWS, GCP, etc.
But, which one is superior to the other? Unfortunately, there’s no answer to this question as both on-premises and cloud hosting come with their baggage of merits and demerits. In short, on-premises or cloud hosting may not be the best approach in every case.
For instance, security is one of the biggest concerns for many IT experts with cloud hosting.
“76% of IT Experts believe that cloud hosting leads to a plethora of security concerns and that’s why they prefer on-premises local hosting”.
However, despite its security concerns, cloud hosting is comparatively more affordable and that’s why small-scale businesses and startups often choose it over installing an on-premises server infrastructure.
Understanding the Custom Software Development Process
Now that we’re through the basic principles of designing custom software, let’s take a look at the step-by-step custom software development process your development team will follow to devise a custom digital solution.
1. Ideation and Requirement Analysis
Custom software development begins with ideation. This is the stage where you have to evaluate the current loopholes within your organization and how you can overcome them using custom software.
Once you have the idea for your software, the next step would be to conduct market research to gather as much information as possible. Your objective should be to look for similar COTS solutions and how your custom software will differ from them. Moreover, you should also talk to the hired development team and evaluate a list of all the features you want to integrate.
2. UX/UI Design
As we mentioned earlier, the UI of custom software has a huge impact on how it interacts with the end users. So, after you’ve gathered all the required information and built a roadmap, the next step would be to devise the user interface.
Now, keep in mind that UI designing will be a time-consuming process and you’ll have to design multiple prototypes before reaching the final UI design.
It’s also worth pointing out that you should not copy the UI scheme of existing solutions as it’ll damage your brand identity. Instead, come up with a unique solution to design the user interface that makes your business stand apart and helps your employees utilize the software more effectively.
3. Software Development
After the UI/UX engineers have finalized the UI design, the development team will initiate the development process. This is when your software will be equipped with the required functionality.
Apart from API development and third-party integrations, the development process will also involve migrating our software to the cloud (if you’ve chosen it as your hosting).
Throughout the development cycle, developers focus on writing bug-free, clear, and low-complexity code to ensure your software delivers a remarkable user experience.
4. Software Testing
Like any other conventional digital application, software testing is an integral part of custom software development. This is the phase where the QA team performs different testing methodologies to validate your software’s performance. Ideally, QA experts utilize different testing practices including Unit testing, A/B testing, functional testing, non-functional testing, etc.
5. Final Deployment
Now, comes the time for final deployment. This is when the operation team will help you deploy the software across the organization. If you have chosen on-premises server installation, this is the phase where the team will implement the required infrastructure to run the software.
6 Dos and Don’ts of Custom Software Development
Custom software development is a critical and time-consuming process. One wrong step and you’ll end up with non-functional software that doesn’t comply with your organization’s standards. So, to help you develop a high-performance and user-centric custom digital solution, here’s a list of quick dos and don’ts you must follow.
|Conduct comprehensive research to evaluate the preferences of the target users
|Develop the software without conducting the required research.
|Initial Market Research
|Study the market to evaluate existing COTS solutions and gather as much information as possible.
|Start with the development phase underprepared.
|Talk to your developers to evaluate the most suitable tech stack for your project requirements.
|Follow other software publishers and go with the latest available tools
|Develop user-centric software and keep it open for future customizations.
|Build software for yourself with no scope for customization.
|Utilize various testing methodologies to create custom testing scenarios and validate functionality more effectively
|Be negligent about software testing.
|Choose a cloud service that utilizes advanced encryption techniques to secure data.
|Go with a cloud platform with no security implementation.
Custom software development is a dedicated process of designing a bespoke digital solution for a particular group of users. Due to its exclusivity, custom software development is usually an ideal approach for organizations looking to streamline complex business operations. In saying that, however, businesses do not need to always go with custom software.
If you can resolve the underlying company issues with an existing COTS and don’t have the required budget to invest in custom software development, it will be better to choose it over custom software development.
If you have an idea for custom software, contact our expert software developers and we’ll design a bespoke solution that caters to your business requirements.