We make custom software for businesses and non-profits. We are nowhere near the most expensive firm doing this, but we still sometimes see the sticker shock in people’s eyes when they find out how much it will cost. As a business owner myself, I totally understand that.
Despite this, most business owners will understand that it takes skilled people to make software, and those skilled people need to eat. Contrary to popular opinion, web designers and developers do not make a ton of money. Our team members make about the same as a carpenter or electrician. Also, even though we have low overhead, we still have many monthly expenses (software, hosting, etc.). In short, no matter how you slice it, it costs money to make software.
So why would you pay a team to make your company custom software, when there are so many off-the-shelf tools out there? I think there are three main reasons:
1. You get a tool that is built specifically for your needs.
When you use off-the-shelf software, you are getting a generic product that is built to solve generic problems. But you don’t have generic problems, you have your problems. You have a specific team doing specific things in a specific way. Imagine the headaches you could make go away if you had tools built for your team.
In my free time, I do a lot of woodworking. Recently, I purchased a track saw, which was fairly expensive, for breaking down plywood. Despite the fact that I have several tools that can break down plywood like my circular saw, hand saws, and table saw, I don’t consider that track saw a waste of money. The reason is simple: it performs a common task much better in half the time. When you are using tools made for the task, it makes your life so much easier.
2. You get a tool that you can change when your needs change.
One of the wonderful things about software is that it can evolve. We recently did a project for a large retail chain that wanted software for their regional management team. They gave us specs, and we built them a tool in a couple of weeks. Then they started using it and realized that they could do things they didn’t anticipate before they had the tool, so they contacted us to make changes and a week later, the tool was doing different stuff. We went through this three or four times with this client and what we ended up with is much different than what we started out with.
Software development often looks like this:
- Spec out a task.
- Build and test the software.
- Use the software in the real world.
- Think of ways the software could better fit the needs and changes of the client.
- Repeat the cycle.
No offense to Microsoft, Apple, or Adobe but they aren’t going to add features to their software specific to your company in a week or two. They aren’t going to collaborate with you to build the perfect tool for you.
Which brings me to the third reason why custom software is worth it…
3. You get to have the people who made the tool on speed dial.
The clients who I work with can call me — the guy who made the software — on my cell phone. If something breaks they can let the actual people who made the software know and have it fixed in less than a day. If they have a question, they can call the people who made it to get an answer.
To put it simply, if it is valuable to you to have your tools customizable, adaptable, and well serviced, you should seriously consider hiring a firm like ours to make some custom tools for you.