The world is full of software. Just take a moment to look around you and you’re probably surrounded with many examples. Whether it be the browser that you’re reading this in, the software you use at work, or the software that’s running inside your car, software is everywhere these days.
Most of the time, we are interacting with software built for the masses. We’ve got Instagram, Whatsapp, and Facebook for our social lives, we have Word, Excel, and Acrobat at work, and we have so much software behind so many devices we use everyday.
While these applications are incredible and improve our lives in so many ways, there are times where they aren’t quite what we’re looking for. Especially when it comes to work or running a business, sometimes the applications out there fall short in one way or another.
So what do you do?
You really have three options
- Put up with existing software and live with its shortcomings
- Wait for updates or a brand new application to come out that hits the mark
- Build something yourself
Now when it comes to building it yourself, most of us don’t have the luxury of knowing how to program a piece of software.
That’s where custom software comes in.
Custom software is software that is built specifically for you, your business, your needs, and your wants rather than software that is built for the masses. It’s like the difference between getting a custom, bespoke suit made for you versus buying one off the shelf.
Typically, because a business doesn’t have the technical knowhow to build custom software themselves, they hire another company to build them a piece of software to solve a problem they are having. The company they hire is a custom software shop and the software they build is custom software.
The many forms of custom software
Custom software comes in many forms and is sold by many different types of companies. When it comes to the software itself, custom software shops analyze the problem and decide what’s the best technology to use. They may recommend a web application, a mobile application, a desktop application - or even recommend that custom software is not the way to go at all. While custom software is typically built from scratch, sometimes custom software solutions involve integrating existing applications.
If this is getting a little confusing, let’s look at an example of a good candidate for custom software. Let’s say you run a plumbing company. Today, you get appointments by having people call a phone number. The appointment leads to a service call that you fill out on paper and give to one of your plumbers. They complete the job, fill out the paper service call, come back to the office and file the final report.
You might think to yourself that it would be great if a lot of this was digitized and automated. You go to a custom software company, educate them about your workflow and they build you a custom mobile application for your plumbers who can receive service orders on their phones, fill out the reports on their phone, and have the data automatically sync to a back-end office application that you can view. They may even build you a web application that allows your customers to book online. That would be a great candidate for custom software.
Who sells custom software
When it comes to the companies that offer custom software services - there are a whole bunch and they call themselves all sorts of names. To make things more complicated, sometimes companies that are focused on other offerings may offer custom software solutions as a side service. For example, even though Marketing agencies are focused on marketing activities, they may still offer custom software services since that may play into their strategy. Below is a small list of types of companies that may offer custom software services:
- Custom Software Shop
- Custom Software Services Company
- Software Firm
- Software Consulting Agency
- Software Consultant
- Software Freelancer
- Digital Agency
- Marketing Agency
- Web Design and Development Shop
- Mobile Development Shop
- Software Solution Firm
All these types of companies and more offer custom software.
When it comes to the service of custom software, typically companies do a lot. Among other things, they will analyze your problem, make recommendations, strategize with you, implement a robust development process, design the UX and UI, implement the code, and deliver the final product. In most cases, they will also maintain the software. By the end, if you’ve dealt with a good custom software shop, you’ll have a good sense of what it’s like to run your own software company.
Some great companies local to Ottawa that do custom software include Industrial, Netfore and BitHeads (Not to mention BiteSite :)). Outside of Ottawa, there are amazing companies like Thoughtbot, TWG, and Crafted.
Now that you know what custom software is - what is the big deal? We’ll be writing more and more articles on this subject, but custom software is all about solving a problem. By solving that problem, your company may get the edge on a competitor, your company may run more smoothly and efficiently, or your company just may experience more joy at work. Whatever it may be, it’s all about identifying problems that can be solved with software.
So are you a business owner? Spend 10 minutes thinking about your business and the challenges you face. Ask yourself could something be done better? Could you picture yourself using software to solve it?
If so, custom software might be the answer.