We live in an amazing time when custom software products are becoming more than simply the toys of an elite few enterprises, but are accessible to almost any business willing to make the investment. There are over 25 million software developers worldwide, all with hands poised over keyboards ready to turn the next idea for an application into a real life product. And there are a lot of ideas that get pushed into software product development. Granted, some of these projects are desperately needed and greatly improve a business’s operations. Some, too, are a bit shortsighted.
Sometimes, it may seem like the best solution to a problem is a custom product. Contrary to the belief that all ideas are good ideas, your novel idea for the next innovative piece of software may not be worth pursuing. In fact, it may not be novel at all; there may already be a SaaS product out there that does the exact same thing. So, before you dive into a software product development project sure to eat up time, money and other resources, make sure you can and should in the first place.
Custom software, when approached from a responsible business mindset and properly planned for from start-to-finish, can significantly increase the value of your company. Arriving at that place requires asking yourself a number of hard questions, though.
What’s the Problem You’re Trying to Solve?
You have a lot of freedom of design when it comes to custom software. Your product can be built to address nearly any problem you can dream of no matter how unique it may be. Most of the time, your problem isn’t so one-of-a-kind, though.
A point of sale system, a CRM, an eCommerce platform – all software that companies across multiple industries have a need for, and all products that SaaS providers have already invested significant time, money and resources into creating. Even within your industry, there are likely products already on the market that can serve your needs right now without months of development. For instance, gym management software for gyms and athletic centers, kennel management software for pet hotels and dog daycares or claims processing software for insurance companies.
Even if your problem is unique only to your business processes, there may still be other alternatives to the time and resources of software product development. Usually these types of problems have a limited scale and should be solved with people in most cases. Ask yourself if this problem is solving a key area of your business, whether solving this problem is merely a matter of convenience rather than need and how often this solution will actually be utilized.
If, after you’ve thoroughly evaluated your problem and researched possible solutions, you’ve determined that the value of a custom product exceeds the cost, that’s still not the end of it.
How Important is the Solution to Your Long-Term Goals?
Knowing how you should solve a problem and if you should are different matters. If you’re considering moving forward with custom software product development, you need to look at how a project like this will affect your business objectives. Will investing in custom software help you achieve them? Or, will it cause you to put other plans on the back burner? Whether you plan in one year, three year or five year intervals, how will it help you scale? As you grow, this solution could become obsolete for instance, or you may require more customization capabilities than you originally planned for, and the costs of ongoing maintenance and updates linger long after development is complete, as well.
Then, you should also consider the consequences of project failure. If your software product never comes to pass, how much time and resources were wasted, and how will this alter your business goals? On the other hand, without the right project management and planning, you could wind up with a nice, working application that doesn’t quite fit your requirements. Then, whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with a tool that won’t solve your problem.
Suffice it to say, all of your decisions will have lasting financial and organizational consequences, so you need to think about how a new product will fit into your business’s future however the software product development turns out.
What Technical Assets, Resources, Time and Costs do You Have at Your Disposal?
Developing software is not as simple as buying new computers for the office or deciding you switch to two-ply toilet paper. It’s a huge investment in every sense of the word. These projects easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and it’s not uncommon for the budget to be measured in hundreds of thousands with larger endeavors. Then there’s time. At minimum, a simple application will take several months to complete, and the more complex projects can exceed a year.
Another resource is people. Do you have IT or developers capable of building a solution for you? If not, you’ll need to outsource to a software development firm (and those come in many different shapes and sizes – and differing price tags). Even if you do have some in-house expertise, companies in many cases will require some outside help at any stage – design, development, deployment, training, support and maintenance – of a project. Do you have the computing and engineering tools, as well as server capacity, your solution will require? These are just more things you’ll need to add to your budget and procure.
Wanting to invest in custom software product development and having the ability to do so are, unfortunately, two separate things. You need to carefully consider the resources available to your business before you agree to a project of this scale.
What Kind of Training, Support and Maintenance Will You Require?
Even before a project has begun, you need to look beyond development and imagine a world in which this product is ready to use. After the solution has been deployed, what sorts of training will your technical team need to determine requirements, configure and generate code, test the product, integrate software and adapt as issues arise? Training may also be needed for other employees using the application to ensure they understand the system.
Managing your solution is entirely your responsibility after software product development is complete. That includes bug fixes, feature requests, updates and third-party integrations. Your new platform will require integration with other software you already use. Keep in mind that each update to software integrated with your custom solution may require an update on your end, too.
You don’t stop being a parent when your child goes off to college, and your investment in software doesn’t end with deployment. It’s important to realize that fact before you ever begin a project, so you won’t be shocked by what’s involved in making a successful platform. And, with the right foreplanning, you can definitely have a successful product by the end of development.
Enterprise Software Product Development
Vice Software has helped many businesses take their products from ideation to deployment. We know more than anyone how big an undertaking custom software product development can be, and for that reason, we always provide our clients with honest, helpful guidance throughout the process. Our goal is to deliver assets that put value with the business rather than individual employees, helping you get more out of your investments in technology.
If you’re considering a custom technology solution for your business, reach out to Vice Software today. With a few pieces of information, we can get you a quote and start you on your journey of custom development!