Custom Software Solutions For Business Workflows: 3 Things To Know

Custom software solutions offer your company the opportunity to increase efficiency by accommodating the unique requirements of your business. Such software that is tailored specifically towards supporting your existing, or perhaps new, workflows is focused around the two-pronged approach of automation and optimization to ensure the highest solution effectiveness. 

As opposed to the complicated and expensive bundles of unnecessary features you may find in prepackaged software, the main advantage of custom software lies in its name: it is custom-built exactly for you. While it can seem more expensive at the start, the reality is that in the long run custom-built software often returns on its initial investment many times over through improved business workflow efficiency and employee productivity.  An added financial benefit is that there will be no annual licensing or maintenance and support fees. 

However, if you are considering contracting custom software for your business, there are 3 Things You Should Know before making the leap.

Customization Also Means Transformation

Before contracting custom software development, the first step for every company is outlining your individual business needs. With every organization possessing different requirements and methods in daily business operations, it can be no surprise that off-the-shelf products don't quite fit your actual business workflows.

In order for custom software to really complement your company, you will need to first identify what it is you really need your software to do for you, what can be automated, and what needs to be supported. As a general rule, this type of analysis focuses on two main possibilities for your workflows: automation and optimization.

When analyzing your processes through this lens, you may be surprised to find many existing business workflows can be streamlined without software. The business process analysis alone may produce more efficiency in your business even before you have the actual software running due to its valuable optimization-focused business perspective.

Such insights generated early on in the process can be extremely valuable for your business moving forward, and can even help you save on costs for the custom software itself. The custom software development team you choose to contract can further help you in identifying areas for possible optimization, enabling you to begin the business workflow transformation process from the very start. Your people may be resistant to process changes, so it’s important to gain their perspective and buy in when making these transformations.

Seamless Integration May Take Extra Work

One of the main advantages of custom software packages is that they are designed to fit into your existing or ideal business environment. This means that all other software and systems you depend on for your operations are taken into consideration when developing the final custom software package. For true "seamless" integration, the tailor-made software must be able to easily share and use data from all integrated systems.

Unfortunately, if this integration is anything less than seamless such inter-system communication deficiencies can end up negating the benefits gained through using custom software in the first place. The reality is that the effectiveness of the integration does not depend only on the custom software, but also on your legacy systems. You may find that even if the custom software itself does offer full integration, some other systems may not be able to communicate with the custom software in return.  A good custom software development firm will be able to determine how your legacy systems can be most efficiently integrated. 

For example, consider a company that sells its products mainly through online channels. Let's say that this particular company also uses separate software to manage its sales data and its email or social media campaign information. A common workflow in this company involves employees correlating successful sales to their originating campaigns, deciding with the help of analytics what campaign elements were most successful, and sending out more similar campaigns.  The example company's custom software is built to accommodate this workflow by displaying analytical information from the sales system and the campaign management application. However, when the employee goes to send a new online campaign through the custom software, they may discover that externally sent campaigns (from the custom software) are not recorded in the campaign management application, and thus the entire business workflow is disrupted.

Such possible integration problems can be avoided by analyzing the potential of all of your systems for integration. When moving forward with custom software plans, you should ensure together with the development team that the systems you use will truly be able to communicate and work together.  In reality, virtually all modern software has APIs to make integration easy and generally this isn’t an issue.

Approach the Long Term Plan At the Start

The process of adopting a custom software package for your business doesn't just end when the product is delivered and running. When requesting custom software, there are many more considerations you must take into account regarding your future partnership with the development team, including items such as support, updates, and new features.

As time passes, you may find that your requirements change or vital security issues and other bugs are discovered. It would be unrealistic to scrap your entire custom solution. Instead, you should define your relationship with the contractor to include plans for such potential long-term situations. Important things you need to discuss include:

  • What is the relationship for the project? Do you intend the custom software development project to be one-off, or would you prefer the potential for future collaboration on further customizations or even new products?
  • What is the plan for actually implementing the product? Will the software be installed onsite or in the cloud?  How much training and documentation is necessary?
  • If future support is on the books, how does the development team plan to handle support? Will they outsource technical assistance to a different team, or will you continue being in contact with the original developers? Do they offer knowledge transfer to your internal team so that you can provide your own support?
  • In the case that the team will continue providing direct support, will they be able to provide you with immediate help in case of an urgent situation? Find out both the support hours and how the development company provides its support. Could they send out representatives to assist you in emergencies?
  • What is the scope for planned updates? As you determine new features or enhancements, will the same company and developers be available to assist you into the future?   

Final Thoughts

Custom software solutions represent an immense business opportunity for organizations willing to make the investment. Optimizing workflows and automating processes are guaranteed to drive efficiency in your business if you fully flesh out how you intend the software to actually work and build a solid relationship with your development firm. 

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