It’s so easy to start a business online.
Gone are the days when you had to buy web hosting just to have a website or email address. Nowadays, you can simply create a WordPress site or Gmail account in minutes.
Of course, these commercial tools are bootstrapped solutions at best. As your business grows, you’ll find that most of these off-the-shelf options are simply too simple or limited for your needs.
That’s when you know that it might be time for a custom software solution.
Here are some other signs you should look out for.
Having unmet business needs
Not all off-the-shelf software can solve every business problem. Some companies face unique situations that require a customized approach.
This is especially true if you provide an innovative product or service that’s never been done before.
Take Airbnb, for example.
When Airbnb came out, its goal of connecting tourists with private homeowners with extra rentable space was something new.
Thus, no off-the-shelf software platform or package could’ve made Airbnb possible.
The founders had to build the system from scratch.
The benefit of custom software is that it works 100% for you, similar to how a bespoke suit fits the wearer perfectly.
In contrast, an off-the-shelf solution forces you to fit your workflow to it, which isn’t good for productivity.
In Airbnb’s case, the founders initially wanted to limit the service’s coverage to only the areas near major conventions in downtown San Francisco.
That level of control is either impossible or limited in commercial software.
Another example of custom software is McDonald’s point-of-sale (POS) system called NP6.
NP6 is specifically designed to handle McDonald’s large volume of customer transactions with minimal slowdowns.
Knowing how many people any McDonald’s store gets in a day, it’s clear that no other POS system could handle that kind of surge—hence, the need for a custom solution.
Moreover, everything that the NP6 POS system does supports McDonald’s competitive advantage, including an intuitive system for fast ordering.
Depending on the customer’s preference, it can also connect to cash registers and card terminals.
Had McDonald’s settled for an off-the-shelf POS solution, it would’ve severely limited its operations and crippled its growth.
That, in a nutshell, is the power of a custom software solution. Everything just works smoothly, allowing your business to focus on being productive.
Having inefficient business processes
Efficient processes are at the heart of any successful business. So if they are less than ideal, it affects the stability of the enterprise.
See, the secret to a productive business is to have tailor-fit systems in place, no matter how
common you think your workflow is. The myth-buster below sums this up well:
This doesn’t matter as much when you’re starting.
Take Groupon, for example. The founder used a combination of off-the-shelf tools (like WordPress, FileMaker, and Apple Mail)
to build its MVP (minimum viable product).
But once you get to a certain size and your bootstrapped processes become inefficient, you need to switch to a custom solution to streamline your workflow.
Let’s look at an example. Say you want to cut costs, so you use Excel spreadsheets to track your website orders.
This is a slow and error-prone way of managing your orders because it involves manual labor. When you deal with hundreds of orders daily, it becomes a liability.
In this case, you’d want to switch to a bespoke inventory management system to help you automate the process.
This can help you save time and cost, improve scalability, and minimize errors.
Another example of an inefficient business process is relying on paper documents and forms. Most companies are already well aware of the benefits of having a paperless operation:
However, many organizations still can’t transition into a paperless operation for several reasons, like lack of management mandates or staff preference.
There’s also the huge task of adapting processes toward eliminating paper.
A good solution is to have a bespoke paperless office management system.
This can automate the creation of paperwork, which can be filled out by customers and staff, and later signed and stored digitally.
Custom software solutions are also indispensable for automating many business processes, giving your operations a dramatic speed boost.
Not only that, but they can also reduce errors and free up your human resources for more important tasks.
Just look at the benefits that McKinsey reaped when they tested robotic process automation (RPA).
The bottom line is that an inefficient pipeline can hamper the productivity of your business. Having a bespoke software solution is the best way to tackle this problem.
Wanting seamless integration with existing software
Effortless integration with the software your organization already uses is one of the advantages of custom software that off-the-shelf options rarely have.
This enables you to connect your various software platforms, so they can work together, share data, or coordinate complex tasks between departments seamlessly.
Here are some other reasons businesses would want to integrate their internal systems.
Reaping these benefits is important because most companies use multiple software tools.
Unfortunately, switching between multiple apps costs time and attention, which can lead to a drop in productivity.
For instance, let’s say you have an e-commerce store and someone orders on your website.
