Custom software can be used to improve a lot of areas of a business, from simplifying processes and opening up new revenue streams to improving customer experience, increasing revenue, and so much more.
Custom software is not, however, a cure-all. Nor can it do any of the above on its own. We’d love to tell you that it can—after all custom software development is what we do. But the truth is that your software strategy is only a part of your broader technology strategy.
Whether you outsource your software development, develop everything in-house, or use a hybrid approach, the success of your custom software relies on other tech pillars and touches many other areas of IT.
Is Custom Software Development the Missing Piece of Your Tech Puzzle?
When you develop new software, you start with a goal—this part of the process is non-negotiable, at least for us. Before writing a single line of code, you need to know how the new software fits into your business model.
For instance, you can use custom software as a link between various SaaS applications you use. In this case, the software you develop acts as a bridge between applications, designed to simplify business processes, create efficiencies, or help you get the most out of your data.
Or, you can make your custom platform your core business offering, like our clients STRATAFOLIO and Leading Edge Fundraising.
However, custom software is only helpful if you have a solid foundation, both in terms of business model and in terms of supporting IT infrastructure. Custom software development is rarely the first thing you need for a new business—even if your custom software is your product.
It can, of course, become the most important pillar of your organization. But that can only happen if it’s the right piece to an existing puzzle. Before you start working on your custom software, consider other aspects of your IT strategy and how your new software will fit in with them.
How Custom Software Fits in with the Rest of Your Tech Stack
Custom software could touch many different departments within your business—marketing, sales, operations, and even your customers—depending on its purpose and functionality. But there’s no avoiding the IT department when it comes to custom software. Within IT, there are several areas of expertise that can and should be involved in mapping out your approach.
Hosting and Data Storage
Depending on the type of software you are building, you may need to reassess your hosting and data storage. For example, for many of our .NET development projects, especially those that involve customer-facing functionality, we use Azure cloud storage or Amazon Web Services (AWS) to maximize availability, scalability, and security.
Depending on your needs, you may need to configure or upgrade your cloud storage plan. Decisions about where to host a custom platform come down to your company’s existing hosting infrastructure, the tech stack of the new platform, anticipated user traffic, and other considerations.
Security and User Access
When you develop software that’s open to new users (regardless of whether they’re internal or external), you have to consider data security. How will users login? Do they need to create an account within your platform, will they use 3rd party logins (e.g., Facebook or Google), or do you have a single sign-on (SSO) platform to integrate?
Your data needs to be secure on the backend, and you should include robust security practices on the front end to help users–and their data–stay secure. The discussions of how to implement robust security policies involve several different areas of IT and are critical since improper handling of customer data can open you up to breaches and hefty fines.
Does your new custom software need to connect with your other systems? If you have other custom platforms, you’ll need to work on custom integrations, and you’ll want to evaluate your existing SaaS platforms for API access and capabilities. Custom software is rarely in a silo—at least it shouldn’t be. Integrating with your other systems can increase the system’s value and help you meet your goals.
Software and Humans
While custom software is great for improving workflows, automating manual tasks, providing a better customer experience, and more, not everyone wants or needs a custom solution. Every decision you make about your system should align with your larger IT strategy and also with what the system’s users want and need.
Before beginning development, you should have internal, user, and IT buy-in. Each group plays a different role and brings unique viewpoints to the system. Ideally, start small—with a minimum viable product (MVP)—and then continuously develop your software based on ongoing feedback and regular assessments.
Custom Software Doesn’t Live in a Void
There are very few software applications that can be useful without connecting to or communicating with other systems to some degree. In fact, much of a custom software solution’s added value is often based in its ability to fill gaps and build bridges between systems and/or the people using them.
Custom software has to fit into your bigger IT and business strategy. It shouldn’t exist in a vacuum, and you’ll see the biggest benefits with across-the-board, comprehensive considerations like the ones outlined here.
Want to talk about whether custom software fits into your bigger-picture strategy? Reach out