What is custom software development?
Custom software development is like designing your own home, or your own vehicle, to your exact requirements and specifications.
The process starts by obtaining your requirements, which may include descriptions of how your business or organisation functions, and how a software system may work to assist in your various business processes. I list of the objectives is important as well as some detail as to how a software system may help to achieve those objectives. The budget and timeframe for completion for a software project are also key requirements.
Once the requirements are largely known, and the budget and timeframe approved, the process of development can begin with many check points along the way where you can provide feedback as to how the developing system is working compared to how you expected it to work. With regular involvement and input to the development of your custom software, a software program or system can be built that works for your organisation to significantly improve the day-to-day processes and efficiencies that are often time consuming, prone to error, and frustrating to employees and customers.
Large organisations often set aside hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to build custom software solutions. This is obviously not feasible for small to medium sized businesses. However, there are still many areas of custom software development that can lead to big gains in small to medium sized organisations. Integration between different systems can save a lot of time by avoiding double or even triple entry of data. Or even a software application that handles many or your core business functions or processes may still be in reach and help your organisation become more efficient and responsive to your customers.
Designing and building software
If you had to design your own new vehicle, what would you include in your design choices? There would be a lot of decisions to make. Some questions to answer might include:
- What is the primary purpose of your new vehicle?
- How big should the vehicle be?
- Who will be the primary driver of the vehicle?
- How many seats should it have?
- How powerful should the engine be?
- What fuel economy do you want to obtain?
- What colour should your car be?
- Do you need to tow a trailer or caravan with your new vehicle?
- Do you need to carry a lot of luggage?
- What safety features do you require?
- What about other conveniences such as GPS navigation facility, a radio and CD player, heaters, air-conditioning? And the list goes on.
There would be many decisions to be made if you wanted to design and build your own vehicle from scratch. Custom Software Development is similar to designing and building your own vehicle. You can build a Windows based application to do exactly what you need it to do and it can look and behave exactly how you expect it to. Many decisions and design considerations go into building your own custom application.
Benefits of Custom Software Development
If you were designing your own vehicle you would include in the vehicle the features that most closely matched your preference or requirements. The result would be a vehicle that would be most useful and efficient for your needs. Most organisations have particular processes that are unique to the organisation. They may be similar to another organisation, but not exactly the same. Custom software can be built to your exact requirements to match your current business processes. Datawise have recently implemented several fully customised membership management systems for some of our customers. The custom software was developed to meet the specific needs of the organisations where managing membership was a key part of the organisation. The membership software has resulted in the following benefits (as stated by the clients):
- It is faster to access information about members due to easy to use and flexible searching capabilities
- Information about members is more update-to-date, accurate and complete as a consequence of enforcing rules within the system to collect all required information before saving a member record
- Producing mail-out lists is easy due to the quality of the data and ease of which queries can be executed to extract members who meet certain criteria
- Membership information is protected by security only allowing those who should have access to it to view or edit the information
- Batch processing for renewals, invoicing, credit card processing, and direct debit processing has introduced many efficiencies that previously was completed in a much more manual and time consuming way
- Automatic processes (completed by the system on a scheduled basis) means less manual work for customer service staff and ensures that processes do not get missed
- Reporting is significantly easier, less time consuming, and accurate because information is stored in a robust and accessible format
- Reliability of the system and information is greatly improved by building the system on a proven enterprise level database management system (Microsoft SQL Server)
- Automatic history is collected when membership changes occur to ensure a proper audit history in the event that a tracking of past information change is required
- Critical personal information (credit card and bank account details) are encrypted and only accessible by staff who have correct access and appropriate security configuration which has improved the security of critical financial details significantly
- Information is accessible remotely to authorised staff which makes accessing and updating the information much easier when visiting members in their workplaces and therefore helps to keep information accurate and avoids double entry
- To have all the core functionality relating to our members in one system is a huge benefit. One single transaction may involve membership payment, donations and event bookings. The customised system can handle all these components together to make the experience better for the member and the customer service rep
Ultimately, all these benefits mean improved customer service and reduced costs for the organisation as fewer staff members are required to complete the same amount of work.
Costs of Custom Software Development
A discussion about customer software development would not be complete without considering the costs associated with designing and building your own custom software system. Going back to our analogy from earlier, the cost to purchase a new Holden Commodore is approximately $35,000. You can compare this with “off-the-shelf software” that is not designed specifically for your organisation but includes some of the common things an organisation may typically need. The research and development costs for the recent range of Holden Commodore’s (designed and built in Australia) is estimated to have exceeded $1 billion. Customised software development is similar to designing your own vehicle, although not normally to this extreme since you are not usually preparing your software system for mass market like the Holden Commodore was. Custom designing and building a software system specifically for your needs may initially exceed the cost of an off the shelf package but in the long run, you may be able to save money by ensuring that your processes are conducted efficiently through the implementation of a system that meets your needs more closely than a generic “off-the-shelf” software package.
If your organisation needs to improve internal processes and efficiencies, it is well worth considering how a custom software system may be able to assist you to do that. It may require some up-front investment, but the long term results can be well worth that initial investment.
A custom software system may be best used to integrate some existing systems together to reduce the wasted time of double entry and correction of errors caused by double entry. Or, it may be a complete system that can handle most of your day-to-day business processes. Datawise offer a wide range of custom software development and integration services. Feel free to talk to us more if you can see that a custom software system may be able to help your organisation.