When is custom software best for you?
(If you need quick information, look here: FAQ custom software).
Table of contents
1. What exactly is custom software?
2. Custom software vs. standard software - the advantages and disadvantages of the software types
- Degree of innovation
- Advice, support and cooperation
- Ownership of data and of the solution
When is custom software your best choice?
Depending on the application, there are many good arguments in favour of standard or custom software. We observe the following three cases again and again:
- Case 1: There is a cheap, quickly available standard solution that meets your requirements. In this case, it is worthwhile to do some research and get an overview of the market. If Shopify, Woo-Commerce, Magento or comparable low-cost industry solutions (even outside of shops and e-commerce) are sufficient for your purposes, then start with them! It makes little sense to immediately invest a lot of effort in "nice-to-have" requirements that may not yet be needed.
- Case 2: There are standard solutions for your use case, but they are cost-intensive (quickly more than €100,000) or require extensive adjustments.
- Case 3: There is no (suitable) standard solution for your task.
If you find yourself in case 2 or 3 or would like to clarify what custom software actually is, this article will help you.
What exactly is custom software?
The term custom software describes programmes that are tailor-made for your specific application. This can be, for example, mobile apps, special e-commerce solutions such as marketplaces or other web applications.
Do you want to digitalise analogue processes or optimise digital processes, maybe even realise completely new ideas? Then it is worth considering custom software.
Unlike standard software, custom solutions are just as lean or comprehensive as you need them to be. This means you don't pay for features you don't use, and you can design the solution to optimally support your processes.
You don't have to bend your software or your processes, and you remain flexible even if your requirements change later. Customisation gives you the opportunity to offer your staff and customers something new and to solve real problems. It also helps you stand out from the competition and remain special, because you are much harder to copy.
The best thing about working with custom software? You have full control over it! Because you determine the development roadmap and thus also the priorities.
What should your solution look like? Which components do you need? Which processes should be automated? You can decide all that yourself.
Custom software vs. standard software - the advantages and disadvantages of the software types
It is not always easy to decide which solution is better for one's own application. Is it better to use custom software and first accept higher development costs? Or would it be better to use standard software, even though it does not really fit one's own project? Or is there another way?
If you find the decision difficult, the following aspects can help you:
Do you know this situation? You want to tailor the software to your workflow, but in the end you are left with the option to do the opposite and bend your processes to fit the technology?
Standard software is often customisable - but only within a limited framework. And this framework is often smaller in practice than marketing documents or salespeople suggest beforehand. This means that some things may have to be developed individually for you, or compromises may have to be made in the implementation of your requirements.
If you want to digitalise or optimise your processes or implement completely new ideas, one thing is crucial: flexibility. Only those who have the possibility to adapt their software again and again to changing conditions, new customer requirements and insights will be able to survive and stand out in the ever faster and more complex times.
Custom software is therefore particularly interesting for companies that have very specific requirements for their software solutions or that want or need to react very quickly to new developments in order to expand their strategic advantage.
Degree of innovation
If you want to determine the roadmap of your software yourself and not be dependent on the sometimes lengthy and hardly influenceable decisions of your standard software manufacturer, there is no way around custom software. With standard solutions, you have no direct influence on the development of new features. Only if you decide on a custom project can you actively determine which new functionalities will be built, when and how.
Do your processes still run mainly manually, or do you have to deal with frequent changes between media or different systems? Then, custom software that maps your processes exactly offers you great potential for automation and optimisation. It gives you the opportunity to create customised user experiences and thus inspire your customers and make life easier for your employees.
One of the best arguments for standard software is often that it is immediately available. The solutions are already on the market and only need to be set up - in theory. Unfortunately, the reality is often different.
Because standard solutions have to address many different users, they are frequently very broadly positioned. All these features sound great at first in the decision-making process - until you actually want to introduce the software. Then it turns out that most of the options are only really useful for certain sectors, user groups or applications. And then a lot of things have to be reconfigured. This costs not only time but also money, because many systems are so complex that experts are needed to adapt them to specific use cases.
