What exactly is custom (business) software?

Software is eating the world. Marc Andreessen

I had to start with one of my favorite quote. It points out that we live in a software enabled world. Software is everywhere. Your private life. Your business. Everything is run through and by software.

Simply put, there are 2 types of business software:

  • Software that is sold to many and
  • Software custom-made for your business.

But where is the difference here?

The former is built to be used by many businesses. As you are only one of many customers, the software can't be 100% customized to your needs. Even though modern applications offers a broad range of customization options and integrations, it will never truly fit your business. You will always have to adapt to the software and not the other way around.

Some examples of ready-made solutions:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications like Pipedrive, Salesforce or Hubspot
  • Time Tracking Tools like Toggl or Harvest
  • Project Management Application like Shortcut, Linear, ClickUp, Asana or Jira

The list is possibly endless.

Don't get me wrong. That kind of software is just fine for most areas of your business.

Although, you have to be aware of the fact that you are not controlling the application development lifecycle (what is built how and when). It is not up to you to decide what kind of features make it into the application. You might have a say, but ultimately, you are one voice in many.

On the other hand, custom-made software, doesn't force you to adapt to the software, but instead fits right in your business. You are 100% in control:

  • Want a new automation? You decide how the functionality is built and when.
  • New business idea? Add it to your business software.
  • The User Interface is not really self-explaining? Change it.

Almost sounds too good to be true, right?

That freedom comes at a significant cost. Custom Software is usually more expensive than ready-made software. Timewise, the commitment is also a lot higher. Software Development is a complex process, and a good service company needs to learn a lot about your business to create fantastic software.

Nevertheless, if you want to distinguish your company from your competition, you want to consider a custom-made solution for the core of your business. Determining the return of investment (ROI) is absolutely critical before starting such a demanding journey.