The Ultimate Guide to Custom Software Development: A 4-Part Roadmap

You’re always looking for a competitive edge if you own or manage a business. Competition in almost any industry is fierce, and many of your rivals are likely developing and deploying custom software solutions to meet their business objectives. Maybe it’s time you did too.

Follow this guide to get an end-to-end roadmap to a world-class software solution, whether a web or mobile application, integration, or custom CRM system. We’ll show you the most effective and efficient way to translate your business vision to code in 4 proven stages.

We begin with the reasoning for taking the leap into custom software and finishing with implementing a solution that will give you a leg up on the competition. For more information on each stage, click on the link at the bottom of each section. 


The Four Stages of the Roadmap

  1. The Top 5 Business Benefits of Custom Software Development – The “why” of custom software development.
  2. The Best Places to Find the Right Development Partner – Where to look for an expert development partner.
  3. Choosing the Right Development Partner – Best Practices & Insights – How to choose the best partner for your business.
  4. The 5 Key Steps in a Custom Development Project – and How to Nail Each One – The “secret sauce” of a killer development project.

Stage 1 – The Top 5 Business Benefits of Custom Software Development

With the proliferation of packaged, off-the-shelfware, conventional wisdom holds that whatever your business model, you can find a program that meets your needs. But when it comes to business software, conventional wisdom is often wrong.

Most companies find that their software needs are unique and dynamic. So even if you find a software package that works for your business, you may soon discover that it can’t keep up as your business needs evolve. Fortunately, there is an alternative.

Buck conventional wisdom with custom software development

Increasingly, organizations are opting out of the proprietary software game and choosing custom software development to meet their particular business requirements. Partnering with an expert custom software shop enables you to create applications that fit your current needs exactly and can adapt if needed. 

So then, what are the top five benefits of custom software development?

1. Custom software is tailored to your business needs

The design goal of proprietary software is to meet the requirements of a diverse set of businesses – the objective of custom applications is to meet yours. So you won’t ever have to distort your processes to fit the software. You get what you need initially, plus the ability to reconfigure your software to resolve a problem or take advantage of a new opportunity.

You can precisely tailor custom applications to meet your requirements and budget. On the other hand, packaged applications tend to expand into bloatware, weighted down with features needed by only a handful of customers. Useless features proliferate and may get in the way of your operations. And the cost of developing extraneous features gets passed on to you with no added value. With custom apps, you never have to pay for functionality you don’t need.

2. Custom applications restore control of your business-critical technology

You’ve undoubtedly invested in multiple applications and accrued data with enduring value. But as a result, you’ve ceded control over your vital technology and data. Custom apps give you back that control.

You set the schedule for development, product releases, new features, and customization. Everything happens within your timeframe instead of your vendor’s. Your business will never again be held hostage by the whims of a proprietary software company.

3. Custom apps restore ownership of your IP

You don’t own proprietary applications; you merely license them from the vendor that actually owns the intellectual property (IP). With custom applications, you can again take ownership of your IP.

The benefits of ownership are many, not the least of which is the elimination of unwelcome surprises. Proprietary vendors dictate the scheduling of releases, updates, and integrations and are not obliged to keep you in the loop. When you rely on custom applications, there’s no waiting to get what you need because you set priorities and timeframes. 

You also don’t have to worry about whether your vendor will be acquired or will sunset your applications. You’ll never have to migrate to a new application due to the fallout of an M&A deal.

You can say goodbye to sudden price jumps in maintenance charges or SaaS subscription fees. As the owner of your IP, you are immune to proprietary fee extortion.

4. Data ownership and access

Technically, you may “own” the data in your legacy applications, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or cheap to access or migrate.  Proprietary applications, databases, and architectures can make it challenging to take full advantage of your data. In extreme cases, your vendor may allow access but charge you for the privilege.

Custom development eliminates data access headaches. It’s clear you own the data from day one, so there’s no need to negotiate with or pay fees to a vendor. It’s your data to access, extract, move, and use any way you want.

5. Lower costs over time

The optics of custom vs. proprietary software pricing can be deceiving, especially at the onset of an application implementation or development project. And while it’s true that buying software off the shelf instead of developing an application from scratch may appear to be less expensive, that’s far from the whole story.

Proprietary software vendors understand that the initial licensing costs are just the beginning. Once committed, vendors can extract exorbitant maintenance agreements, upgrade fees, and customization charges. Over time, proprietary software costs tend to spiral.

Conversely, custom applications may initially cost more but are almost always less expensive over time while providing more value. After all, you’re paying only for what you need, and ongoing fees are largely eliminated.

The business benefits of custom software development are all about seizing control. Custom software gives you control over the technology that drives your business — not some third-party vendor.

