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When Does Custom Application Development Make Sense?

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James DeHoniesto
Director of Business Tech Optimization SSD Technology Patners

In our last post, we discussed why custom software development might be a better bet than cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. In a nutshell, custom software is designed to conform to your business processes and give your staff access to the information they need when they need it. SaaS applications, in contrast, provide a generic set of capabilities designed to meet a broad range of needs.

Of course, custom development is not the right approach for every application. If there are proven, cost-effective solutions already on the market that meet your requirements, then there’s no sense wasting time and money reinventing the wheel.

Commercial software products work well when you need fairly standard functionality. Accounting software and CRM packages fall into this category. There are a number of products available that are technically mature and proven to meet the needs of a wide range of users. Because the market for these products is competitive, updates and enhancements are released fairly frequently.

If there are applications for your particular industry it often makes sense to go with the commercially available product. You’ll gain the benefits of lessons learned by other users as well as compatibility with vendors and business partners. You may also be able to configure the application to meet your specific business requirements.

Keep in mind that configuration is not the same thing as customization. Configuration does not involve changing the source code – you’re simply turning on and off various options, changing screen layouts, and making other minor adjustments based upon your IT environment, data and workflows. In some instances, the vendor will provide wizards that enable you to make these changes yourself.

Customization involves significant changes to the software that can take weeks or months to implement. The vendor’s development team will have to work with your staff to code, test and implement the changes. It’s a lot like custom development, except that you’re starting from an existing product. That’s fine, unless you’re trying to plug a square application into a round hole. It can be a costly, time-consuming and frustrating mistake to try to customize commercial software when a custom-developed application is needed.

In determining whether to go with commercial software or develop a custom solution, it’s important to consider your business needs and the costs and benefits of the various options:

  • How expensive are the available applications versus the value they bring to your organization? Are they complex and hard to use? Are they stable and secure?
  • Do you have mature or innovative business processes that won’t adapt well to packaged software?
  • To what extent do you need to integrate with other applications in your environment?
  • Are there advantages to an industry-standard solution? Or could a custom app give you a competitive edge?
  • Would a custom app enable you to increase revenue, boost productivity, cut costs or better serve customers?

The software selection process is not to be taken lightly. The right app can deliver top- and bottom-line benefits while the wrong software can be a costly mistake. At SSD Technology Partners, our roots are in software development. Let our developers analyze your requirements and help you determine if custom software is the right choice for your business.

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James DeHoniesto

James has worked in IT for over 25 years. He is focused on Cyber Security and Business Technology Optimization (BTO) for SSD Technology Partners headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware. James’ goal is to ensure SSD’s clients secure their environments using practical application of current technologies and raising overall awareness of existing security risks. He also helps organizations identify the most effective technology strategies they should pursue to meet their overall business objectives utilizing existing IT resources. Leading the Custom Development team at SSD allows him the opportunity to ensure business applications are focused on user experiences while maintaining a level of security commonly overlooked when custom software is created.

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