Build vs. Buy: How to Know When Custom Code Development is Right for You

You know that software is a vital tool for your company's success. But with more options for software development available than ever before, your organization has a significant choice to make. Should you buy off the shelf, build it with a no-code platform, or work with a developer to create custom software?

Custom code development is the process of designing and building applications entirely from scratch. In custom development, a developer writes code to produce completely bespoke software for your organization, considering the company's unique needs and specifications. Once deployed, developers also maintain and update the applications as necessary.

Custom software development differs from off-the-shelf software solutions, which offer minimal opportunities for customization. It is also different from low code and no-code development options, enabling non-coders to develop applications by adding the features they desire using pre-written code modules. Whereas low-code and no-code options allow employees with zero coding expertise to build and edit the functionality of an application, custom development is entirely conducted by professional developers.

Build vs. Buy

Custom development isn't for every organization. It is a significant investment in both time and resources, and a bespoke application also requires ongoing support from developers for updates and maintenance.

Are you interested in exploring if custom software development is suitable for your company? Here are some of the top factors to consider when deciding whether to build or buy.

Signs that you're ready for a custom solution

If your organization is a good candidate for custom development, there are a few clear indicators.

Culture is important. The companies that succeed with custom software tend to be the ones that embrace innovation and new technology. Before you invest in a bespoke platform, consider the culture of your organization. Do you have an agile team that eagerly adopts new technologies? Are your people enthusiastic about learning new skills and supporting innovative ideas?

Similarly, custom development works best when the team is involved in the development process. To build a practical application that fits your company's workflows, developers will need to work closely with various departments at your organization to understand your operations and needs. This process requires widespread buy-in from leaders and rank-and-file employees alike.

Companies that pursue custom software development are also typically those that have unique needs or processes. If your company has an unusual structure or offers niche products or services, likely, there isn't a product already on the market that is a good fit. In that case, a custom solution may be the best option.

Bespoke software also requires custom maintenance and upgrades since any changes to the functionality must be made by developers. For these reasons, organizations must be prepared for application management and modernization in the near term and the long term. 

Application management includes supporting tasks such as updating, performance optimization, and service desk functions. Modernization refers to structural changes made to the application as the business's goals and user demands evolve. Both functions are vital to the ongoing efficacy of the software, and they require long-term planning on the part of management. If you consider custom code, consider whether you are ready to anticipate and plan for your technology needs over the next five and even ten years.

When should you use an off-the-shelf or no-code solution instead?

Custom code development is not the right move for every organization. For many companies, off-the-shelf software or a no-code solution will better suit the organization's needs.

If you're unsure which option is suitable for your team, first consider the functionality you require. Is it unique, or is it typical for your industry? If your company belongs to a large industry with many organizations similar to yours, there will likely be off-the-shelf software options available to meet all of your needs.

Likewise, consider the level of customization your organization requires. If you need nearly zero customization, off-the-shelf software will do the trick. If customization is needed and not complex, consider trying a no-code or low code development platform. That way, your people can complete any necessary customization without assistance from a developer.

Time should also be a consideration in your decision. Custom code is time-consuming for developers, and the custom development process also requires extensive consultation with your team members. If quick deployment is a priority, an off-the-shelf or no-code application is likely the best option.

And of course, budget is always an essential factor to consider. With many phases of development involved in the process and future maintenance and upgrades expected down the line, custom code can be costly, especially for small companies. Take time to consider the level of investment you can make in your team's software. If your organization's budget is tight, off-the-shelf software may be the right decision for now.

How can custom software scale your company?

When expertly developed and deployed, custom development can be a game-changer for companies looking to boost their productivity and performance. By improving the efficiency of your operations, custom applications can fundamentally transform how your organization functions. The changes will be evident immediately.

Custom applications have tremendous potential to improve productivity. Most organizations suffer from some level of what is known as a tech deficit—productivity loss due to poor technology adoption across the company. During the custom development process, developers consult with various team members within the organization to identify the sources of the tech deficit and determine how to solve those issues with technological solutions.

Customized software can help by combining and simplifying complex processes, especially workflows that previously involved multiple separate applications. It can also automate some actions that were once performed manually. These adjustments can save your employees precious minutes and even hours over the course of the day, improving the organization's overall efficiency.

When companies utilize customized code development, they typically experience an improvement in agility as well. With better tools at their fingertips, employees are better equipped to respond to new challenges and embrace growth opportunities. Your customers will notice improvements in your company's reaction time, whether you respond to evolving customer preferences or changes to industry standards.

Beyond the boost in speed and productivity, custom code can make your company more competitive within your industry. Once developed, your bespoke software becomes a competitive advantage to fold into your value proposition. Customers will be intrigued to learn that your organization utilizes a one-of-a-kind process optimized to create the best possible outcomes. Don't be afraid to brag!

In conclusion

Every business is different, and one size does not fit all when it comes to software development. Leaders should sift through the options and select the solution that best suits their organization's scale, culture, budget, and outlook. 

While some organizations will thrive while integrating off-the-shelf solutions, others need very specific, custom-built solutions. Navigating the landscape might feel daunting at times but it’s a required step to make sure that the ROI of any given tech project is fully maximized.

In a future post, we'll break down the process of custom software development, offering guidance to help your organization get the best out of the experience. We'll include tips on how to stay on time and budget and explore best practices for working successfully with a developer.

Are you interested in exploring custom software options for your business? Reach out to Ridgebase to discuss your project.






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