For more details on Stage 1, click here: The Top Five Business Benefits of Custom Software Development


Stage 2 – The Best Places to Find the Right Development Partner

Finding custom software development companies is not difficult. There are literally thousands from around the globe, and each has different strengths and weaknesses. Yet only a handful will have the right mix of skills, processes, and culture to be a good fit for your organization and project.

So how do you find the right partner for you and your project?  How do you sift through the thousands of developers to identify those candidates that are a potential fit?

Some homework before beginning your search

Before your search begins, you should ask yourself some key questions to narrow the field.  Without answers to these questions, your search could take forever, and you’ll waste time searching rather than developing your project.

Many of these questions speak to the need for clear objectives for your project. Understanding your goals, resources, and workstyle preferences will go a long way in finding the right partner. Here then are some of the questions you should answer before beginning your partner search:

  • Is your project sufficiently defined to engage a development partner? Alternatively, should the new partner play a significant role in project definition?
  • Do I have a budget or at least a range for the project?
  • Is the budget committed, or is it still up in the air?
  • Are there specific frameworks, languages, and databases that you’d like to use, and conversely, any that you’d like to avoid?
  • Will the project require ongoing maintenance after development is complete?
  • How will the project fit with your existing technology infrastructure? Will APIs be necessary, and will integrations be required?
  • Will internal staff play a key role in the project? If so, how will they interact with the development partner, i.e., lead, follow or get out of the way?
  • Does your new partner need to be located in the US, or is offshoring a possibility? If you are open to offshore development, are there particular countries you’d lean toward – or avoid? How will you handle or approach common offshoring difficulties like languages and time zones?

A short list of best places to look

Once you’ve answered these critical questions, it’s time to begin your search. Try these places first to look for prospective software development partners:

  • Referrals – The first place to look is probably the most intuitive one.  Reach out to people in your network that have hired a development partner. Friends and associates with direct experience with custom development are probably the most reliable source of leads.
  • Upwork – Upwork is a popular online marketplace where you can post projects, and freelancers and agencies can submit proposals.  You can also search profiles and extend invitations to prospective partners. It’s an excellent way to reach many potential partners at once, but it can be time-consuming to review all the submissions in some cases.   You can check them out at www.upwork.com.
  • Clutch.co – Clutch is a B2B research and marketing organization offering developer directories and detailed customer reviews. It’s a more proactive process than Upwork as you reach out to potential partners rather than vice versa. See them at www.clutch.co 
  • The Manifest – The Manifest is a company listing and review site associated with Clutch.co. Their Top 100 lists are a great way to get detailed info on leading development companies at a glance. Find them at www.themanifest.com

For more on Stage 2, go to: The Best Places to Find the Right Development Partner


Stage 3 – Choosing the Right Development Partner – Best Practices & Insights

Innovative companies know that custom software development is one of the most effective ways to advance your business. Custom mobile applications, tailor-made for your business, can increase customer engagement, streamline processes, create new opportunities, and more.

Choosing the right development partner is vital to the success of your project. Your partner should be a match on multiple levels and able to work with you to deliver results on time and according to specifications.

Your development partner should be smart, collaborative, and responsive — technology experts that are easy to work with.

But choosing from among the thousands of developers worldwide takes some work and planning. Once you’ve decided to embark on a custom software project and identified selected candidates, the fun part (or one of the fun parts at least) is just beginning. Use these best practices as a guide.

Ten Key Development Partner Characteristics:

  • Proven Programmers and Technology Gurus – Your development partner must bring strong technical skills to the table. It’s a deal-breaker if a prospective partner can’t execute on a technical level.
  • Business and Domain Experts – Your project has a much better chance of success if your development partner understands your business and objectives. In-depth pre-existing knowledge, general business acumen, and willingness to learn are critical.
  • Detail-Oriented and Process-Driven Operators – Your partner should sweat the details and be very precise in their programming methodology. Whether waterfall, agile, or hybrid, processes should be precise and repeatable with attention to detail at all times and with all things.
  • Exceptional Communicators – As you know, communication is key to any successful endeavor, and custom programming is no different.  Your partner should be a great communicator, always keeping you in the loop. All messaging, documentation, and meetings or other discussions should be clear, timely, and detailed.
  • Meticulous Project Managers – Your partner should be a well-oiled project management machine delivering proven PM processes to your project. They should be able to ensure specifications are met and delivered on time and on budget. And just as importantly, your partner’s project managers should be able to efficiently handle unforeseen circumstances and quickly get the project back on track.
  • Security Fanatics  – Your partner should make certain that stringent security is integrated into your project from the beginning. Security around the development process should also be maintained at all times.
  • User Experience and Workflow Enthusiasts – Backend programming expertise is critical to the functionality of an application, but designing a logical and intuitive workflow is just as important. An exceptional user experience can determine the success of your application, and your partner should be able to deliver one. 
  • Support Champions – Your partner should have an outlook that is oriented towards service and support. In many cases, projects will require maintenance or technical support after implementation.  It just works better if the partner that completed your project is open and available to support it.
  • A Cultural Fit  – Culture fit may seem a bit cliche, but it can significantly affect the development process and your project. Your project will proceed much more smoothly if your company’s and your partner’s cultures are in alignment.
  • Great References and Stellar Reviews – Ask your potential partner for references as part of the process. It also pays to check partner reviews on Clutch.co, Trustpilot, and other credible sources.