With customised development, things are different. Here, your solution is developed in a separate project. This usually takes a little longer initially. However, the solution is then tailored specifically to you, which leads to better results in the long run.
To solve this problem of the initially longer development time, we founded wunschlösung and developed our own code generators. This is software that we feed with information from your project and which generates the basis of your application. This process significantly shortens the initial development process and ensures that your solution becomes extremely robust and flexible. With the time saved, we can in turn focus on the aspects that make your solution unique and help you stand out from the competition.
Advice, support and cooperation
If you choose a mass-market standard software (case 1), you are probably one of many customers. In this case, you should not expect customised support or advice - but sometimes you can at least book support packages. If your use case is not too complicated, this may be sufficient - but we've been through that already.
It gets more exciting in case 2, i.e. the scenario in which you are thinking about a more expensive standard solution that is then adapted or extended for you via customising.
Depending on the approach of the standard software provider (real consulting vs. sales) and the skills of your contact person, your use case will be analysed more or less intensively together with you. Even if the business card of your contact person does not immediately say something about sales or distribution, but perhaps rather consultant, business analyst, solution architect or similar, you should keep one thing in mind: This person's job is to understand your requirements and match them with the existing product functionalities of one (or more) standard solutions. Any discrepancies identified are later resolved through customising. Their job does not normally include actually looking at your use case with an open mind and searching for the best overall solution for you.
This does not necessarily have to end in a complete disaster. If the fit between your needs and the scope of the standard software solution is high, this can lead to great results.
You should only bear in mind that you may not receive neutral advice here. Agencies with several standard solutions in their portfolio have contracts with their manufacturers and receive different attractive conditions. The internal availability of development teams is also said to influence the recommendation received from time to time. So let technological recommendations be well justified and critically question the reasoning.
Even if you have opted for (or are considering) fully customised development instead, there are some aspects to consider. The solution scope is much larger than when customising standard solutions. Therefore, it is particularly important that your software partner gets an exact picture of your ideas and works out the best possible solution together with you. From our point of view, you should make sure that your partner's consulting approach covers the following four dimensions:
understanding on the part of your partner for your professional world and that of your customers (and, if applicable, their customers).
methodical know-how to find the right solution for your custom situation together with you and to optimise your processes and the like before the actual programming starts.
strategic understanding, holistic thinking and business model experience - so that the end result is not a solution that nobody wants to pay for, but an optimum for your customers and your business
technological excellence, because in order to find the right target state together in the consulting phase, you also need to know what the solution space looks like
What happens next once you have chosen a software partner depends, of course, to a large extent on the provider and the development effort. In most cases, you will have an end-to-end contact person who will take care of the management of the implementation internally. Or you work directly with the development teams on the project. Here the approaches are similar between customised development and the customisation of standard software.
When your solution finally goes into operation, you usually keep these contact persons, with whom you can directly discuss and plan further development or customisation wishes.
If there are any problems or additional requests later on, support is also just a phone call, email or ticket away. In customised development, you are not one customer among thousands - so you get solutions to your problems much faster and more directly.
There are different models here, both for standard software and for custom solutions. With standard software, the prices usually depend on the range of functions, the area of application, the number of users and the period of use.
It makes little sense to compare the costs of a mass product like Shopify, where many customers share the development costs, with a standard software or custom solution that has been adapted for you. However, the latter two cases are definitely in the same order of magnitude. Due to recurring licence fees and customising costs, standard software projects can even be more expensive than customised developments.
There is no point in beating about the bush in either case: building a reasonably customised online platform, portal or marketplace always involves a major investment.
Especially with a custom software solution, there are many factors that influence the costs. Does the IT partner of your choice start from scratch every time or does he use tools that help reduce development time and costs? Is it possible to use modules that efficiently solve certain sub-use cases and do not have to be developed anew each time?
