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What Is Custom Software Development?

Custom software development goes way beyond the creation process itself.

Pablo Chamorro

By Pablo Chamorro

As Chief Revenue Officer, Pablo Chamorro leads BairesDev's sales teams to boost revenue while ensuring the effectiveness of company-wide strategies.

10 min read

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Custom software development has taken the center stage years ago and it’s now the central force driving the digital acceleration processes of businesses of all sizes across industries. There are several reasons for this. For one, the relentless digitalization of our daily lives left no stone unturned, so it was only natural for businesses to migrate to software solutions to carry out their daily tasks.

Then, there’s the constant evolution of those digital systems, whose increasing capabilities brought troves of benefits and advantages.  And then there was the growth of the IT industry itself, which made those systems and solutions more widely available and put them at everyone’s reach. All of that made custom software development one of the main protagonists of the modern business landscape.

Naturally, custom software development is most advantageous to companies that truly understand what it is and how to leverage it to their favor. That’s why we thought it was a good idea to review some of the main concepts surrounding custom software development and provide you with some tips to embrace it and maximize its benefits.


What is Custom Software Development?

Custom software development is the process of designing, building, and deploying software tailored to specific needs, be them of an individual, a team, or an entire company. That implies that custom software development is more than the creation process itself – customization can appear on the modernization of a legacy system or on the personalization of a commercial-off-the-shelf software (COTS).

Some examples of custom software that result from this sort of development include:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems
  • Automation systems
  • Customer-facing web portals
  • E-commerce platforms
  • Mobile apps for specific companies (such as banking apps)

Thus, custom software is the opposite of commercial-off-the-shelf software (COTS) and its more general development process, which aims to meet a broader set of requirements, something that allows it to be used by many different companies.

Custom software development is typically performed by either a development team working for a specific company or by a custom software development company that works as an outsourcing partner. Bigger companies tend to use the former option and mid- to small-sized companies use the latter, though outsourcing custom software development has become a common practice for all of them.


Why Custom Software Development?

Custom software development is a great option for any company looking to meet its specific digital requirements at a cost-effective cost. In fact, custom software is often a better option than COTS, as the company doesn’t have to constantly adjust a more general application to fit its unique needs. 

That’s far from being the only reason why you should be investing in custom software development. Other benefits include:

  • Increased efficiency. Custom software is specifically designed for your processes and requirements. That means that a custom application is a better fit for your tasks, helping you with your daily tasks up to the smallest detail. COTS, on the other hand, is more general, so you have to find workarounds for it to fit your processes.
  • Easily scalable. As your business grows, the digital solutions you use should grow with you. Custom software does precisely that – they offer you solid foundations on which they can easily scale to better accommodate more users and higher data volumes. With COTS that’s not always the case (and, even when they can scale, COTS developers will likely charge you to provide you with it).
  • Exclusive ownership. When you task a custom software development company with the creation of your own application, you can rest assured that you’ll be the sole owner of the final product. This means you’ll control when it’s updated, upgraded, and maintained. With COTS, you’re never the owner, meaning that you’re subject to the developers’ update and upgrade schedule.
  • Stronger security. Don’t get us wrong – most COTS are as secure as custom software. The problem is that hackers target COTS more because more companies use them. This means that COTS have more potential victims for attacks while also being more widely known (hence, being more exposed to scrutiny by malicious hackers). Naturally, that doesn’t mean that using custom software will prevent an attack by itself, but it will lower your chances of getting one. 
  • Longer shelf-life. When you buy a COTS, you don’t actually know how much that software will last. Sure, you can use it for as long as you have a machine to run it but at one point or another, its developers will discontinue it and stop updating it. This can pose a serious issue, as you won’t be able to patch up vulnerabilities and you’ll end up with outdated software. With custom software, you’ll be the owner, so you can keep updating it until it stops making sense for you to do so. 
  • Easier integration. Whenever you decide to bring new software into your digital ecosystem, you’ll have to think about how well it will interact with the rest of the applications you already use. Developers know that, so they try to build their software to maximize their compatibility. However, COTS engineers can’t anticipate your particular application ecosystem, so they build tools that integrate seamlessly with popular applications. While that might work a lot of times, custom software takes the integration up a notch, since these applications are developed to interact perfectly with your ecosystem as is.  
  • Lower costs. This might seem counterintuitive, as developing your own software from scratch does have a higher price tag than buying a COTS. However, that difference might narrow or disappear entirely over time as you pay for yearly licenses, new updates, or dedicated support for your COTS. With custom software, you’ll pay up upfront but gain crucial benefits that are otherwise unobtainable. 


Tips For Successful Custom Software Development

As it happens with any software development process, carrying out an effective custom software development lifecycle implies balancing a lot of things. From picking the ideal custom software provider and defining the technologies involved, to devising the overall development plan, there’s a lot to plan before diving into the process.

