There are thousands of software as a service (SaaS) platforms on the market. Sometimes they work great for what you need; other times, your business requires a more bespoke software solution.
Think you might need custom software? Learn what to watch for in your business.
Custom software is a system designed specifically for the unique needs of an organization. Unlike SaaS platforms or enterprise software, custom software can be adapted and extended to address specific needs in specific ways as the organization grows and/or changes.
Custom software is beneficial for companies that have unique processes and workflows, are in niche sectors and industries, and have tried implementing off-the-shelf systems without success.
Not every organization needs custom software, but for those that do, it can be a game-changer for efficiency, client service, and meeting company goals.
Until you see it in action, custom software can be enigmatic. So here are some examples of custom software systems—all, not coincidentally, built by Far Reach.
Even though hundreds of off-the-shelf Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems exist, none of them were quite what Peterson Genetics needed. They tried several, but in the end, decided to build their own custom ERP. With custom integrations to their other systems and functionality built specifically for their workflows, the Peterson Genetics ERP is helping the team work smarter.
Custom Fundraising Portal
Leading Edge used to do old-school paper fundraising with school sports teams. They saw technology as a core component to differentiating their services, so we helped them build a custom online fundraising portal. The system has become central to their business strategy.
Custom Uniform Builder
There’s no off-the-shelf option for what Powers Manufacturing wanted to build. Instead of taking custom sports uniform orders over the phone—and subsequently sending proofs back and forth—Powers wanted customers to be able to see and build their uniforms online. The Powers custom uniform builder does just that.
Custom Digitized Workflows
A-Line E.D.S. had paper-based, manual processes that worked for them. When they were ready to start using technology in the field, they wanted to keep their proven processes—not have to adjust their workflows to fit a system's limitations—so they worked with Far Reach to build a custom software solution that allows just that.
As custom software developers, we see how transformational custom systems can be for businesses. But not every organization needs to build custom software. Some just need custom integrations, while others can meet their goals with existing SaaS and enterprise systems.
Investing in custom software is a decision that requires planning, research, and strategy. There are pros and cons of custom software that may provide insight into whether it’s a good path for your organization.
The system evolves along with your needs
Customization can bring you a competitive advantage
You can scale up or down as needed
You’re in full control of changes
Data security is in your hands
More costly than off-the-shelf solutions
Involves a large time investment from the client product owner
Usually takes more time to launch, even with agile/scrum
Requires ongoing maintenance
There are a few things you can look for in your business that might indicate a discussion about custom software is warranted.
For example, if your organization relies on complex shared spreadsheets, the work you’ve
done to build the spreadsheets can transfer to custom software workflows. Spreadsheets can cause permission hassles, version issues, and security concerns.
Another indicator is if you have several SaaS tools but one or more of them don’t quite meet your needs. You might be creating workarounds, doing duplicate data entry, or importing and exporting data often.
If your data isn’t where you need it, when you need it, in the format you need it—especially the data most vital to your decision-making—custom software could be just what you and your team need.
Review our list of telltale signs of a company that needs custom software.
This is one of the most common questions we get. It’s also one of the toughest to answer because—this should come as no surprise—it depends. Costs depend on functionality, user management and security requirements, tech stack, timeline, and so much more.
In our experience, the main thing that drives a custom software system’s costs is your budget. When you determine a budget based on the value you expect from the system, you can set a baseline for your investment.
For example, let's say you expect your system to save your team 4,000 hours per year and allow you to take on 20 more customers, each worth an average of $30,000 per year. You save the cost on hours and increase revenue.
Each year, this would result in:
4,000 hours @ $50 loaded cost per hour = $200,000 cost savings
20 customers @ $30,000 each = $600,000 new revenue
In this example, it would make sense to budget anywhere between $200,000 and $350,000+ for the initial build. And then $50,000-$75,000+ per year for ongoing maintenance and enhancements. We also recommend a contingency for those unforeseen high-priority additions that come up during the project.
These numbers are for illustration purposes only.
That may seem like a big cost range, and it is. But even that big range helps your custom software development partner understand the value you expect from the system and the functionality you need to extract that value. The range will shrink as you define requirements and priorities.
Read more about what goes into the cost of custom software.
If you think custom software is the right route for you, how do you go about finding a partner to talk through the project and bring your system to life?
There are several different options for outsourcing custom software development. You can hire an independent contractor, you can use a staff augmentation company that provides the developers, or you can work with a software development company.
You can validate a partner’s expertise by reviewing past projects and customer reviews. And nothing helps you evaluate the fit of a potential partner like getting into a room (even a Zoom room) and having a conversation.
Far Reach is a development partner—we bring a full team to your project to build it and support it for the long-run. Keep reading to learn more about our philosophy.
If you’ve decided that custom software might be right for you, there’s a lot of work to do before a single line of code is written. While no two custom software projects are identical, there are best practices no matter what type of software you’re developing. Here are our top tips to help clients prepare for their custom software development project:
There’s a lot you can do going into a custom software project—whether you’re working with an outsourced development partner or your internal team—to make it a success.
Most people aren’t involved in any custom software projects in their careers. We’re focused on custom software daily. After 14+ years in business—and many years of experience before that—we have processes and systems to help clients navigate the unique world of custom software development.
When we estimate costs for projects, we look at a lot of factors, including your budget, your goals, planned functionality, and much more. We also know that costs can change as a project progresses, and we help you navigate adjustments and priorities.
When diving into a project, we do a lot of analysis. Our process involves understanding the users, their workflows, what they need to accomplish, and on and on. We use the agile/scrum methodology to build the system in a way that ensures we’re always working on the highest priorities.
We think of custom software as a long-term investment. We like to work with clients for the long term and continue to maintain and enhance systems over time. That’s how you get the most out of your investment and how we make sure the systems we build are always making your business better.
The client plays a pivotal role in our software development process. The main client contact, whom we call the product owner (PO), works with the Far Reach team on at least a weekly basis. The client PO gets input from stakeholders, makes decisions, and helps set priorities throughout a project.
A lot of people underestimate the time and effort required as a client. Custom software isn’t effective if you put together requirements, send them to a developer, and check back six months later. We don’t build software like that. Your custom software platform will serve you best if you stay involved, engage in the process, and work closely with us to make your system a reality.
Here’s how we’ve helped clients build custom software systems.
With custom workflows and lots of exceptions, Peterson Genetics needed an ERP built to their specific needs.
Custom uniforms require custom software. Peterson uses a bespoke software system to let customers build and customize sports uniforms.
One-of-a-kind mortgage analytics and forecast require a custom-build software mapping tool.
Want to dive deeper into custom software development? Read some of our blog posts on the topic.
Custom software is complex, especially when you aren’t entrenched in it daily as we are. A consultation session with our experts can shed light on any questions you may have about how custom software could help your business.
We can help you plan a custom software roadmap for your company’s goals. Let’s talk. No obligations and no strings attached.
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