What is custom software development?
Custom software development is the process of designing, creating, deploying and maintaining software for a specific set of users, functions or organizations. In contrast to commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS), custom software development aims at a narrowly defined set of requirements. COTS targets a broad set of requirements, allowing it to be packaged and commercially marketed and distributed.
Efforts associated with custom software development include application customization, application modernization and application management. Application customization refers to modifying COTS applications to support individual requirements. Application modernization plays a critical role in maintaining the viability of a business’s custom software to meet evolving user and market demands. Application management makes software effective by supporting tasks like installation, updating, performance and availability optimization, and service desk functions.
- Efficiency: Custom software is purpose-built to support processes swiftly and productively, without the need to tinker with or adjust COTS applications.
- Scalability: Custom software can grow as an organization or business grows and changes. Designers and developers can assess future needs as part of their requirements gathering. These factors can then be incorporated into the application, rather than incurring costs by purchasing additional licenses or subscriptions of packaged applications.
- Lower integration costs: One of the chief considerations of commercial software is: will it work with existing and legacy applications? If the answer is no, organizations face a further investment in getting commercial software to communicate and operate with their existing infrastructure. Custom software can be built to integrate with its intended environment.
- Profitability: It’s possible to make money with custom software development. Depending on the terms and conditions of the project, businesses that develop their own software may own the software and therefore be able to license or sell it to other organizations.
- Independence: The benefits of being free of a commercial software vendor cut both ways. On the plus side, organizations can avoid price hikes for licensing and support — and getting stuck maintaining packaged software should the vendor go out of business or terminate a product. On the negative side, the cost of supporting and maintaining custom software falls to the organization that created it or had it developed. How the equation works out requires each organization to look carefully at whether it’s better to build or buy.
Development methodologies to consider:
- Agile development breaks requirements into consumable functions and delivers rapidly on those functions through incremental development. A feedback loop helps find and fix defects as functionality continues to deploy.
- DevOps is a combination of development and operations. It is an agile-based approach that brings software development and IT operations together in the design, development, deployment and support of software.
- Rapid application development (RAD) is a non-linear approach that condenses design and code construction into one interconnected step.
- Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) provides a way to scale agile methodology to a larger organization such as a global development team.
Technologies and practices to consider:
- Open source is software source code that is open to the public and the development community to use. Linux, for example, is an open source operating system. It can enhance development productivity through software component reuse and improve interoperability by avoiding proprietary architectures.
- Cloud-based development brings the advantages of cloud computing to software development by hosting development environments in the cloud. These environments support coding, design, integration, testing and other development functions to build both on-premises and cloud-native applications, and do so with the cost control, speed and on-demand convenience that the cloud promises.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) enables software to emulate human decision-making and learning. It can be applied to improve the development process. For example, natural language processing — the ability for computers and software to understand human language — can be used to analyze requirements text and suggest improvements based on best practices. AI technologies like machine learning and modeling can also be acquired and incorporated into applications through application programming interfaces (API) and services from the cloud.
- Blockchain is a secure, digitally linked ledger that eliminates cost and vulnerability introduced by parties like banks, regulatory bodies and other intermediaries. Developers are using blockchain ledgers and open source Hyperledger technology to build new types of secure transactional and financial applications that can free capital and accelerate business processes.
- Low code is a development practice that reduces the need for coding and enables non-coders or citizen developers to build or help build applications quickly and at lower cost.
- Analytics technologies are helping software applications, and their users, make sense of a deluge of data through dashboards, visualizations and predictive capabilities. As with AI, cloud-based services and APIs make it relatively simple to incorporate analytics into applications.
- Mobile application technology may simply be a must. Fifty-four percent of global executives believe that customer buying behavior is shifting from products and services to experiences. . Many of these experiences occur through mobile software. Connecting mobile apps with data to improve and enrich user experiences is a key demand for developers.