The architecture and maturity of the technology used also have a major influence on the subsequent costs. If the solution is built quickly at the beginning in order to get up and running quickly, it can initially be cheap. However, when the traffic increases and the solution reaches its limits, high adaptation costs often follow. Some technological approaches and architectures, on the other hand, are already designed for scalability, making exactly that unnecessary.
You should also check whether your partner offers the possibility to start with a small project in order to quickly generate an initial benefit. Does this have to be discarded later on, or can it be seamlessly developed further because precisely this case has been taken into account?
If you want to know more about this, you can also read our blog article on the topic of "[What does custom software cost?]"(/en/blog/was-kostet-individualsoftware-teil-1)
Ownership of data and of the solution
The trend towards Software as a Service (SaaS), i.e. "renting" software that resides on the provider's servers, continues in the standard software industry. The reasons for this are advantages such as quick implementation and reduced hosting costs. However, SaaS solutions have a clear disadvantage: data sovereignty. Here there is a high degree of dependence on the service provider. And already at the beginning of the project, a clear contractual arrangement must be made for the transfer and return of data. During use, issues such as data security and data protection are then the responsibility of the software provider.
Instead, an individual solution allows you to retain full control over your data. And not only your data belong to you - the software solution as a whole also is yours. This gives you freedom of design and use that standard software cannot offer - because with standardised solutions you are not the owner, but the tenant.
Depending on the provider, a hybrid scenario is also possible. Data and software belong to you, but your IT partner runs them for you (on servers rented in your name). Then you don't have to worry about technical support, maintenance, (security) updates and so on, but you still retain full control.
What software is suitable for you and your application depends on various criteria. In principle, standard solutions are neither better nor worse than custom software. If your project is relatively simple and close to an available standard software, it hardly makes sense to reinvent the wheel. But if you value uniqueness, innovation and above all flexibility, you should check whether a customised solution is the more suitable way for you.
Are you still unsure? In any case, a detailed exchange with providers of standard software and experts for customised development should be essential for making a decision.
Tip 1: In addition to standard software, find out about the possibilities of customised development for your specific case. Distinguish between advice that is open to solutions and sales talk. Even if this alone is no guarantee of genuine advice, a look at the price tag may help. Someone who shares his years of expertise with you in an open-minded way is not likely to do it "smart for free".
Tip 2: Be aware of the different consulting approaches: providers of standard software can only cover your requirements with the products in their portfolio, even if they are not optimally suited to your case.
Custom software specialists, on the other hand, will (hopefully!) focus on your use case and work with you to find the best solution.
Make sure that your IT partner to be is able to empathise with the world of your customers and processes, and that he or she is a partner on an equal footing with you.
Tip 3: Why not visit your future implementation partner at their premises? It's easier to see how the team "ticks" and what is real and what is just a "meeting facade".
That's all folks?
So is the only choice left between a standard product and customised development?
As a future online platform, portal or marketplace operator, do I always have to decide whether to go down the path of "standard product with limits" or "flexible but more costly customised development"?
In our opinion: no! We stumbled across exactly this gap and set ourselves the goal of developing a solution that combines the efficiency advantages of a standard product with the flexibility of customised development.
While providers of standard solutions concentrate on what still needs to be adapted in customising or where your process even needs to be changed, we turn the tables. We first look at your use case and focus on it. Then we look at which modular elements we can integrate to save time and money.
We create the basic framework with the help of our code generators - fast, high-quality and scalable. Then, if necessary, further modules are integrated for frequently solved tasks. What is still missing is added either manually or with our code generators.
The result is a solution that is tailored exactly to your needs and will also be flexible in the future, making efficient use of your IT budget.
Would you like to learn more about our code generators? In this video, Simon demonstrates how they function.
Any questions left?
If you still have questions, write to us!
And if the question is: "Can you support us in such a decision?" Drum roll … Yes! We can. And we really like to do it!
Just get in touch, then we'll find a date for a digital get-to-know-you chat and talk about what you're up to!
We look forward to meeting you!
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