What is the difference?

Custom or Standard software

Adapt to your company's specific needs and improve your operations with a tailor-made solution.

It is undoubtedly in today's context that software is crucial for the proper functioning of a company.It is not uncommon for a company to use several dozen software, or even hundreds, generally to automate tasks that were previously done manually.There are two main types of software in a company:

  1. Large-scale commercial software (commonly referred to as "off-the-shelf" software or "standard software")
  2. Custom-developed software that is specifically designed for a particular company or organization (also known as "prefabricated software" or "customized software")

Both types of software have their advantages and disadvantages, and it can be difficult to decide which one is best suited to the needs of your company.On the one hand, standard software is often more affordable than customized software, as they generally benefit from a large user base, which helps to reduce costs for everyone involved.

However, a customized software also has many advantages. It can be adapted exactly to your specific needs and requirements, so it is more efficient in achieving your business goals, and it can adapt over time as your company evolves. This allows you to achieve maximum automation and profitability in your operations.

But in what situations is it definitely more advantageous to develop custom software for your company? Among the factors to consider are the size and complexity of your company, the nature of your activities and its unique requirements, as well as your budget, time and availability of your key resources/employees.

We generally recommend that companies conduct a good market research of existing software solutions for their needs. Custom development is an option where costs can quickly rise. It is important not to want to reinvent the wheel.

Here is the first principle to take into account in decision-making: if you find a software that seems to do 80% of what you need, we strongly recommend exploring this path first and foremost. Make sure you take good references from existing customers and, above all, clearly document your needs before making your final choice.

But in what contexts is software development preferable to a large-scale commercial software? Here are the 6 situations where custom software will be more beneficial for your organization:

Case #1: You have several "off-the-shelf" software that do not communicate with each other

You have to manually enter data from one application to another?

You would like the information from your different software to be synchronized?

You are not alone! Many companies use the "best-of-breed" of their industry, that is, several ultra-specialized software for a specific need of their company. And it is becoming more and more common.

The solution for this scenario is to develop a data synchronization system between the different software. This synchronization system is often called a "data bridge". This allows one to have the best of both worlds, that is, to be able to use ultra-specialized solutions and at the same time to be able to synchronize the data between each of the software.

The beauty of this option is that once the data synchronization system is in place, it becomes easy to build custom software layers on this foundation, generally allowing:

  • to easily create beautiful real-time performance indicator reports, bringing together all the data from all systems
  • to add additional functionality around existing systems that are sometimes not customizable

There are some "off-the-shelf" data bridge systems, such as Zapier and IFTTT. We recommend checking these alternatives before developing custom software to interconnect your systems. Again, there is no value in reinventing the wheel. If the desired features are already available in systems like Zapier and IFTTT, it is probably preferable to choose this option as a first step. Once the limits of these systems are reached, custom development will impose itself.

Case #2: You have reached the limit of the available features for the tablet software that you have chosen.

If you are a company that is continuously trying to innovate, there is a strong chance that your ambitions are being hindered by the features of the systems you are using. There are two options:

Ask the software provider to customize their software for you

Switch to a custom-made solution to add new features. The problems we generally see with the first option, that is, asking a standard software provider to customize their software for you, are generally the following:

The provider does not want to create customization in the software they provided to you.

It must be understood that the development of a large-scale software is a completely different type of management from the development of a custom system. To make a parallel, we could compare the whole thing to a factory home builder and a custom home builder.

Their methods of operation and respective expertise are difficult to successfully operate in the other's niche. Would you really build a custom home by hiring a company specialized in factory homes? It must also be understood that it is very difficult for standard software providers to create custom code branches and try to keep the "core" of the software common to all.

This becomes an enormous management task over time and updates. Standard software developers will generally accept this avenue in the "early life" of their company to finance their operation, but it quickly becomes their hindrance to grow, in addition to becoming a real headache to manage, both with clients and with their production employees. Furthermore, creating custom branches in a standard software often prevents the customer from benefiting from future updates of the system.

Then, you lose all the advantages you want to have with standard software, and have additional disadvantages!

The provider wants to, but never has time in the end….

How many times have we heard some of our clients mention that their standard software provider was going to develop certain custom items, when they "have time" ? Unfortunately, in more than 95% of the time, the client will never have the desired customizations. This is sad, but what we see too often.

