Is custom software poised to fulfill business needs in 2021?
From small firms to established companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses and leaders to embrace digital transformation. Businesses are spending more on custom software solutions to ensure smooth workflow as they switch their operations to virtual workspaces. Custom software development and mobile application development have become inevitable for business growth and success. As technology advances, intelligent interfaces and highly intuitive cognitive capabilities transform businesses in unimaginable ways.
Custom software solutions appeal to tech leaders and companies of all sectors globally. In today’s dipping economy, software development companies like Fingent help businesses restart or rebuild what they lagged with custom software solutions.
What is a custom software solution?
A custom software solution is the best response for both clients and customers to adapt to the new normal. Currently, many organizations are allowing their employees to work from home, thereby limiting physical interactions. Such organizations adopt customized software applications tailored for specific use by their employees. Remote working software tailored to meet specific workplace requirements and maintain privacy without affecting the workflow allows businesses to better serve their customers.
Simply put, custom software development involves designing, developing, implementing, and managing a particular software application used by a specific set of audience, functions, or organizations.
A software development company first analyzes the business and its product requirements to develop customized scalable, dynamic, and cost-effective software solutions. It helps meet the needs and preferences of the customers, clients, and the organization at large.
The new normal is making it difficult for businesses to obtain a competitive edge, so they resort to custom software applications rather than off-the-shelf software development. Thanks to these tailor-made solutions, work is becoming easier and enabling businesses to take a step ahead.
What is the difference between custom software and commercial software?
Custom software solutions are designed and built to adapt to the changing market demands. Off-the-shelf software allows businesses to adjust to their expertise. Commercial off-the-shelf applications come pre-packaged and are purchased by enterprises to carry out their tasks. Custom software enables you to retain only the features you use and supports scalability in the future.
Why do businesses need custom software development services?
Custom software solutions are one of the best ways for businesses to survive in today’s uncertain market. Moreover, custom software development assures that your data remains secure and confidential as there is a high amount of data security risk with off-the-shelf software. Custom software is the best option today, considering your business’s privacy, security, and accountability. As custom software is made exclusively for in-house use, the associated risks are low.
What are the benefits of custom software solutions?
1. Improves efficiency
Custom software is designed to support the specific processes followed by a business entity and its users. Hence it improves the productivity and operational efficiency of the business and its employees. By automating mundane tasks and tweaking the workflow to eliminate unwanted elements, custom software implementation adds business value.
2. Reduces integration costs
Most of the commercial off-the-shelf software fails to work with existing and legacy applications. If it does not comply, businesses will have to invest further to ensure that the prepackaged software operates with the existing infrastructure. On the other hand, custom software integrates well with the current environment and adapts to a business’s needs.
Custom software can grow as the business expands or changes. Developers can assess future requirements and incorporate them into the application. It can save costs associated with purchasing additional licenses or subscriptions of commercial applications.
Investing in custom software development increases the profitability of a business. Depending on the project’s terms and conditions, the organization that creates custom software can own it or license it or sell it to other organizations.
As you will be free of a commercial software vendor, you need not worry about price hikes for licensing and support or whether the vendor terminates a product or goes out of business. However, the business that develops and uses custom software should bear the cost of maintaining and supporting the software. So, every organization must carefully decide whether it’s better to buy or build.
Technologies and practices to consider in custom software development
Open-source indicates that the software source code is open to the public and the development community to use. For example, Microsoft, Linux, and Google. Open source can significantly improve development productivity through software component reuse and improve interoperability by avoiding proprietary architecture.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence allows the software to replicate human decision making and learning. It can enhance the development process. For example, natural language processing (NLP) is used to analyze requirements from elaborate texts and recommends improvements based on best practices. AI technologies such as machine learning and modeling may also be incorporated into applications through application programming interfaces (API) and cloud services.
3. Blockchain technology
Developers are leveraging open- source hyper ledger technology and blockchain ledgers to build new types of secure transactional and financial applications that can boost business processes.
4. Cloud-based development
It brings the advantages of cloud computing by hosting development environments in the cloud. It supports design, coding, integration, and other development functions to build on-premises and cloud-native applications. These environments also promise cost control, speed, and on-demand convenience.
5. Mobile application technology
With the customers’ buying behavior shifting from products and services to experiences, mobile application technology is a must. So, developers have to connect mobile apps with data to improve and enrich the user experience.
6. Analytics technologies
These technologies enable software applications and their users to understand data through dashboards, visualizations, and predictive capabilities. AI, cloud-based services, and automation make it easier to incorporate analytics into applications.
