The race for a competitive edge using software is higher than ever before. A development team must be comfortable with your business niche and the process of building custom software, understand your unique workflows, and build scalable solutions that will be viable for years.
How can businesses be as strategic as possible when choosing a developer who will take the
time to understand their business and have the skills to stay competitive?
Building custom software versus buying a SaaS solution
When organizations need software to automate a process, the easiest solution is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). There are hundreds, if not thousands, of SaaS products on the market to automate nearly every aspect of your business, from accounting to project management to sales. SaaS products are quick to implement, affordable, and easy to use.
The downside? You’re limited to SaaS functionality built for everyone and not specifically for you. Your business workflows must fit into the SaaS technology rather than the technology customized to your business requirements and can interfere with the way your employees perform daily tasks and inhibit your unique strategies. SaaS is often the most affordable option at the expense of flexibility. A SaaS application built for the masses can only do so much. A custom application can do anything you need. It lets you own the product allows for growth and additional features while giving you a competitive edge.
Become more efficient and more productive by building what employees need rather than compelling them to work with limited SaaS functionality. Organizations might hesitate over the initial investment and the questionable return on that investment. Still, a custom solution will often prove to be much more cost-effective in the long run and can even make you money.
Custom, like SaaS, is not a fit for every case. There are plenty of SaaS products on the market that fit basic requirements or work as short-term stepping stones. The decision to go custom ultimately comes down to your specific needs. There’s no need to shift if a one-size-fits-all solution works for your team, but if you are constantly running into roadblocks in your off-the-shelf solution or have complex processes, custom could be your solution.
What makes a custom software solution be compelling?
Hours saved on team effort and time spent on a specific project. If your processes are highly customized, it’s reasonable to assume your software would also need to be. Instead of requiring teams to change the way they work, they can define the most efficient workflow in their software requirements.
Increased opportunity for customer acquisitions. You can build your strategies into your workflows using custom software to give your organization a competitive edge using tools that benefit customers. Perhaps your strategy has faster onboarding, better customer service, or a more personal approach. All these strategies can be built into custom software rather than limited by the same SaaS workflows used by all your competitors.
Intellectual property. With custom solutions, your organization drives the outcome, and you own the codebase, and it becomes your intellectual property. You no longer have a solution if your SaaS application goes out of business. With custom software, you own the solution.
Custom software needs a skilled team to build it. A competent development team requires several factors and solutions —technical, financial, and even cultural. Together, you work towards improving business workflows, revenue, and growth. Knowing what you need will help you describe what you’re looking for with prospective partners, compare skill sets, and ultimately decide the best fit for your project. Because a custom software solution gives organizations a competitive advantage in their industry – the caliber of developer talent needed to fit the bill may be more difficult to find than you realize. Custom software developers can offer a molded workflow that meets client needs and supports employee preferences. Still, they also need to have experience troubleshooting, managing enterprise projects, and building rapport with you when (at times) you may not know what you want or need.
Here are four tips to keep in mind when searching for the perfect partner:
They Need To Understand Your Business Needs
You understand the nuts and bolts of your business, but the development agency does not. Very few developers will take the time to understand your workflows step by step. They will code an application based on the requirements you tell them. If you are non-technical yourself, you may not even understand what you are asking for until the product doesn’t align with your vision. The right partner will bridge the gap between technology and your business requirements. They will ask questions not just on the technical specifications but also on what is driving these workflows. The development firm must share the same level of competence and depth of experience to understand your project’s technical and business considerations.
They Should Anticipate Long-Term Project Needs
Since custom software is more flexible and scalable, the partner you choose must take the time to understand your unique business requirements and the way you work. They must build scalable solutions so that you can always make changes as your organization grows and anticipate any pitfalls so that technology is no longer an issue in your growth. Finding the right partner who knows what it takes to build a solution to support future services proactively rather than reactive is critical. The agency and development team will need to be a quick thinker with experience selling and making decisions around software modifications.
You Should Understand that Top Talent is in High Demand
Gone are the days you could hire a single developer to handle all your IT needs. Most projects require a team with a diverse set of skills and expertise. “Full-stack” developers are as rare and mythical as unicorns. Not only that, but demand for software engineers is higher than we’ve ever seen before. Amazon alone has more than 20,000 available tech roles. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, more than 1.2 million unique job postings were in early September. This translates to higher developer costs to get quality services.
What About Hiring Internally?
That topic could be an entire article by itself. Hiring internally for your software needs can be a great solution but comes with its own host of challenges. Without diving into too much detail, you’d need to consider: a CTO, what kinds of development resources you’d need, UI/UX resources, proper implementation and production processes, and maintenance and security procedures. This is more challenging if you are non-technical. While building a successful internal development team is entirely possible, it can be a significant investment of time to get them up and running. Ultimately, this decision boils down to your specific business needs.
A Strong Partner
The goal of choosing the right development partner goes beyond the project alone. An ideal partner understands your company’s larger mission, is aligned with your future goals, and collaborates with you as a ‘partner in crime’ to achieve these goals and realize your vision. As in any relationship, a strong partner is characterized by transparency and trust related to all aspects of project development, efficient ongoing communication, and clarity around expectations at every stage. Most of all, the developers you work with must take the time to understand your requirements and the way your business flows, so they can build a solution that gives you a competitive edge and makes you money.