So why should anyone consider a custom software solution when the market place has so many of the “in the box” software applications that might solve their business software needs? This question has been pondered, no doubt, countless times in boardroom meetings and planning sessions amongst professional teams. Old and long trusted responses have been that custom software is too expensive, not necessary, or that a box software solution will work for awhile and then one can always upgrade. And then the final nail in the coffin on this discussion would be that if custom software was decided upon – who would write it?

Great reason for a custom software solution.

Great reason for a custom software solution.

So custom software is too expensive – is that really true? In some cases custom software may indeed be very expensive, after all the software has to be designed, coded, and then debugged. And the initial cost and effort may seem daunting to some boardroom committees that may baulk at the prospect of bringing such a request to the finance department. But is the custom software solution really more expensive in the long run? How will custom software affect the company in the years to come? Will productivity go up because employees are no longer wasting time fighting with in box solutions that may require extra steps and time? Giving company professionals time to be creative or allowing them to focus on what they are really good at instead of fighting software systems that don’t compliment the company’s focus can prove to be very beneficial. Survival of a business requires the leadership to look at the so called “big picture” and see if one aspect of a company’s infrastructure can change productivity. An investment into a solution that helps the productivity of the employees may improve employee turnover rates, sales, marketing, creativity, and the time consuming cost of simply having people do the tedious “busy work” that could be done by a proper software system.

Imagine that each step is done by a different box solution software cobbled together hoping that data remains in tact.

Imagine that each step is done by a different “in the box” solution software cobbled together hoping that data remains in tact.

I have personally seen how the “in the box” solution software scenario can cause years of struggle and frustration to a company’s productivity and success. About 7 years ago I had the dubious honor of working for a company in which I was relegated to being the data entry slave, and yes, I do mean slave. The hours of stress using the jerry rigged database system actually hurt me physically and I was not the only employee affected by this fiasco of a software solution. Almost the entire staff had to endure some kind of interaction with this so called legacy system. The accounting department regularly spent a whole week at the end of every month trying to reconcile errors caused by the software’s poor design and inability to meet the company’s needs. The software was originally purchased when the company was smaller. Then the company that designed the software went away, which can be an argument for big box software solutions, but the Microsoft type of software did not meet the needs of what this company wanted to do. It was no simple spread sheet database. And the leadership of the company basically married their business to a software solution that as the years progressed tied all the employees to a beast of a software system that got progressively slower as more data was put into the system and overwhelmed the original design. It was basically a three ring circus event to get data together to create vital reports for finances as well as sales, and membership. I have no idea of how many different types of software the accounting department had to use to make use of any of the data coming out of the old system. This was definitely a waste of company man hours and vital creativity that could have come forth from employees over burdened from a system that sucked the life out of them.

The We Are Technology Team has seen this business tragedy happen too many times, and luckily our team was able to design them a new custom system that met all of their needs in sales, membership, marketing, finance, and data entry streamlining. Our design system also incorporated an exit strategy in case the custom software was no longer viable to the company needs. Our business model does not feel the need to hold the client data or websites hostage – we consider this tactic to be unethical.

This situation was a prime example of being “married to a software” and refusing to acknowledge the problems that it was causing and implementing the band aid solution to avoid spending any money. In the long run it cost the company more money, employee morale and productivity, potential sales, and customer service.

So if custom software is truly what your business needs to survive and grow, then the final big decision is where to go for such a solution. How does a business go about selecting a software development firm? There are many companies and individuals out there that can provide these services, but choosing the right one is vital. One may think cost is at the top of the list, and yes, it is a vital consideration, but if the selection of a software development firm is based upon cost only and not on reliability and skill, then funding for such an endeavor could be better served by throwing it out the window. If the required skill and credibility is not there, then what is the point? You may end up with software that doesn’t work, isn’t supported, or does not do any or all the requested tasks.

So what should one look for in a developer of custom software?   Recommendations and examples of their work.

WAT logo_newThis is key to discovering the right kind of programmer to develop a custom software solution for your business needs. Some developers such as the We Are Technology Team may not have samples readily available because high end projects often require nondisclosure agreements, so asking for those recommendations is a good idea. Large firms will often request smaller projects to be performed to make sure that the developer is skilled, credible, and easy to work with. Easy to work with is important on both sides of the fence. If a custom solution is to be truly custom, then employees and leadership of the company will have to be willing to put in the time to work with programmers and designers in order to obtain the type of software they need. One should not expect the programmer to always be a mind reader, even though the We Are Technology Programmers often anticipate client needs because of their years of experience.

Another important aspect of deciding upon a custom software development firm is if they are willing to work with milestones – making goal completions throughout the project as points of payment. That way nobody feels screwed over by doing an entire project and not getting paid or paying for a project and never seeing a line of code.  Another wise decision should be working on a SRS “function outline” and carefully going over what processes are required and agreeing upon a price after both parties have seen what is truly involved. This is something that the We Are Technology Team does and so should any other provider of custom software.  (Please note that SRS work may act as a first milestone in some circumstances since it is a time consuming process requiring many work hours and consultation.)

Clouds with sun breaking codeSo if your current software isn’t doing what you need it to do and you think the future of your company may count on software that assists in customer service, employee productivity, or other vital components of your business model, then it may be time to invest in a solution to take your company on the path of the future. Personally, I think you ought to call our programming team at We Are Technology, but then again, I might be biased and very proud of our great team of professionals.

G. Winkler – Technology Artist ©2014
Cumulus Technology – the “We Are Technology” people