The health crises and economic uncertainties brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic have compelled businesses to adopt solutions tailored for use by their employees and customers. So, opting for custom software solutions is a wise decision as they can be customized to suit your business needs.
While the initial investments seem a bit high, custom apps will get you a higher ROI in the future. If you are looking for a custom software solution for your business, all you need to do is select a trusted and reputed company like Fingent. We first understand your requirements and help preserve your accountability in the market. To know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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The perennial build versus buy question continues to haunt enterprises in search of software solutions. Off-the-shelf software is ready-to-use once they are installed on a computer or device. Custom software, on the other hand, is developed according to specific requirements and specifications.
There is a huge gap between these two technologies in terms of performance, functionalities, and usability. Each option has its own merits and demerits, and here is a rundown of the same.
The Question of Cost
An off-the-shelf product will typically be moderately priced when compared to a custom developed product; the obvious reason being that the cost involved in developing an off-the-shelf product is distributed among a large number of buyers, and thus pricing is spread across several licenses to be sold. A tailored product, on the other hand, is specifically developed for a client, and as a result, all the development expenses will be borne by that individual client. Hence, considering the costs, it might seem that an off-the-shelf product is a right way to go.
Purchasing software off-the-shelf also offers an accurate estimate of the cost and valuable support for everything that lies ahead throughout the lifecycle of the project. But, in terms of performance, they might not be as apt as custom-made products.
Many enterprises underestimate the time and resources required to develop custom software in-house. The development team needs to take into account, not just the initial design, build, test, and implementation costs, but also the lifetime cost required for support, headcount enhancements, patches, and general maintenance. There is also the issue of costs for the inevitable functionality enhancements and upgrades in future to consider.
Even when the enterprise has the adequate budget for in-house custom software development, they still have to consider the availability of a skilled team in-house, or access to such a team through outsourcing. The outsourcing route in a way offers the best of both worlds, or the availability of ready resources to develop software the way the enterprise wants it.
Which is easier to implement?
Coding is getting easier by the day. Gone are the days when programmers spend weeks on end ruminating lines of code even in their sleep. Today, coding is taught at the high school level, and the proliferation of open source means code snippets are readily available for just about any functionality. What’s more, intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces make it possible to roll out highly advanced applications without even writing a single line of code. Many such platforms, such as QuickBase, Zoho Creator, Salesforce Platform, FileMaker, make the task of developing highly intuitive apps and software solutions easy. A basic level of code knowledge would suffice to make the required customizations, quickly.
However, the ease of coding doesn’t mean app development is a piece of cake. Coding is just one aspect of the overall app development process. Requirements gathering, app design, UX, testing and other critical aspects of the software are all challenging tasks which require highly skilled and experienced professionals.
While, theoretically, developing a custom software may seem like an attractive and manageable proposition despite the high level of skills required, on the ground, enterprises could find such developmental tasks to be a distraction from their core focus. The internal IT resources may already be engaged in routine maintenance activities, and development works could pose a drag on their efficiency. With custom software, the enterprise will have to bear the brunt of all the drawbacks until the glitches are ironed out, and the software finally matures. With off-the-shelf software, the enterprise can learn from the mistakes of others.
Moreover, the core focus of the developers of off-the-shelf software is the software itself, and they incorporate agile and other best practices. They also keep abreast with changing technology to remain ahead of the game. Therefore, before it’s released to market, the software will be tried and tested extensively, and glitches ironed out.
However, purchasing software ‘off-the-shelf’ is also not as easy as picking apples off a supermarket shelf. The procurement process is elaborate, with the source-to-contract process raising specific challenges. The in-house team would still have to perform the requirement gathering exercise, to find a suitable product. Such ‘off-the-shelf’ programmes also have to be evaluated for UX, ease-of-use, supporting infrastructure required, and other parameters, all requiring considerable effort from the enterprise.
The Need for Deep Customization
As a rule of thumb, developing the software in-house is a good idea if the software requires extensive customization. Enterprises which seek to develop basic and generic software to support common routine functionality, such as solutions for emails, discussion forums and file sharing are ‘reinventing the wheel’. It is foolhardy to develop software in-house when industry majors such as Google, Microsoft, and others offer advanced, scalable and secure solutions, customizable with the enterprise name. Likewise, those seeking a CRM suite would do well to pick up any of the ready-made CRM suites available in the market, such as a Salesforce CRM, HubSpot CRM, Insightly, or Zoho CRM. Most of such suites are highly matured products offering a high level of functionality and the option to pick-and-choose the required modules.
However, the devil lies in the details. When the off-the-shelf software is not matured or modular enough, it may clog systems with unneeded options even when fitting organizational needs well. In such situations, creating a custom software can eliminate the excess and ensure bloat-free software, optimized to the exact needs of the business.
