Custom software is a vague term when you use it without context. So when we at icapps talk about custom software, what exactly do we want to say? That’s a question we asked our head of sales, Ben Swaelen, who talks about - and sells - our custom software projects on a daily basis, and our solution architect, Maarten Anckaert, who’s building them for our customers. In this blog post, we’ll explain what custom software is, what the benefits are, and how we can help you with it. We’ll also zoom in on possible pitfalls and when it’s (not) a good idea to go for a tailor-made solution.
Custom software, what's in a name?
For us, custom software is fully tailored to the client’s needs. Every pixel of every screen can and will be customized for a very specific use case. So if your need is specific, if you want a product that is tailored to what works best for you, your organization, your employees, and/or your target audience, you better opt for a custom software product.
We talk about off-the-shelf software, let’s quickly explain this. This product can be bought and implemented as a tool in your organization or workflow. It can completely cover your needs, but more often than not, it will need customization. And thus can also be implemented as part of the full custom software solution.
Tailored, unique, and customizable
When creating a custom software product, everything is possible. At least on a technical level. You start from scratch, so you can really start building what you want. The first step is to know what you want and need. At icapps, we’ve got a team of digital strategists at your disposal who’ll gladly help you figure that out.
During our strategy workshops, we discover and define the needs and wants of your product. We set up user interviews, involve important stakeholders, and mix everything together in a detailed blueprint and roadmap for your soon-to-be-developed digital product.
We believe in the strength of a custom product because, when you start from scratch, you can literally decide on every single detail of your product. It’s completely customizable, unique, and breathes your company values, look, and feel. You are the one and only owner of your product, so unlike with off-the-shelf products, you don’t depend on other parties to create updates, or fix bugs, … and you’ll never run into a case where the manufacturer of your product stops supporting it. In other words, you’re in charge!
When is custom software the right decision for your business?
1. When you have a very specific use case on your hands
When Bol.com established their existing warehouse software didn't suffice anymore, they worked with icapps to come up with a solution that completely covered their needs.
2. When your service is unique
Philips launched a new service, Philips Hue, so they needed a custom digital product to match it.
3. When you want to market your application or product as you see fit
Products like Tadaam really stand out with their marketing strategy.
4. If you want to seamlessly integrate your product on every platform, device, …
Then cross-platform technologies are the way to go. A perfect example of this is SPX, with the SP-Expert Connect platform, employees can see their work schedule and communicate with their manager and colleagues.
5. To stay on top of your game with new features and innovations
You are the owner of your product so you decide what features you want to implement, what innovations you add to your product, and when you add them.
6. When you want to give your customers the ultimate experience
A great customer experience is the start of a great product, because in the end, when you create a digital product for your audience, you want them to use it with ease.
7. You want your product to be safe and secure
Off-the-shelf products can cause security breaches, and since you’re not the owner of the product, you depend on others to fix these breaches. In addition, off-the-shelf products are more frequently attacked because they are used by more companies.
Where software meets business needs
It’s not enough to just “create” a product you or your management thinks the organization needs. Before building a product, it is important to establish your digital strategy first. So make sure you have your ducks in a row before you actually start.
Some rules of thumb to align your product with your business needs:
First, start with drawing up a roadmap where you define small increments.
Make sure your MVP, your minimum viable, or as we like to call it valuable, product, is clear and simple. This allows you to release early and build and finetune in a future release.
Involve someone with decision power - like a Product owner - in every sprint/review/planning meeting to make sure you stay on track.
So, when to opt for off-the-shelf, ready-made software?
You know what? We’re not too proud to tell you when your needs are actually answered by an existing off-the-shelf product.
Sometimes, an off-the-shelf product is both more time - and budget friendly than a custom software product. So if your needs can be answered by an existing product, and you’re on a tight budget, we will also advise you not to start building something from scratch. We believe in long-term partnerships and selling you a product that you don’t need is not something a true partner does.