With technology cheaper and more accessible than ever before, custom software is becoming more and more common. Yet many people are still unsure about why they would choose custom software over a subscription-based solution. In this post, we’ll highlight five key advantages custom technology offers over generic off-the-shelf software products.
1. You Only Pay for What You Need
One of the most common reasons a company switches to custom software is that they’re tired of paying high monthly fees for functionality they don’t need. But what does this really look like in practice?
Most off-the-shelf (OTS) software products cater to the lowest common denominator in their target market. This means focusing on quantity over quality; they stuff their products full of half-baked features, then use bells and whistles to justify a higher base price. This practice forces customers to pay a high premium to access basic features, despite the fact that they won’t use 80% of the functionality they’re paying for.
Ironically, another common Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) pricing strategy takes the inverse approach. In this “freemium” model, the most critical basic features are gated behind a higher price point. Have you ever signed up for the free version of a tool just to find out you have to pay for the one thing your business really needs? If so, you’ve experienced this common practice.
As a result the business is forced to pay a higher pricing tier just to access the most critical workflows. In this case, the customer still subtly pays for unused functionality - the low-value “free” features - by paying the higher price point for the important features their business depends on.
Custom software allows you to pay for exactly what you need to complement your workflow gaps. Instead of paying a monthly subscription fee for services you don’t need, you define the functionality you do need and go from there. As a result, you’re assured that every dollar you invest goes toward building a product your business can leverage.
The best way to ensure you only build what you need is to find a software partner that deeply understands your challenges and objectives. Steelhead Software utilizes a comprehensive discovery process to understand your goals and help you prioritize development in a way that unlocks the highest ROI in the shortest amount of time. This fundamental understanding creates a bedrock of business knowledge to inform every design & development decision we make with your custom solution. Our Cascade Meats case study [link to CM case study] provides a great example of how our discovery process prioritizes the highest value features for a strong ROI.
2. Building a Personal Relationship With Your Software Partner
One of the most important - and most overlooked - benefits of custom software is the opportunity to build a personal business relationship with your software provider.
Experienced operators in the software market know all too well that post-launch support from large tech companies can be a nightmare. It usually plays out like this: before a contract is signed it’s easy to get someone on the phone. Your account executive responds in minutes, they’re making roadmap commitments, the functionality looks good, and their SLA promises seem attainable.
But once you onboard and go live, it’s radio silence. Questions and support requests are directed through a faceless support ticket process that can take weeks. You’re one of thousands or millions of customers, so the person you’re speaking with doesn’t understand your unique business process. Proactive support (monitoring for downtime) is unheard of. You realize you’re running your business on software built by people who don’t even know your name.
Building custom technology gives you an opportunity to create a more direct support relationship with your software provider. Because the software has been tailored specifically for you, your use cases are clear, the team has business context, and issues are resolved quickly. Your point of contact at Steelhead will remain the same throughout the life of the relationship, and you’ll have direct access to the team that supports your application.
Likewise, feature requests and enhancements are much more streamlined when you’re working with a software provider to create your product. Your Steelhead development teamis an expert in your business and your software. This makes scoping updates a breeze because everyone is working off of the same playbook from the very beginning.
With all of this said, it’s important to note that not every custom software firm is created equal in this regard. Many custom software shops are more interested in building one-and-done projects that they won’t support rather than becoming a long-term partner to help scale your business.
At Steelhead Software we strive to exhibit empathy, expertise, and partnership in every interaction. In practice, this means you’ll work directly with the team building your project. We take pride in bringing our multi-faceted team into the entire end-to-end process, from discovery to go-live support.
3. You’re Investing in an Asset
Another key benefit to custom software is that you own the software produced at the end of the project. This includes both the source code and the intellectual property generated throughout the creative process. There are several benefits here, including:
Changing it as you see fit - Because you own the software, you can change it on a dime. This allows you to keep your business agile as it grows, pivoting as needed while keeping your technology in lockstep. This is a stark contrast to using an off-the-shelf product with a preplanned roadmap.
Tax-advantaged - Software projects developed for internal use often qualify for the R&D Tax Credit, which allows a business to claim up to a 30% credit for the costs of technology research and development. This includes paying an external partner to create technology for you. Custom software is a great way to take advantage of this credit in a way that off-the-shelf products can’t support and opens the door for businesses of all industries to participate in government technology incentives.
Flexibility to change vendors - Done right, building custom software means you can change technology providers without changing your solution. At Steelhead Software we pride ourselves on building clean, scalable code that can be serviced by any skilled development team. Most of our clients choose to stay with us long-term; but if you decide to bring your project in-house or move to another vendor, you can rest assured knowing your code goes with you.
Licensing to others - One of the best ways to achieve a long-term ROI on your solution is to license it to others in your industry. Many software products start out as custom projects created by industry leaders who recognize an opportunity to monetize their projects. While this isn’t for everyone, it is a viable path forward for those looking to add a passive revenue stream to their portfolio.
4. Functionality Tailored to Your Process
Most operators have a strong understanding of the value proposition they offer to their customers. The niche they carve for themselves sets them apart from the competition and allows them to talk about their work in a way that stands out. Often times the techniques and strategies they’ve developed over the years are extremely proprietary.
Contrast this with the fact that most SaaS products are built to cast the widest net possible and it’s easy to see there is a clear mismatch in philosophies. OTS product teams strive to build features that are “just enough” for the largest possible group of users. Unfortunately, this environment results in workflows that aren’t strong enough for businesses on the cutting edge of their industry. Reliance on these generic solutions enforces a standard workflow across the market. If you’re a company focused on innovation then chances are high that these workflows don’t align with your value proposition.
Building custom software provides a unique opportunity to craft a solution that enhances the processes you’re already doing. Instead of asking yourself, “Can I change my process to make this work?” custom software allows you to extend your competitive advantage without compromise.
5. Maximize Predictability & Stability
We’ve all been there - Your team has spent months ramping up on your new software solution and finally has a good rhythm down. Out of nowhere, an update is released that completely changes a workflow or breaks one of your third-party integrations. Even worse, there is an unexpected outage that brings down the entire site. Nothing is more frustrating than your technology failing when you need it most.
Custom software offers an advantage here because you’re in complete control of the scope and timing of updates. Each change will be deployed to a staging environment for your team to test hands-on before it goes live. This minimizes disruption to your day-to-day process and eliminates the risk of releasing a workflow-breaking change.
To maximize stability, Steelhead Software monitors our clients’ software solutions to address performance risks before they cause an outage. Additionally, we take pride in proactively updating the tech stack before things get out of date. This keeps your software in line with the latest industry trends, maintains security standards, and enables scaling for years to come.
Whether you’re an established enterprise or a small business innovating in your space, the benefits of custom software can help you improve your customer experience, drive additional revenue, take advantage of tax credits, and ultimately stand out from your competitors.
Have more questions about how custom software can help you? We’d love to chat.