The Challenge of Integration
In an age where data analytics is a valuable source of competitive advantage, enterprises need to ensure seamless integration of the software with other enterprise systems, especially the back office and finance systems. Marketers and other customer-facing representatives require complete access to real-time interactions, without being hindered by data silos, for which seamless integration is imperative.
The extra time and investment in developing custom software may well be worth its while, considering the benefits of seamless integration.The developer would consider the existing system when preparing the blueprint for the software development project, and make sure the new software functions smoothly within the existing IT ecosystem.
Off-the-shelf products have regular updates, which might not be all that heavy on the pocket. Also, if you go for a quality product, you might also enjoy flawless customer support. But sometimes, they might not get updated for a long period of time, due to which you might end up working with an outdated product causing a negative impact on your business.
With custom software solutions, you have the freedom to make whatever changes you want, whenever you want. You are always independent regarding the decisions you take for the software. You don’t have to wait for new releases and introductions, to add features to your software. Whether it is an upgrade or changes you need to make to include new tasks and operations, you can get them done by custom software experts at any time.
Nature of the Enterprise
The technical factors and benefits notwithstanding, the nature of the enterprise can also have a big say on whether to opt for developing custom software or purchasing software off-the-shelf.
Smaller companies rarely have the budget, time, or resources to create custom software. Their requirements are unlikely to require complex integrations either. As such, an off-the-shelf solution would probably fit their needs. However, at the same time, the extra effort and investment in developing custom software may be worth its while, if the business has to expand its footprints. Developing a custom platform can create a more streamlined process for a business. Custom software is easily scalable and replicable. Off-the-shelf software is unlikely to provide such scalability without duplicating the investment.
Another important dimension to consider is the end-user or the people who use the software. The off-the-shelf software comes with a complete ready-to-use package, tested for all bugs and has gone through extensive usability tests. Whereas, the custom software requires extensive investment in training users. The process may also involve some trial-and-error, with each version improving on previous versions. The implications on business operations during such a trial-and-error phase can be debilitating.
Custom-made products are generally quite flexible and of course best suited for companies with specific requirements. Some other benefits of custom software solutions are:
Scalability is one of the most important factors to consider while choosing technology for your business. Your software should be scalable enough to accommodate the present requirements of your business and also make room for future additions. As your business grows, you might have to add features and maybe even departments to the software you use. Hence, it is always better to get your software built in a scalable way. Off-the-shelf solutions do not have this facility.
You get to use a software made exclusively for your business with all kinds of unique features and specifications that other businesses don’t have. Hence, you gain a competitive advantage over your competitors, with your unique solution.
If you are building a solution just for your business over its specific requirements, a custom software would be perfect and hence satisfaction would be guaranteed. As experts once said, you need to adopt software and align it with your business process and not the other way round. You don’t just adopt a rigid software and try aligning your processes around it.
To cut the story short, there is no conclusive winner in the build versus buy dilemma. The best option depends on the circumstances. However, making the wrong decision can be costly. For this reason, it is imperative enterprises carefully evaluate the pros and cons of both options, and rationalize based on the specific circumstances surrounding their enterprise. When making the trade-off, the primary concern should be the on the efficiency with which the software allows them to serve their customers and other stakeholders in the most effective manner.
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The world of business and technology is ever on the move. Businesses that do not change with the time invariably face obsolescence. Here are the top five developments small businesses can expect to impact their business, in 2017.
The World Will Increasingly Go Mobile
The world is increasingly going mobile. Small businesses have slowly but surely realized the tremendous potential embracing digital technologies can bring to their business, and many of them already have websites, apps, and other digital assets. Already more people access the Internet through their smartphones compared to websites, and 2017 is likely to be the year when the dominance of the mobile will become well-entrenched.
More are more customers now prefer mobile apps for browsing products conveniently on the move, quick and easy checkout, and other benefits. For the business, mobile apps offer loyalty, as customers who download an app are less likely to go elsewhere. It also allows a convenient way to reach out to customers. About 50% of small businesses will have a mobile app by 2017, and as much as 70% of their online traffic will be through this medium. Through mobile apps, 55% of the small businesses aim to increase sales, 50% of them aim to improve their customer service, and 50% of them aim to become more competitive in their niche. Even sectors where mobile apps have traditionally not found a strong footing, such as restaurants, event organizers, churches and funeral services, and others, is expected to roll out mobile apps in a big way by 2017.
E-commerce Will Get More Innovative
E-commerce is already the lifeblood of many businesses. This will continue in 2017, but competitive pressures would force several changes, all aimed at making things easier and seamless for the customer.
