Custom Software: An Invaluable Asset
In theory, a mass-market company that already creates the solutions you need probably makes them faster, better, and cheaper than custom builds, right? I mean, experience almost always leads to expertise and better value, right?
Well, in practice, it’s not quite that straightforward.
The truth is that over time, building, using, and maintaining your own software is an invaluable asset to your company compared with licensing someone else’s. Whether you build your software in-house or outsource the work to an agency like By the Pixel, systems designed to work well with your specific business, inventory, and/or industry add immediate value to your product and company as a whole.
Is building and owning your own software less expensive? Ehh…not usually. But will it ultimately give you a better product built to meet your specific business needs that will return on its investment over time? Always.
And there are several reasons for this, but for now we’ll focus on just a handful.
Customized web applications are able to address both the form and function of your business, organized and displayed for you to appreciate, catalog, and use the way you want. For this reason, the ability to customize software for design and ease-of-use is often the first reason business owners start to research designing, building, and customizing their own.
With custom software, there are no existing design limitations or templates into which you must squeeze every facet of your company; your dashboard can look and behave any way you imagine, and you can even request options far beyond those included when you license turnkey software. In short, if you can imagine it, custom web developers can bring it to life.
Let’s say you own a Denver-based coffee shop, and you’ve used mass-market software services for a couple of years. Now your business is doing very well, and you have the opportunity to sell your coffee on-the-go from a truck across the metro area, or you want to branch out into selling tea or pastries, or you want to open a second brick-and-mortar location in Aurora, Brighton, or Englewood. Templated software may or may not allow you to do any of those things within the same business account, and if they do, it will likely be more expensive and cumbersome to operate.
However, software that is refined to meet your specific business needs is built with room for you to grow, from the very beginning. See, custom web development isn’t necessarily just about the software itself: it must also take into account the endless possibilities inherent to business ownership, and more specifically, your business goals.
So when you hire someone to build custom software solutions for your business, you’re hiring them to develop the scaffolding for you to reach even your loftiest aspirations. And you can scale up or down without worrying about how these changes might affect the usability of third party software, because the framework was built for your specific needs at the outset. As you might imagine, this kind of future-proofing makes it smoother for you to scale your business and share the most up-to-date data about the services and products you offer with customers and clients.
Better inventory/service management and scalability may also improve your website’s search engine ranking, as visitors experience a more clearly defined user journey, which positively impacts your visibility and conversions.
As businesses grow, their needs change. The best businesses adapt to these changes and present new information or products efficiently, both in person and online. Custom-built applications allow your company to pivot quickly in response to any changes you encounter. Although the initial migration from mass-market software to a custom build may be tedious, the final product is much easier to fine-tune when (not if!) the need inevitably arises.
Back to our coffee shop example, imagine that you’ve grown your business to include 103 different types of pastries from other businesses in Denver, Aurora, Englewood, and Castle Rock. However, your turnkey software solution only allows you to have 75 unique items from two suppliers listed in the inventory database at a given time. You now have to submit a request to the large software company to add inventory items and supplier options, wait for them to approve the request, and then wait even longer for them to implement the changes, probably for an upcharge or other added fee. And in the meantime, you and your partner businesses either lost out on selling those added products, or you’ve wasted valuable time recording it manually somewhere else, leaving you vulnerable to data entry and recording errors.
But when you use customized software, you don’t have to submit feature requests and hope it gets enough votes for implementation from another company’s development team: Your agency or in-house dev team can simply add it into the framework that was already built with your business in mind. “103 inventory items in two Colorado locations using four outside vendors now? Excellent, now let’s just go ahead and assume you’re going to grow to eventually need 250 or more inventory items and then build it to add and accommodate even more items, vendors and locations, indefinitely.”
With custom software, this process takes days or weeks, rather than months or longer. Even more complex changes can be made in far less time than they would when you have to wait for third-party implementation from mass-market software companies.
This means that you can respond to inventory changes and client requests much more quickly and with fewer barriers to make it happen.
Information security is more important now than ever. We’ve all heard of large corporations experiencing data leaks, ransomware attacks, malware, and other security breaches.
Sometimes this happens when many companies license the same features or applications from the same commercial software company to build their websites. By nature, there are a limited number of styles, applications, formats, and features available from mass-produced software companies. As such, smaller companies who rely on these turnkey websites for products may have similar designs, frameworks, and features to one another, which might make it easier for hackers to identify and target weaknesses across their sites.
Software engineers can also add additional layers of security at your request during a custom build, and you can share this improved security with your clients, which bolsters confidence in you and your product.
Let’s say you chose to invest in custom software with additional layers of security for your growing coffee shop business. The process took some time and money up front, but you, your staff, your vendors, and by extension, your guests, are very pleased with the outcome. However, your closest competitor in Denver chose to continue using turnkey software they found a few years ago online to save money.
Imagine now that this commercial software company experiences a ransomware attack, shutting down operations for several hours on a busy weekend morning for every single website that uses their products while their IT department works to resolve the issue. Your competitor is stuck trying to accept cash only, if they can even open the shop. Meanwhile, your coffee shop using custom software is unaffected by this attack, and you’re now serving hot mochas to a “latte” your competitor’s regulars.
See, the framework built into your system is unique and protected enough to deter would-be attackers, leading to fewer security breaches. Because why would an attacker target a single coffee shop’s custom website when they could instead try to take down millions of websites affiliated with a single large corporation’s software?
Speaking of fewer outages and increased client confidence, custom software is also more stable to use, because it doesn’t have to follow overarching changes from within an existing company’s software. Your support team can easily update and maintain custom applications without additional training from an outside company, and you never have to worry about a feature you rely on being eliminated without warning.
Imagine your poor competitor’s coffee shop again. Once the ransomware attack is resolved, the software company they used decides to roll out a new security update that starts at 6 am on a Friday and won’t be finished updating for a couple of hours. Friday mornings are a busy time in a coffee shop to be without essential business software!
Then, when the update is complete, the shop owner notices that one of their favorite inventory tracking features has now been removed from the template. So now they’ve lost revenue during the update as well as one of their favorite features, without being able to plan for either!
By contrast, because your custom software is tailored to your business needs, you’re able to schedule updates during low-traffic times, like during Broncos games or predicted powder days, well in advance to best suit your shop’s needs. Additionally, these scheduled updates are planned, organized, and timely, rather than a massive overhaul that is out of your control and may disrupt your users’ experience or data. And that feature your competitor lost out on? You have one that’s even better, and there’s no chance it’ll ever go missing during future updates with a custom build (unless you request it, of course).
Let’s be honest: You started your own business because you saw a problem that you could solve or a service that you could render in exchange for money. You likely envisioned your passion and dedication to this product or service propelling you to financial freedom.
Did you know that some software companies restrict the use of their products to certain geographic locations? Or purposes? When you agree to the licensing terms of another company, there is nothing to prevent them from discontinuing service on the basis of disagreeing with where or how you conduct your business.
But when you build your own software, either in-house or with an agency like By the Pixel, you answer to no one. You are not at the whim of another business in any way. You can change your business’s data, scale, migrate, stick all of the data on a hard drive for a sweet memory in retirement, delete the software forever…without limitations. And if you eventually decide to sell your company someday, custom software almost always adds real-dollar value to the final deal.
And that’s the entrepreneurial dream, right? That’s freedom.
Convinced? Want to Partner With Us?
Obviously, this blog is not without bias, since By the Pixel is a Denver-based company that makes custom software. However, we truly believe in our services, and we believe in our ability to add value, security, and agility to your business through a partnered, tailored digital effort.