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custom software for small business
Anthony Suddia

Save Time Growing your Business: How Custom Software Development Helps Small Businesses in 2020 [Plus a bonus part]

Small businesses are slowly recovering and adapting to the new, safety-first reality. Software is an important part of this adaptation.

In 2020, business effectiveness and efficiency relies on its software. It is crucial how well software corresponds to a company’s workflow.

Is custom software for small business the right choice to help your business perform better?

It depends. Every business needs tools best suited to its current situation. If custom software does not provide a competitive edge, don’t get it.

Most small businesses are fine using off-the-shelf software. They perform typical operations. They neither have enough investments to introduce changes into their lives nor consume so many resources that they must optimize. The smallest businesses even benefit from using the cheapest or free plans.

However, below are three signs that a company needs custom software for small business:

  • Growing number of heterogeneous activities

    Several departments (production, sales, and marketing) operate using the same data in different ways. The company depends on timely data processing for successful communication between departments and relevant decisions.

  • Doing things differently

    Off-the-shelf software for small businesses does not fit in with a company’s needs. Business either pays for functionality it does not use or is restrained by software for business that lacks certain desired integrations.

  • Expansion plans

    Software must support a company’s business decisions to manage a growing amount of work. This can be expansion of online presence, automating working with company’s profiles on marketplaces, integrating advanced reports and analytics, and more.

Software small businesses use serves as a watershed between a stable and a growing business. Custom software development becomes essential for companies who aim at getting to the next “weight division.”

In this post, we discuss how to increase value through custom software for business, analyzing the following points:

What are the challenges of packaged software? How does custom software development for small businesses address them?

Building custom software for small business requires time, effort, and expertise in both software development and business domains. So does implementation of any new technology.

According to Salesforce’s 2019 Report on Small & Medium Business Trends, businesses face the following challenges when evaluating potential benefits of a new technology:

cHALLENGES TO aDOPTING nEW tECHNOLOGIES
Budget constrains
68%
Not enough usage to justify expense
61%
Difficulty implementing and rolling out new technologies
59%
Difficulty in customizing new technology to meet our business needs
58%
Inadequate performance of new technology
57%
Inflexible technology that doesn’t adapt as the business grows
56%
Lack of time to train employees
54%

Custom software development shares some of these threats but helps overcome the others:

Limited budget

Limited budget is the top concern for every new software, both custom and packaged. This is true. It is almost impossible to calculate costs of custom software for small business until it has been completed. Therefore, it is easy for an inexperienced team to provide an incorrect estimate and ruin a company’s budget. An experienced team offers a methodology to determine the budget range more correctly.

It takes time before any benefits of using new software become visible; inadequate performance of new software

This is the case for both kinds of software. When starting custom software development, a business analyst always specifies requirements and helps set up right priorities in order to meet expectations

Flexibility and scalability

When using packaged service software for small businesses, it is always necessary to upgrade a subscription plan when business is booming. This can be uncomfortable and/or expensive. Custom software is optimized keeping in mind any future costs of maintaining users and future changes in the feature list!

Lack of employee training

Again, custom software is tailored to existing practices and long-awaited features. When the new software improves habitual UX, training will take little time. Employees will not resist changes.

As a result, custom service software for small business helps address business challenges more effectively by making right integrations possible.

What are the benefits of software development for a small business?

The biggest benefit of custom software for small business lies in the word custom. It means flexible. Businesses get what they require. Nothing more, nothing less.

Businesses can introduce a small adjustment, integrate a custom plug-in for packaged software, or even launch a large, fully customized platform.

Additional benefits include:

  • Automation of business processes

    this is insignificant for small businesses with low data flow and a small number of clients. However, automation is crucial for businesses with a constantly growing number of operations.

  • Optimized management

    as a business grows, workers are no longer able to remember all business details. Custom software for business helps keep communication with colleagues, track task statuses, remind clients, and more.

  • Reports and analytics

    software helps generate and make use of various, specific data. A company’s departments use this data to receive automated reports. This data helps improve the company’s operations and prepare a realistic forecast.

  • Time saving

    employees become more effective when software covers a large part of tedious work. The company can grow faster without the need to apply an aggressive hiring strategy.