While it may sound a little daunting, following these best practices is worth the effort and promises to result in an amazing application that can jump-start your business.

For more on Stage 3, see: Choosing the Right Development Partner — Best Practices & Insights


Stage 4 – The 5 Key Steps in a Custom Software Development Project – and How to Nail Each One

Now that you’ve decided to tackle a custom software development project and chosen a development partner, what happens next?

Glad you asked because this piece will guide you through the five critical steps in developing a custom software project that will jumpstart your business and drive you to new levels of success. And we’ll provide insight on how to nail each one successfully.

But First, Some Best Practices

Before diving into the discrete steps, let’s discuss some best practices that underlie successful development projects.  Each of these should be integrated into the project from start to finish to ensure timely completion, superior UI/UX, airtight software quality, and compliance with your project requirements and business objectives.

  • Meticulous Project Management and Processes – Strict adherence to proven project management disciplines and established processes are vital to the success of your project and the timely completion of each step in the development process. Your project will consist of many moving parts, and it’s only through rigorous project management that all the processes and players stay aligned and drive toward the desired end goal. Using best-in-class project management software is essential, but a project management mindset and meticulous attention to detail are also required. 
  • Constant Developer/Client Collaboration  – Communication channels between you, your developers, and your project management team should always be open and accessible.  A disconnect between you and the programmers can sink your project and lead to frustration and missteps. Software collaboration tools go a long way toward keeping communication on track, but so is a general openness among all project participants.  A development project works best as a constant, two-way conversation between you and your programmers.
  • Detailed Discovery – The discovery process is critical to the success of your development project — perhaps even the most essential piece. It’s an iterative process that requires careful thought and interactive discussion between you and your development team.

Think of discovery as translating your business objectives into a development roadmap. Done right, it defines your project’s trajectory and charts a path to a successful outcome.

And Now, The 5 Key Steps and How to Nail Them

Now that we’ve established some baseline best practices, it’s time to look at the five key steps in detail, along with guidelines for attainment.

1. Identifying the problem or opportunity – The core motivation for a development project typically falls into one of two categories, either a problem to be solved or an emerging opportunity.  When scoping a custom development project, don’t let your vision be limited by what you perceive may be possible.  Given the right partner armed with the latest technology, you will be pleasantly surprised how effectively custom development solutions can achieve strategic business goals.

2. Designing the solution – Custom solutions can take many forms, from an application to an integration. Your design should incorporate your vision and distill it into a detailed Statement of Work (SoW) that your development team will use to build your project. Continue to stretch your expectations and challenge your software partner to do the same. By working together, you will likely arrive at an innovative solution.

3. Development – Your development team will work on coding the software at this stage. Use collaboration channels to communicate with the development team. Attend stand-up meetings to monitor the development process, and don’t be shy to provide input where needed.

4. Testing – While testing may seem like a step that occurs only at the end of the development process, your development partner may engage in QA and testing as an ongoing process throughout the development lifecycle. You can participate by testing software functionality in incremental stages or as part of final testing before implementation.

5. Maintenance – Your development partner usually offers a support or maintenance agreement, and it’s typically a good investment. Even if your solution is not under maintenance, it’s an excellent idea to keep in touch with your software partner.  Occasional support needs may arise, and your partner is also the logical choice for your next custom development project.

These five steps and three baseline best practices provide a proven strategy for a successful software development project. Also, in this piece, you will notice a recurring theme that custom software development projects often depend on an expert and proven partner. 

For more info on Stage 4, go to: The 5 Key Steps in a Custom Development Project  — and How to Nail Each One


Pell Software is a proven development partner

Pell Software is a premier custom software developer with expertise in all aspects of custom software development.  We’ve worked with companies of all sizes and types, ranging from small businesses to startups to national companies in a wide range of industries.

We know how to develop custom software that will enable you to meet your critical business objectives, quickly and efficiently –we know these 4 stages, inside and out. We are experts in the latest development technologies, have domain experince in many industries and are partnership-focused. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you translate your vision into a state-of-of-the-art custom software solution. 

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