Without integration, you’ll have to manually send that order to your warehouse to fulfill your order. They, in turn, would need to request fulfillment to schedule a delivery to the customer.
This is a time-consuming way of doing things. Not only that, but you also risk information getting lost in the pipeline. For example, your warehouse staff might forget to schedule item deliveries.
These problems are minimized when you integrate your systems.
Now, whenever a customer orders from your site, that data is automatically rippled to relevant modules like inventory and shipping.
You can even integrate analytics into your pipeline to spot trends and forecast optimal inventory levels.
It would be challenging to have this level of integration with off-the-shelf software because they usually aren’t designed to do that.
So, if you have a complex ecosystem of tools and apps that need to cooperate with each other, a bespoke approach is a must.
Needing an advantage over the competition
You might consider getting custom software if you’re looking for an edge over your competitors.
CSG Solutions summed it up best:
Cornerstone Solutions Group
It makes perfect sense. Using similar off-the-shelf software means your system can’t have a better performance, faster response time, or advanced features than your competitor.
Differentiating yourself should start with the tools you use.
For instance, let’s say you’re selling antiques online. With a typical off-the-shelf e-commerce platform like Shopify, you’re limited to the usual features.
However, you realize that shoppers might appreciate viewing an antique from many angles or zooming in for a closer look.
Offering these capabilities can help your site stand out in your industry.
The only way you can have that is with a customized system.
A bespoke system is beneficial because it works just the way you want it to. This allows everyone to focus on delivering quality products and services better than competitors.
Planning for business growth
Are you planning to scale up your business? Then you might need to supplement that growth with a custom software solution.
Indeed, having a robust IT infrastructure is a prerequisite for successful business growth.
Many businesses fail when scaling because they struggle with the added demand.
Their systems often can’t handle the surge in customers, orders, and transactions, leading to a bad customer experience.
This can often be a problem with off-the-shelf platforms. Usually, these tools can only handle a certain amount of data or traffic. Thus, your growth is limited by the capacity of your system.
If you can’t get around this limitation, growth is impossible.
The best solution is to have bespoke software programmed to handle the influx.
Your internal system should also take as many manual tasks off your plate as possible.
This helps avoid decision fatigue, the frequent consequence when a business owner tries to do everything himself.
Investing in a custom automated solution allows you to free up your time and attention from mundane tasks, enabling you to focus on more important matters.
It also forces you to delegate, which can speed up your operation dramatically.
Finally, a custom solution helps make your business more attractive to investors by giving your operations added adaptability and resilience. And as you know, funding is crucial for growth.
The Horizons Tracker
Scaling is one of the most challenging aspects of managing a business. And in our opinion, custom software is a fantastic tool to help you glide through it.
Desiring exclusive ownership of the software
One of the perks of having custom software is that you own it. That means you can do anything you want—modify, share, or license it.
In contrast, all off-the-shelf software have End User License Agreements (EULA) that prevent you from doing so.
Contrary to what you think, you don’t own off-the-shelf platforms even if you pay for them. You’re merely renting them for a fee.
This is especially apparent with software-as-a-service (SaaS) because the software isn’t even installed in your own systems!
This can be problematic because, for the most part, larger companies would need to modify their software to fit existing workflows.
It can be illegal, or even downright impossible, to achieve this with off-the-shelf software.
Most custom software agencies have clauses that specify that any app they build is 100% yours. However, be sure to verify this in the contract before working with a service provider.
For instance, when you work with DECODE, we ensure that the code is yours and yours alone.
Lastly, owning your software opens the possibility of selling or licensing it.
For instance, Epic Games took their in-house game engine,
the Unreal Engine, and allowed other game developers to use it for a fee.
It’s currently the most widely used game development platform globally and provides a chunk of the company’s revenue.
So, if you’re worried about the high upfront cost of bespoke software, think of its revenue possibilities. It might make the expense worthwhile!
Need custom software?
If you’re looking for someone to create custom software for you, DECODE can be your team!
We specialize in developing cutting-edge mobile solutions—from messaging apps to digital banking platforms.
We have a pool of 70+ experts across diverse fields to ensure that we’re up to the task with whatever your project requires.
Interested? Get in touch with us today and discuss your next project. Discover how we can work together to make it succeed!