Have you ever been faced with an issue in your business and one of the solutions you are contemplating is if you should use custom development to solve your business issue? How do you know if you are making the right decision? Ten years ago, the idea of custom developing seemed like the only way to get something that was perfectly tuned to your business needs and processes. Is it still the same today?
In this article, we will explore when you might want to consider custom development and when you may want to use other solutions to get to where you are going.
How Important is Technology to Your Companies Success?
Are you a technology company? Is being ahead of where everyone else is important to the success of your company? If so, you may want to look at ways that you can use custom development to keep yourself ahead. Keep in mind that custom development is never the less expensive option. Not only is there the expense of first-time development, there is ongoing maintenance and changes that you will be continually making to keep that software ahead of its time.
Do You Have the Time and Energy for Maintenance?
When it comes to custom development, you must be ready to support this solution beyond version one. According to Google, right now technology is changing at the pace of 13% a year. That means just to stay current (not ahead) you must change your software on average of about 13% per year to just keep up with other technological advances. If you are using technology to stay ahead of others, then you may need to change at the rate of 25% to 50% a year, or more, depending on the pace you want to grow and how you may want to grow your company. Consider the expense of maintenance at 13% and another 10-35% for the advancement of features per year and it starts to get expensive.
Have you Considered Other Options?
Are there solutions out there that have 85% of the features and functionality that you are looking for? Starting with a base solution and building onto that technology will take a considerable amount of the heavy lifting off your shoulders. When you are adding on to a solution that already exists, consider the 13% change in technology a year will be taken on by that solutions provider (if it is a modern solution that is advancing) that will help keep your costs down. There is also the option for configuration vs. customization when it comes to many modern solutions.
The Difference Between Configuration and Customization
The difference between configuration and customization can be significant for a company when it comes to ongoing maintenance costs. Configuration of a solution is when you modify fields, names, look and feel, flow and processes to fit your business from within a software solutions framework that has already been developed. When you do this in modern software solutions that are out today, means the majority of the time spent won’t be on reconfiguration of these options. When you customize, you are making changes to that solution in a different way – that isn’t from within the framework. Customized changes, outside a software’s framework, means that it could need updating when upgrades come out.
Why does this matter?
If you are looking to continue to stay ahead of technology – you don’t want to be weighed down by waiting for features and functionality that other users can receive while you are spending money waiting for just your extra features to be brought up to the capability of working in your solution. Your business will not receive a return on the investment of upgrades to customizations that only bring the code current.
When Customization Is Good
Customization can be very good if the return on investment is high, and there are no other ways to get these advantages. It is especially good if you can make these add-on customizations to a framework or software solution that will allow you to develop in a way that is in line with their guidelines and won’t impact upgrades. This is the best scenario you can be in. We often caution that, at best, 85% of what you are looking for can be found in a software solution that is readily available and on the market today. You can configure another 10% to match your business leaving only the last 5% for needed customizations. This is the ideal situation to be in from a software perspective and the least risky to be in from a business perspective.
I visited one of our clients that is in the technology space selling various product solutions to both businesses and consumers. They had 100% developed their customer relationship management and order management system to integrate with their back-end accounting solution. They developed this solution seven years prior and have a development team in-house comprised of four to five developers that continued to develop the solution to integrate with other solutions. The return on investment of having the team internally continued to decline as more of the time spent, from a development perspective, went into maintaining the solution vs. adding the needed features and functionality. By three years into their investment, it started to become a strain on the organization to not be advancing fast enough to keep up with the demands of their sales staff and customers. By year four, other technologies out in the marketplace had more features than the solution they had developed in-house. After seven years into this investment they finally got rid of the customized solution and replaced it with a modern customer relationship management product that had all the features they were looking for with no customization needed.
Do you want to be in the software development business, or do you have another business to run?
There are times when custom development is 100% needed. Honestly, in this day and age, it can become a distraction to running your company. Of the clients that I have seen go the 100% custom route, they end up changing that solution out in the end. Today technology to run your business is readily available and configurable to meet the ongoing changing demands of your businesses. Don’t get caught behind the curve.