Sometimes, standard software isn’t able to meet your business requirements. If that’s the case, you might need to build your own custom software (or bespoke software) from scratch, or modify existing software so it fits your needs.
The big advantage of bespoke software is that you can build it to contain exactly the functions you need. You can alter the software as your business changes, and you don’t have to settle for any of the compromises you might get with pre-packaged software.
However, there are drawbacks. Developing custom software usually costs much more than using standard packages. It also takes time to build software – you could be looking at six months or more - and the non-standard nature means it’s harder to provide support.
See the latest business tech bargains we've found online.
Or buy IT equipment now from these trusted suppliers:
Rather than tackle the ambitious task of building custom software from scratch, many businesses find it’s easier to adapt a piece of standard software to fit their needs.
Software packages are often designed for this, giving you powerful ways to build on core functions. This means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you can just customise the things that are unique to your business.
For example, instead of building a customer database system from scratch, you can adapt a standard database application, adding your own record structure, forms, interface screens and reports so it does what you need it to.
Adapting an existing software package usually requires detailed knowledge of the software in question. It may also involve significant planning and writing computer code. Unless you have the right experience in your business, it’s a good idea to work with an IT supplier or software development company.
If you’ve established that existing software can’t be altered to fit your needs, you might want to look at developing bespoke software from scratch.
You need lots of IT expertise in order to develop custom software within your business. Most companies don’t have the resources to run big software development projects, so the option of working with an external supplier tends to be the best choice.
Any software development process needs to start with defining your requirements. These will influence everything about your custom software, so determine exactly what you want to be able to do with the software before starting any development.
Express your requirements in terms of what you actually want the software to do. For instance ‘search for a customer by surname’ is better than ‘search records for a particular word’. A good IT supplier will help you refine your requirements.
Take great care choosing an IT supplier to work with on a custom software project. Make sure your contract with them specifies who owns the software they create – usually, it’s a good idea to make sure you do.
If you don’t acquire ownership of the software, the underlying source code and all associated intellectual property, you will be reliant on the same supplier to make changes to the custom software at a later date.
Some software development companies will be reluctant to hand over the source code, particularly if it contains their trade secrets. In these circumstances, you can use a software escrow service to ensure you can continue to adapt and update the software, even if your development company goes bust.
Because bespoke software is unique, you’ll generally have to rely on the company that built it to supply support and training too. This can be more expensive than finding support for standard software, so make sure you establish likely costs at the start of the project.
Popular content related to custom software development: