By Author – Faizan Haider
Custom software is software that is specially developed for some specific organization or another user. Custom Software packages developed for the mass market, such as commercial off-the-shelf COTS) software, or existing free software.
Since custom software is developed for a single customer it can accommodate that customer’s particular preferences and expectations. In particular, the first phase of the software development process may involve many departments, including marketing, engineering, research and development and general management.
Custom software may be developed in repetitive processes. Possible hidden risks to be taken into account, including issues which were not mentioned in the original requirement specifications.
Additionally, COTS comes with upfront license costs which vary enormously but sometimes run into the millions (in terms of dollars). Furthermore, the big software houses that release COTS products revamp their product very frequently. Thus a particular customization may need to be upgraded for compatibility every two to four years. Given the cost of customization, such upgrades also turn out to be expensive, as a dedicated product release cycle will have to be earmarked for them.
The decision to build custom software or go for a COTS implementation would usually rest on one or more of the following factors:
- Finances – both cost and benefit: The upfront license cost for COTS products means that a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the business case needs to be done. However it is widely known that large custom software projects cannot fix all three of scope, time/cost and quality constant, so either the cost or the benefits of a custom software project will be subject to some degree of uncertainty – even disregarding the uncertainty around the business benefits of a feature that is successfully implemented.
- Supplier – In the case of COTS, is the supplier likely to remain in business long, and will there be adequate support and customization available. Alternatively, will there be a realistic possibility of getting support and customization from third parties. In the case of custom software, the software development may be outsourced or done in-house.
- Time to market – COTS products usually have a quicker time to market.
- Size of implementation – COTS comes with standardization of business processes and reporting. For a global or national organization, these can bring in gains in cost savings, efficiency, and productivity, if the branch offices are all willing and able to use the same COTS without heavy customizations (which is not always a given).
Large companies commonly use custom software for critical functions, including content management, inventory management, customer management, human resource management, or otherwise to fill the gaps present in the existing software packages. Custom software development is considered expensive compared to products.
The construction industry uses custom software to manage projects, track changes, and report progress. Depending on the project, the software is modified to suit the particular needs of a project owner, the design team, and the general and trade contractors. For example, floor plans for a particular project are unique to that project and are available on mobile devices for the project team to consume through custom software. In some cases, the floor plans use SVG. Rooms and spaces on floor plans that use SVG are programmable; a room’s fill color can change to red for instance if the room has outstanding deficiencies. Project-specific data is used in other ways to suit the unique requirements of each project. The custom software accommodates a project team’s particular preferences and expectations, making it suitable for most construction processes and challenges:
- Design Development
- Tender calls
- Document control
- Shop drawing approvals
- Changes management
- Inspections and commissioning
Custom software developers use various platforms, like to design and develop custom software for the construction industry and for other industries
- Hospitals: Hospitals can keep the data of a patient and retrieve it anytime. This enables a doctor and his assistants to transfer the details of a patient through a network. Keeping patients’ blood groups in the hospital database makes the search for suitable-group blood easy. Hospitals also use billing software, especially in their dispensary.
- Places of education: Schools use custom software to keep admission details of students. They produce Transfer Certificates also. Some governments develop special software for all of their schools. Sampoorna is a school management system project implemented by the Education Department of Government of Kerala, India to automate the system and process of over 15,000 schools in the state. These projects bring uniformity to the schools.
- Shops: Billing is a common use of custom software. Custom software is used by small shops, supermarkets, and wholesale-sellers to handle stock-details and to generate bills.
Custom software will generally produce the most efficient system as it is can provide support for the specific needs of the business, which might not be available in an off-the-shelf solution and will provide greater efficiency or better customer service. Given a suitable approach to development, such as DSDM custom software will also produce the best or most well-targeted service improvement. Businesses can tailor the software to what their customers want instead of having to choose a package that caters to a generic market. For example, one printing business may want software that responds in the shortest time, whereas another printing company may focus on producing the best results; as these two objectives often conflict, an off-the-shelf package will normally sit somewhere in the middle whereas with custom software each business can focus on their target audience./Although not always the most suitable for larger or more complex projects, a spreadsheet allows less technical staff at a business to modify the software directly and get results faster. Custom software can be even more flexible than spreadsheets as it is constructed by software professionals that can implement functionality for a wide range of business needs.
The main disadvantages of custom software are development time and cost. With a spreadsheet or an off-the-shelf software package, a user can get benefits quickly. With custom software, a business needs to go through a Software development process that may take weeks, months, or with bigger projects, years. Bugs accidentally introduced by software developers, and thorough testing to iron out bugs, may impede the process and cause it to take longer than expected. However, spreadsheets and off-the-shelf software packages may also contain bugs, and moreover, because they may be deployed at a business without formal testing, these bugs may slip through and cause business-critical errors. Custom software is often several times the cost of the other two options, and will normally include an ongoing maintenance cost. This will often make custom software infeasible for smaller businesses. These higher costs can be insignificant in larger businesses where small efficiency increases can relate to large labor cost savings or where custom software offers a large efficiency boost.
Reference – Jain Software