  • Enhanced resource management

    introduction of custom software helps save on licensing and third-party subscriptions. Also, optimized consumption of server resources makes it possible to pay less. The sums saved can be significant. The company can then use the money saved on growing its business.

  • Enhanced security

    it is easier to monitor security status and raise the security standard when a business owns the software. The company becomes less dependent on possible data leaks or shutdowns of 3rd-party services it uses.

Right software solution makes it possible to overcome the biggest concern of every small business: labor quality. This bottleneck becomes less relevant as workflow becomes less demanding for skills and educational background of a particular employee which is crucial for a growing business in demand for new workers.

How to build custom software for small business?

In short, Agile.

Software for small business must be clearly defined to create long-term value. However, it is difficult to forecast a price for small business custom software in the long run.

A business is a live organization with formed practices, already-accepted policies, and software in use. Operations cannot stop even for a millisecond.

The two following characteristics are crucial for perfect custom software for small business:

  1. high-programming standards – help a business save on software maintenance.
  2. features end users really want – avoid boycott from employees’ side.

The following aspects directly affect development of software for small business:

  1. Complexity of business processes
  2. Possible licensing and preferred development platform
  3. Available source code and its quality (if any)
  4. Utilized hardware, its capability for optimizations and tuning
  5. Integrations with other platforms (e.g., Shopify or Salesforce)
  6. Number of current and/or future users (i.e., need for scalability)
  7. Options for remote access (and access levels for different roles)
  8. Algorithm for seamless integration without stopping company’s operational activity

Agile approach enables handling uncertainty.

It is wise when the team starts with a pilot task to test drive the project and prepare an estimate. Some details might become visible after development starts. These details can substantially change the initial estimate.

Being Agile makes it possible for the delivery team to concentrate on both short-term and long-term value.

The product owner receives a piece of working functionality every two weeks which fits into place.

The team focuses on producing a solution for business tasks. It helps gather requirements through user interviews and works with user feedback to finetune produced source-code.

Do you want to know more? Download Cobol case study.
software small businesses

What essential points should you consider when starting custom software development for small business?

Software development for small business needs to be a part of the company’s strategy. It helps with overall improvement of business processes.

Custom software development for small business is a long-term activity. In each particular case, it requires relevant implementation and a level-headed estimate of risks and benefits.

Consider the following points when planning start a software solution for your small business:

  • An in-house or an
    outsourcing team
  • Updates and maintenance
  • Price or expertise
  • Long-term motivation
  • Scalability
An in-house or an outsourcing team

Usually, when a company considers custom software development, it already has one or several in-house programmers. The client can start a hybrid team.

An outsourcing company adds missing hands to the project for an affordable price. The client retains its team that can cope with the lighter workload after the project is launched.

An important note. Make sure the outsourcing development team delivers project documentation for smooth project transition.

Price or expertise

No matter what you choose, we never recommend buying cheap. Developers might lack programming expertise or business knowledge and compensate for lack of talents through a low hourly rate. The risks are many: the team will not manage to fulfill its promises, new software will not work properly, their lack of skill means each step will take much longer with no guarantee of success.

Take time to choose a software development provider.

Scalability

Software development complexity depends on the number of future users. It is important to determine the right number in advance.

If the number of users is low, the software will be over engineered, expensive, and power consuming.

If the number of users is too high, the software might need redevelopment.

Choose the right option for you depending on your growth plans.

Updates and maintenance

Make sure you have a team―either in-house or outsourcing―responsible for software updates and maintenance. Otherwise, software can quickly become outdated and stop working properly.

Long-term motivation

This point goes for software maintenance, too. Software maintenance might seem to be a rather uninteresting task causing burnout by software developers. There is a risk of losing key competences when the leading engineer quits the company.

Make sure software developers stay motivated on the project.

A short note. In this case, an outsourcing software provider can help with maintenance because they can organize rotation while having a larger number of projects for its engineers.

This is where IT Craft helps small and middle-sized businesses produce software to satisfy business needs and work on its maintenance.

On time. On budget. No exceptions.

Do you want a team able to launch within your budget?

Contact us

Bonus part

A Five-Step Path to Building Custom Software for Small Business
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