The software development provider has all interest in prioritizing requests that will be usable for "all", and not for one client. Be aware that some customers are willing to finance the development of certain features "for all" at their expense. This sends your custom requests to the bottom of the development priority list for the provider.

The supplier always keeps us on edge with the famous "coming soon" feature

We often see this situation, where the standard software developer indicates that the "famous" feature the client wants will arrive soon. Too often, this feature ends up in a work schedule that is too busy and the publisher never reaches this famous feature. And when he does, very often, the need has changed over time or the final feature is not the one expected by the client, since the developer must develop for "all of its clients" and not for the need of a single client. How to avoid this problem? All you have to do is ask these questions to the software supplier:

  • How many development sprints is the feature planned for?
  • Is this specific feature part of a well-defined "milestone"?
  • Is it possible to see the "user stories" of the feature?
  • Is it possible to see the functional mock-ups of the feature?

If the software supplier does not answer these four questions in a convincing manner, you are likely to see the feature you want to be developed in the software never really developed and delivered to your screen.

Case #3: None of the standard software in your industry really meets your needs

Interesting case. 

You've looked into known and lesser-known options in the market and none of them seem to meet your criteria, whether in functionality, service, or quality?

What to do? Well, custom development is unfortunately not the right idea here.

You should first ask yourself if developing the software from scratch can:

  • be a profitable operation for you
  • give you a big advantage over the competition

To do this, you need to have an estimate of the development budget to achieve your goals and, by the same token, keep in mind that a maintenance budget for the system will be necessary over time, about 10% of the annual development cost.

You should then make your calculations to see if the volume of operations you have and the benefits per operation are significant enough to justify custom development.In some cases, it may be feasible to go for custom development even if the absolute profitability does not seem to be there.

If profitability or benefit is high, custom development is then a good option to explore.

Several success criteria must be written and respected in order to make a custom software development successful. Make sure to select your partner carefully.

Case #4: I already have a custom software and I don't want to lose my competitive advantage

You have had custom software developed and it gives you a big advantage over the competition?

It is possible to modernize your application, block by block, while limiting the impact on your operations. It is then much less risky for your business to undertake a custom development approach, from a modernization perspective, in order to keep your competitive advantage.

Case #5: I already have a custom software in outdated technologies, and I don't want to "freeze" my business for 18 to 36 months with a transfer to an existing system

We often see companies that decide to abandon their custom software to migrate to standard solutions. This usually brings a very big problem: the company will be "frozen" for 18 to 36 months.

Deploying a new tablet software usually causes a lot of operational chaos within an organization.

There are many examples of companies that were close to bankruptcy for having migrated from one system to another. A good example in Canada is Target company. One of the main reasons for Target's failure in Canada was the decision to implement a standard software instead of importing their custom software used in the United States. The system was so complex and poorly adapted to their needs that it caused a huge logistics chaos in their stores, resulting in empty shelves and a lot of complaints from customers about their first experience.

If you are moving from a custom software to a tablet software, be aware that the thumb rule is that you will hardly be operational at full speed before 12 to 18 months, and that most of the time you can write off regular operational benefits during this period, or even be in a negative margin zone. This should not be neglected in your calculations.

Case #6: you have an idea for a technology product or digital product that doesn't exist

Uber, Facebook, Hubspot, etc. are all technology product ideas that were developed over time through custom development to become mature products.

You have an idea to develop? Custom development is mostly the solution for this scenario.

However, it is important to proceed intelligently on this aspect. We strongly recommend a good market study, feasibility study, and good interactive mock-ups before even developing a line of code.

This will reduce the risks and increase your chances of success in the venture.

In summary, it's not about choosing custom software development by default, first you need to check if something already exists that meets your needs to avoid reinventing the wheel. If such an option does not exist, you need to evaluate your needs and the ability to assume the costs related to having such products born in your company. However, in some cases, it can be an extremely effective way to reduce risks and stay ahead of the competition by providing unique solutions that meet your specific needs and requirements.

Whether you have an idea for a new technology product or want to modernize existing systems using new technologies, working with a trusted partner can help you ensure success and maximum return on investment. So, if you're considering embarking on this adventure, if you need a partner, make sure you do your research, consult experts, and choose the right partner for your specific needs.It is undoubtedly in today's context that software is crucial for the proper functioning of a company.

It is not uncommon for a company to use several dozen software, or even hundreds, generally to automate tasks that were previously done manually.

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