As technology becomes a bigger part of all businesses, the issue facing managers is moving from “do we need software?” to “how do we get software?” It is no longer a choice, managers have to find ways to do more with less and having the right software allows them to do this. Starting with this understanding, how do they go about getting it? Off the shelf solutions are nice when available, but the chance of finding a premade solution that fits your niche and does exactly what you need it to do is rare. This means that you have to get a tailor made solution built for you. To accomplish this, there are three avenues that I will cover; going through internal IT, hiring contractors, and turn-key providers.
When looking for a custom software solution the obvious instinct of many may be to go through their own corporate IT department. IT should have a good feel for the business need and more importantly will be there to support whatever they create. In fact, if you can get this sort of custom development done by your corporate IT then it probably makes a lot of sense. However, this option is seldom available in a reasonable timeframe. For most companies, IT’s main objective is to maintain enterprise wide software and maintain the company’s hardware. They rarely have the resources or capacity to handle one off applications that they’ll then have to support. Even if they will build you a custom solution, the backlog can be months or even years and even then, since it’s not their primary focus, it may not be exactly what you want.
Likely the most common approach managers take to building custom software is to hire contractors. The typical template involves bringing on 3-4 of these programmers-for-hire for 3-6 months to produce a custom application that fits the requirements. This approach has some obvious upsides. Often the contractors are working at your location so they can be managed more easily and you have the ability to see the application being built so you can ensure it’s headed down the right track. The downsides, unfortunately, are also rather apparent. Business managers are skilled at managing their business and usually that business is not managing software implementation projects. This means the manager is overseeing something that he or she has limited or no experience in. Furthermore, even if everything goes perfectly and the software does exactly what you want it to do; nobody in the company knows how it works. If it ever breaks or if you want to update it then you’re stuck and have to start the entire contractor process over again.
A third option to purpose driven software development is working with a turn-key provider. Turn-key providers are companies that handle the entire development process from design to deployment and into maintenance. These companies are US based and are combinations of business consultants, software developers, and graphic designers. They work with you to solve a business problem and design software to fill that need. Furthermore, some of these providers will host your application in the Cloud to prevent you from having to purchase and maintain costly hardware or worry about complex integration issues. The upside is providing a turn-key, hassle free approach to providing custom solutions to business managers. A possible downside of turn-key providers is that since they host your application, migrating away can be a time consuming process.
Custom software is becoming a necessity, not a luxury. That being said, it’s the output of custom software that business managers really care about, not necessarily how it gets put together. Because of this, finding a turn-key provider is often the best choice for managers looking to build applications and not hate the process of doing so.