It would be silly wanting to build my own word processor to compete with Word. That one is a no brainer off-the-shelf solution I would buy any day of the week. There are other instances when building software is not only a good idea, but it is crucial for the survival and scalability of your business. I would like to share excerpts from Chuck Cohn’s piece on Forbes from a couple of years ago where he explores some of the reasons why custom software is a worth considering:
“Why should you consider investing in custom software?
While building custom software is expensive, the return on investment can be well worth it. Remember, however, that significant energy, resources, and time must be dedicated to its development. These tasks associated with custom software may initially make a canned solution seem like the smarter idea, but there are several reasons to reconsider:
- Off-the-shelf software cannot meet every need. Canned solutions generally address many of the needs of most companies. If your business has specialized needs, custom software may be better qualified to meet them.
- Canned solutions are rigid. The vast majority of off-the-shelf software will not allow you to modify its functionality in a meaningful way. It may be difficult to add or subtract built-in features, leading to either too many or too few functions for your company.
- Off-the-shelf software may not be compatible with other programs.Your business might rely on Software A to complete one task and Software B to finish a second, related task. If the two programs do not communicate effectively, they may hinder your efficiency. If you build your own software, you can integrate with a wider set of APIs from different software and data partners.
How can custom software help scale your company?
Your business is a dynamic, evolving organization, so it make senses for your software to adapt and grow with your company as well and not remain static. If you do anticipate your company growing at a fast rate, here are a number of ways custom software can help make your business more scalable:
- Increased productivity. Programs that are specifically designed with your needs in mind can enable your team to work faster and smarter. You can create one comprehensive technology platform as opposed to using multiple different programs. An integrated platform can yield major efficiency gains since all the data is one place and users do not have to switch between different websites as part of their workflow.
- Competitive advantage. When you rely on the same off-the-shelf software as your rival does, it is that much more difficult to outperform them. By designing your own technology that is ideally suited for your specific business operations, you can garner a competitive advantage relative to your competitors. That advantage grows as you invest more heavily in your proprietary systems.
- Faster reaction time. To build great custom software, you must first hire a stellar software development team. Once that team is in place, they can build a variety of products, tools, and systems. As your business needs change and as your industry evolves, being able to quickly shift technology strategies can mean the difference between market dominance and obsolesces.
Despite its initial costs, custom software is well worth the resources it requires if you are hoping to build a business of meaningful scale. Building your own software that is specifically tailored to your company’s needs, as well as focused on scalability and efficiency, can help mean the difference between offering a commoditized service and offering a highly differentiated one at a better price.”