Newer, fully integrated and easy-to-use payment options will take center stage. Options such as Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and even PayPal checkout options will become common.
There will be greater integration between online and offline, with customers using apps while shopping in brick and mortar stores to make comparisons, or conversely, online customers picking up orders from physical stores. About 11% of US consumers prefer using their smartphones to make in-store purchases.
With too many e-tailers all vying for the same market, the thrust will be on innovation as the means to stand out and gain competitive advantage.
Big Data will Enter Small Business Space in a Big Way
Hitherto, the costs and efforts associated with big data meant only big businesses could leverage it for their benefit. But the times are changing. By 2017, big data will become “democratic” enough, with new solutions enabling even small and medium businesses to embrace the technology in a big way.
Small businesses would increasingly rely on the mountain of customer and historic sales data available at their disposal, before taking marketing and other decisions. 82% of marketers already opine big data as vital to their campaigns. More and more small businesses would leverage big data to personalize product offerings, explore untapped offerings, and engage with customers in a personalized way, and thereby gain competitive advantage.
The big thrust will be on the infrastructure required to collect, analysis, and formulate the required insights.
The Cloud and IoT will Drive Backend Operations
Small businesses already use a variety of popular cloud services for email, storage and application solutions. For instance, Google Apps for Work, DropBox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Office365 are already widely used collaboration tools. In fact, about 95% of small businesses already use the cloud in some form. However, businesses are still hamstrung by lack of resources and expertise to leverage cloud optimally. New solutions that hit the market in 2017 is likely to resolve such issues, and also improve cloud security.
2017 is also the year when the Internet of Things (IoT) will permeate into everyday lives, and change how business is run. Small businesses will be able to leverage IoT to improve connectivity among their workforce. For instance, a smart app that integrates a wearable camera could improve connectivity among geographically dispersed employees, and also improve accountability. Connected devices could report low inventory and reorder automatically, reducing costs. The possibilities are endless.
New Paradigms will replace the Old in Marketing
Digital marketing is going through a churn. Banner ad click-through rates continue to decline, and organic reach for businesses via social media is now almost non-existent. About 49% of consumers now employ some type of ad blocking. In such a scenario, businesses are exploring newer ways to reach out to their target market.
One method likely to go centre stage in 2017 is permissions marketing. Here, consumers give marketer the privilege, rather than the right to offer highly personal and relevant content. Needless to say, only high-quality content and authoritative content will make the cut.
Another method likely to gain big ground in 2017 is influencer marketing. Word of mouth is already the driving force behind many purchases. Influencer marketing is the next stage. Influencers are persons of authority in their network. Small businesses will look to curate employees as influencers within their circle, or invest in developing external influencers.
What other trends do you foresee for 2017 for small businesses? Drop in a comment.
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Technology has literally touched every single aspect of our lives now. Any industry you take, you will find a significant technological revolution, that has completely changed the entire industry. Be it retail, healthcare or education, technology has played its role and left the results for all of us to see and experience.
One of the less talked about industries when it comes to technological influence is Agriculture – the world’s oldest industry. It might seem like a far-fetched idea to at least some of us, incorporating technology into agriculture. But then, weren’t all technology ideas far fetched for any industry, initially?
Jim Swanson, CIO of Monsanto, leads a digital revolution in the world of agriculture, through his organization. He has been the CIO of Monsanto for almost two and a half years now and has been dealing with all the IT systems and data that extend across Monsanto, who have their presence over 67 countries worldwide. His focus, throughout the digital transformation, has been on 5 basic pillars that define digital opportunity: operational efficiency, customer centricity, business productivity, revenue enablement and disruptive innovation.
So, how did Jim Swanson go about leading the technological revolution, focused on these areas?
The Slow Shift From Analog To Digital And Working With Growers
As the agriculture industry is pretty huge and old, moving from analog to digital was quite exciting for Monsanto.
Jim Swanson, says, “You think about the seven and a half billion people on the planet, growing to nine billion in a relatively short period, and growing the amount of food we need, and doing it sustainably is an important mission that Monsanto has.”
What Jim’s team did on the fields was a kind of extraction of useful data and information insights, which they utilized to come up with new and better ways to do agriculture, than what was done in the past. For that, they needed information, science and technology, and used every single resource that they had. They set up the connectivity in their fields that enabled them to collect real-time information, so that they could asses the performance of their combines. They also used data analytics to generate better insights on their products as well as their sustainable business practices.