Here are some of the essential tips you need to know about:

  • Analyze if custom software is what you need. After reading all of the benefits we’ve mentioned above, chances are you are more than motivated to go for custom software. However, you first need to check whether it’s the right path for you.
    Consider your requirements and how unique they are, analyze the impact on productivity and finance a custom software can have, and think about how deep you want your digital transformation to be. If you aren’t sure, maybe a COTS alternative is better suited for you to better understand where you’re standing.
  • Clearly define what you’re looking for. Once you’ve decided custom software is for you, you need to be certain about what you’re looking for. A half-baked idea doesn’t cut it – you need to come up with a fully fleshed out idea with as many details as possible for developers to know what you truly want.
    That means defining your requirements for the project, considering that they have to be technically possible, unambiguous, consistent, feasible, and design independent. Requirements lay out the roadmap that developers will follow, so you need it to be as robust as possible.
  • Consider the technologies you’ll want to use. There are many technologies out there, especially some cutting edge ones like artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things, so choosing the ones that make the most sense for your project is paramount.
    Don’t jump on a development bandwagon simply because everyone else is doing it. A lot of technologies can give you a competitive edge, as long as you correctly use them in the proper project. Think of your business goals and see how those technologies can take you closer to them before including them in your requirements.
  • Pick your development team. Developing custom software takes time, effort, and money. So picking the team that will carry out your project needs some serious consideration. Maybe you have an in-house team full of rockstars that are ready to tackle your idea for custom software. Or perhaps that team is busy with other, more important tasks, forcing you to take a look outside your company. Maybe you don’t even have an in-house team!
    Regardless of your current situation, you need to analyze which team will work on your custom software development. Going with the in-house team can provide you more control but might keep your developers away from other pressing projects. Hiring outside help can relieve you from the daily grind but you may end up sacrificing some control.


How To Choose A Custom Development Company

Many businesses are choosing to partner with outsourcing custom development vendors to meet their software development needs. There are many reasons for that, from accessing talented developers that can fully devote themselves to your project to saving some money and reducing the time to market.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve decided to look for a custom software development company, you need to keep the following suggestions in mind:

  • Seek an experienced partner. While you’ll naturally look for a company that has an expert team of developers that understands the technologies in your project, you’ll also want an experienced group of engineers. Senior developers have the know-how to quickly build your desired solution with a higher productivity level, all while providing you value every step of the way. 
  • Check the company’s reputation. Examine the past work of the software development companies you’re considering to see if they are able to deliver. Browse through their portfolio, read reviews on sites like Clutch and Glassdoor, and even reach out to former clients to learn more about how those companies work. 
  • Analyze the company’s services. Next, you have to make sure you are partnering with a team that can deliver the development services you’re expecting. So, be sure that the companies you’re assessing can work on a project like yours, be it a mobile app, an AI platform, or your own blockchain. Also, check the models they can provide you. Companies like BairesDev can take care of the entire development lifecycle, augment your staff with the professionals you need to fill your IT gaps, or provide you with a delivery team that works autonomously to build your idea.
  • Ask about their development methodologies. There are several ways to develop software, including different techniques, methodologies, tools, languages, and frameworks. You should know about the ones used by the companies you’re scouting so you can pick the one that best suits your needs. As a rule of thumb, agile-led companies often offer you more flexibility and better overall management, thus increasing the efficiency of development.
  • Take the company’s location into account. It might feel like nothing to you, but where your potential development partner is located can deeply affect the development process. Thus, you need to decide whether you go for onshore development (partnering with a development company in your own country), nearshore development (hiring a company located in a country or region close to your own), or offshore development (working with a company located overseas). You can read more about the pros and cons of each of these in this article.
  • Think about costs. While a lot of businesses decide which development company to pick based on the price tag, that’s never a wise approach. Naturally, you’ll have a development budget that will influence your choice but going with the cheapest option most often yields the poorest results. Try to aim for a reputable and experienced company that will surely cost you a little more but that will guarantee higher quality results. 


Custom Software Development – A True Advantage

Now that you’ve read all the things you need to know about custom software development, you surely see that it’s a complex world where there’s more than meets the eye. Custom software can truly help you gain a competitive advantage but only if you know when to go for it and how to make it more successful. Hopefully, with all the tips and suggestions above, you’ll be able to pull that off.

And if you still have any doubts about it, you can always talk with BairesDev’s experts, who’ll be more than happy to help you decide whether custom software is the right fit for you and guide you through the process of defining the idea to finally bring it to success. 


Pablo Chamorro

By Pablo Chamorro

Pablo Chamorro is BairesDev's Chief Revenue Officer and is responsible for leading and developing the sales department in their plans to increase overall revenue streams. Pablo ensures that interdepartmental strategies are effectively applied for further expansion.

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