Nobody understands your business better than you do, and when you invest in the technology which is vital to running that business you need to work with partners who share that understanding. The IT infrastructure of virtually any kind of business is now the foundation on which almost everything else is built, so getting it exactly right is a necessity and not a luxury.
When it comes to the software which powers that infrastructure the tyranny of the bottom line and the short term necessity of simply keeping cash flow moving through the business may seem to provide a convincing argument for seeking out the least expensive, off the shelf software solutions. Having made that choice you can then rely on your employees and existing systems to pick up any slack. This is often a mistake, and there are multiple reasons, from scalability to security and costs, for turning to custom software programmers. UK businesses use programmers for projects such as website, app and mobile development, or the switch to cloud computing and back end development, to offer just a few examples.
No matter what the specifics, working with the right developers on a custom software solution will mean entering into a genuine partnership. Rather than simply parachuting in to get the job done, bespoke software programmers will take the time to get to know your business from top to bottom, auditing your business requirements with the aim of developing tailor-made software which helps to make your business more profitable. Having delivered for many UK companies across a range of sectors, the developers will combine technical skill and know-how with business experience to create software which delivers on launch and into the future.
Off-the-shelf software solutions may have some of the features you need but not all of them, or versions of those features which don’t fit exactly with your working processes. Alternatively, when you purchase off the shelf you might be paying for the features you need and, in addition, lots of features which you’ll never have to call upon.
Custom solutions, on the other hand, will be fine-tuned to meet your exact needs and requirements, dealing with the demands and risks which are specific to your business alone. The finished software will be unique, having been created from scratch with the help of your input, and that means it will integrate seamlessly with the way you work, rather than the way you work having to change to adapt to the software.
When you invest in custom software you do so in the hope that, by making your working processes more efficient, it will ultimately lead to higher profits and business growth. If this happens, you’ll need that software to be able to grow and change as your business does, and bespoke solutions come with that kind of scalability built into them. The work done in the earliest development stages – when you communicate to the developers exactly how you expect your business to grow in the future – will ensure that the flexibility to meet this shifting environment will be built in from the start.
As pointed out elsewhere, the out of the box, off-the-shelf solution can sometimes seem appealing in the short term because it represents less of an initial capital investment. In the longer term, however, the ready-made software will incur greater on-going costs in the form of licensing fees which have to be paid on a monthly or yearly basis. In addition to this, the costs associated with adapting your business to the contours of the software rather than vice versa will have to be factored in. Any change in processes which are required to integrate new software will slow down the way you deliver your goods or services, and this inefficiency is bound to impact on the bottom line.
This point overlaps with the issue of control outlined above. You can keep utilising and maintaining your custom software for as long as your business needs it. When dealing with a commercial offering, on the other hand, you are ultimately at the mercy of the company behind the software. They may, at any time, decide to stop producing, supporting or updating the software which you’ve come to depend upon, leaving you with no option but to go out and invest all over again. When Microsoft withdrew support for Windows 7 in January of this year, for example, anyone using it suddenly had to cope with systems which were less secure and much more vulnerable to hacking. Custom built software, on the other hand, can be modified or updated by the company responsible for developing it for as long as you choose to keep using it.
There is a wealth of statistics available which underline the massive risk of cyber-attacks to UK businesses, and particularly smaller businesses that may be less able to cope with the financial and reputational costs of such activity. According to insurance experts Hiscox, small businesses in the UK are targeted by an estimated 65,000 cyber-attacks each and every day. While the majority of these attacks fortunately fail, a small business in the UK is still successfully hacked every 19 seconds. The average cost of a cyber-breach to a business of this kind is £27,500 when accounting simply for the initial ‘clean up’ of the impact. All of which goes to show that complacency around the topic of cyber-security simply isn’t an option. While custom built software is always going to be vulnerable to attacks (no software can ever claim complete invulnerability) the unique nature of the software makes it a less likely target. In simple terms, commercial software solutions are used in tens of thousands of businesses around the world, and this ubiquity makes it a much more appealing target for cyber-criminals. In the first instance they have a standardised piece of software to analyse for security weaknesses and, in the second, when they find those weaknesses it will open up the possibility of attacking a huge range of targets. Hacking into custom software, on the other hand, will involve deliberately targeting your individual businesses and then taking the time to analyse and probe unique software for particular vulnerabilities.
Because custom software has been developed by experts who have taken the time to understand your business, it will be designed with your unique businesses flows and working practices in mind. Thanks to this, the finished software will integrate seamlessly with both legacy systems and the people working for you. Off-the-shelf solutions, on the other hand, often ‘sort of’ fit, which means that the people using them will have to tweak the way they do things. It may seem like only a small alteration in each individual case, but disruptions to workflow can mount incrementally across an organisation to severely hamper the way your business operates.