They digitized their internal processes so as to connect more easily and freely across the agriculture ecosystem, with the help of sensor technology, data, and insights that have literally changed the way farming is done. The impact was also quite big, in terms of yield, reduced inputs and bringing about sustainable agriculture.
The farmers or the growers, being the scientists that they are, are always curious about ways to increase their output, and hence assess and test everything to see if it works for them.
Monsanto made the effort to work with them, understand and grow their thinking around how technology can be applied. They were able to learn with the growers, and analyze what works and what doesn’t. They did more of what worked, and evolved what didn’t, to make them better. This way, they developed a great partnership with the growers, which went a long way in digitization.
Achieving Operational Efficiency Through Simple Techniques
From a holistic perspective, they came up with a simple solution as one of the means to improve operational efficiency. They fixed sensors on their semi-trucks which transported products from their farms into their manufacturing plants, which enabled them to track the products wherever they were in the process. This allowed them to understand if certain semi-trucks were getting hot. They could provide real-time information through dashboards and information analytics to their plant, to move a hot semi-truck forward in the queue, and get it unloaded, thereby avoiding a possible loss of product or yield. This basically shows the value of digitizing the supply chain and its impact on business.
Such technologies and ideas can be used on the research or commercial side as well. It allows agriculture companies to analyze and make important decisions well in advance, while providing growers with real-time information as and when they need it. This facilitates sustainable improvements in business.Every organization has a mission and a strategy to achieve the mission.
Every organization has a mission and a strategy to achieve the mission. Monsanto is a yield based company, and hence, for them, digital yield is at the top of their mission and strategy. It is under this mission, that the rest of the company’s processes to unlock the digital yield take place. For example, IT to provide the digital platform to facilitate the processes and their work with customers and growers, come underneath. To assess the value of that digitization, as mentioned before, they also created five value pillars – operational excellence, centricity, business productivity, revenue enablement and disruptive innovation.
Jim Swanson is a role model for all those CIOs working in the agriculture industry. I’m sure we could never think of ideas to automate agricultural activities in the past. Now, we have the capabilities to develop custom software applications for almost everything in agriculture. This is just a start to what could be a worldwide revolution in agriculture.
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How an American was able to achieve his dream of extending pet care services across the globe.
One of life’s most enriching and delightful experiences is owning a pet. An animal that you nurture and take care of all its life – it is definitely a never ending source of happiness and love.
Pet care is a rapidly growing business, with the U.S of course, leading the sector having the world’s highest number of pets. Pet pampering is increasingly becoming the norm, which is something that goes beyond simple taking care, feeding and grooming. People are ready to pay a premium for high-quality pet products and services because pets are considered a part of the family.
As part of the pet care industry, there are several companies that provide pet care services to pet owners. Here we discuss one such company, K9 Experts, that used technology to manage its pet walking business in an efficient and effective manner.
An ardent pet lover Mr. M, runs K9 Experts headquartered in New Jersey. He has always been very particular about taking care of pets, just like any other American. He wanted to help others with their pets and hence started by working for a pet care company. Now he owns one.
M. always wanted to start a pet care business of his own. While working for a pet care company initially, he had been using a certain kind of application, which he found a little inefficient. There were still many areas of the business that the application did not cater to, and hence remained unautomated. He was looking for a better, more advanced pet care solution for his new business; one that completely eliminated all the challenges that he faced with the application that he was currently working with. What he basically needed was a one-stop solution for pet owners, to take care of their pets world over, in a hassle free way and he had a specific set of requirements for it too.
The Solution – Tracking Paws
He found the perfect solution in full-fledged feature rich web application developed by Fingent Technology Solutions called “Tracking Paws”.
- Due notifications and alerts, not just for the customers, but for the staff and the business partners to enable effective communication
- Geolocation features enabling customers to view and track where their pets are being taken for walks, ensuring sufficient transparency
- QR code enabled starting and ending of services making it easy and quick for the customers
- History of service activities for customers and the service staff, contributing to more transparency
- Interactive maps and photo uploading features, all meant for a richer customer experience
All of these features were focused on providing a transparent and reliable portal for customers to take care of their pets, and thereby earn their trust and loyalty.
M was able to successfully start his new pet care business, with “Tracking Paws” and hence fulfill his vision of helping people take good care of their pets. With Tracking Paws, he saw almost a 20% improvement in his overall business, within the first few months of deployment. The user-friendly nature of the application was an added advantage, making Tracking Paws more popular among his clients. On the whole, it allowed M to keep ahead in the pet care business with sufficient support from his growing customer base.
Are you looking for an efficient application to solve your business challenges, just like M? Talk to our team of experts! We can help you develop a custom software solution specifically suited for your business to realize all its goals.