4 considerations for custom application development
Deciding whether your organization should build or buy a solution can be daunting. Out-of-the-box products can serve a wide breadth of scenarios, but one size doesn’t always fit all. While some organizations can function well enough with standard features and configuration, others that don’t quite fit the mold may be better off with custom application development to meet their unique business challenges. Here are some of the main things to consider when evaluating your organization and its business needs against options in the market:
Feature requirements are often the biggest factor in deciding whether to build or buy. If your organization is using a standard business model and processes, one of the many OOB solutions could be a great fit. Pre-built solutions come with many standard features that accommodate use cases across various industries and afford configuration to match the needs of specific businesses. These products are usually updated and improved regularly with new features and often have many 3rd party integrations to enhance available functionality. On the other hand, OOB products are more difficult to customize outside the bounds of available configuration and you might not get all the functionality you want.
If your product or service requires software that fits a specific need not supported by off-the-shelf products, you could be sacrificing time and revenue by trying to fit the mold of a pre-built solution. Custom software gives you more control over what you get which can lead to a better experience for your customers and your staff. You won’t need to change your business procedures to fit a pre-developed product and you won’t be paying for features you aren’t going to use. In either case, thorough definition of requirements is key in making sure you get the product that fits your business needs.
Build or buy, there are many costs associated with adopting an enterprise software solution so be sure you’re accounting for everything from evaluation to launch, training, and support (just to name a few) that may be required as underestimating can lead to big headaches or worse down the road. Out-of-the-box products still require implementation and configuration which can vary in cost depending on scale and complexity. If you aren’t thorough with the requirements gathering and testing processes, it could be costly to make changes later. With custom development, it can be tempting to sacrifice quality for cost but be wary of the impact on things that may cost you later like performance and scale. Don’t forget to factor in ongoing support and maintenance costs, either.
When deciding between OOB and custom development, it’s important to weigh the timeline factor to ensure that you’ll have a working solution within a timeframe that supports your business goals. OOB products are ready for consumption and can be lightly configured based on the individual customer’s preferences. That means no custom development though it still takes time to implement.
Conversely, custom solution timelines tend to be longer. You won’t get a shippable product immediately so be sure to spend time creating an accurate scope and discuss deadlines before moving forward with a development team. In both cases the time and effort required to integrate a new solution with your organization’s existing technology ecosystem should not be underestimated.
Scalability and Maintenance
What will your business’ needs look like in the next 5 years? How about 10? While custom solutions provide unique flexibility, you need to be conscious of scalability when designing requirements. Will the application be able to support the volume of your business as it grows? In this aspect, OOB solutions are generally more equipped to scale or upgrade as the need arises.
Product maintenance can be a huge growing pain down the road so be sure to think about long-term support for your solution. OOB products generally have a large support staff with service contracts available to fit various levels of need. When considering custom development, think about long-term maintenance and longevity of the application. Cost to maintain can increase dramatically for legacy systems that become outdated and do not have dedicated support.
In the end, whether you go with a Commercial off-the-shelf solution or custom development, make sure you have clearly defined the needs of your business and evaluated the risks associated with each option in terms of features, cost, timing, scale, and ongoing support and maintenance. Taking the time to capture requirements thoroughly can help save you from ending up with a solution that doesn’t match up with your business needs.
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