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Software-driven innovation is fast becoming the hallmark of companies that are building for the future.

So much of industry and commerce now relies on technology that it makes sense to commission bespoke software. That way, computer programmes can be created and adapted to fit specific business needs and aims.

For some companies, custom software development is the only way to secure a competitive advantage in their particular sector.

Reasons To Commission Software Development

Custom software can automate processes and equipment. It can reduce waste and save time. Bespoke software can be used to reduce costs or to carry out research and development projects more easily. Commissioning software development could lead to greater control of key business functions such as HR and finances. It can improve the customer experience, build better customer service or improve marketing effectiveness. Sometimes software is designed to build greater connectivity and joined up working in complex or fragmented enterprises, or those with remote business operations.

To sum it all up, companies commission software development to solve business problems, or to create business opportunities.

Software Development Team

Businesses Increasingly Need Bespoke Custom Software

Of course it is more expensive than going to a technology retailer and buying off-the-shelf business solution software.

But it offers many advantages.

Big companies can become leaner and more automated using systems that have been created by software developers.

Small business software development can ensure new start-ups or development enterprises are better able to harness technology for their ambitions.

The Internet of Things is growing quickly. The value of Big Data is being embraced more widely, and analytical skills are keeping pace, so business strategies can be built on more forensic and predictive information.

All of this hinges on intuitive bespoke software.

It is increasingly becoming normal business practice to work with software companies – just as you would with accountancy firms, solicitors, office furniture suppliers and so forth.

Technology – and the software that controls it – is the driving force of the business world. This means that software development is no longer a subject confined to the IT department. It is increasingly making its way into boardrooms. Business strategies are being built on the potential created by bespoke software development.

Software Engineering And Software Developing

What’s the difference between software engineers and software developers?

The terms are sometimes viewed as interchangeable and you will certainly come across freelancers and other providers who can oversee the whole lifecycle of software development.

However, in the IT world they are specific jobs.

So, in a larger custom software development company, they would employ both engineers and developers.

To simplify the difference, software engineering is the process of designing and building the programmes that underpin the software. Software developers are the creative part of the lifecycle, tying the programmes to the business objectives and needs of the client. It is likely they would project manage the creation of the software, from client brief, through to engineering, testing and delivering the final product.

There are also two different main categories of software development – conventional and agile.

Conventional Software Development

Conventional software development tends to be prescriptive and relies on you knowing exactly what you need the computer programme to achieve. If this is ambiguous or likely to change, there is a chance the software won’t live up to expectations.

The client would build a brief, and the software developer would create a system to match that. In all likelihood the client’s next involvement would be testing the software to make sure it meets the objectives.

For simple projects with great clarity, this can be a straightforward and low cost way to commission small business software development.

Agile Software Development

Agile software development is based on more intuitive and adaptable solutions. Agile is an umbrella term for several methodologies for creating software, such as Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) and Feature-Driven Development (FDD).

The client and the developer would work far closer together and would need to set up regular reporting, demonstrating and testing cycles. This way, you can add to – and adapt – the functionality of the software as it evolves.

Working in an agile way also reduces the risk of the software being created from a unfeasible or error prone brief, or simply missing its target.

Man in office programming software on laptop

How To Approach Working With A Software Development Company

To commission custom software for your business, you need very clear and detailed aims and objectives. You don’t need to be a software engineer or developer yourself, but you certainly need to know what is possible.

As software is an increasingly complex business tool, with so many variations in its construction and application, it is sometimes defined as much by what it can’t do, as what it can do.

So you need to know the potential limits of any products and services you commission or buy from software companies.

Consideration needs to be given to how your new software will be developed so that it integrates seamlessly with existing systems and processes.

Also, what support will be available for the system changeover or introduction? Some software developers provide clear timelines for what needs to happen to get the software fully operational in your company.

For small business software for new start-ups, you need to discuss with your software developer where it be hosted (stored) – such as Cloud computing.

This is as important as the underlying framework of your bespoke software solutions. The hosting and basic architecture are one off decisions you make at the beginning, that can’t be easily undone.

Make sure that at the end of the process, the software becomes your intellectual property, and that you will own the source code. The competitive advantage gained from custom software development becomes diluted if any elements find their way to the open market.

Other questions you will need to ask include what testing will be built in to it? For many companies, the biggest deal breaker is when a software developer isn’t clear on how they would demonstrate the effectiveness of the software as it evolves.

Particularly if a large financial investment is involved, opportunities to test both functionality and integration should be regular and thorough.

How will it need to be adapted and evolved over time? How much leeway is there for revisions and reworking any particular structures and functions?

Software developers need to be ready to listen to your brief and get to know your company. However, you may need to be flexible on some points.

Leading custom software companies are willing to challenge the brief if any part of it is unfeasible or likely to lead to problems further down the line. The best software developer will make suggestions for adaptations based on their knowledge and experience.

Another thing you may need to look at when developing your brief for the software development company is what training they provide for staff, if they offer a helpline for any problems, and for how long that lasts.

What would be the cost implications of future adaptations and additions?

Next Step To Software Development

The credentials, experience and abilities of business software companies are all important, of course. When negotiating the contract, you also need to know how much of the work will be subcontracted out and what skills the in-house team have.

Also important is to find a software development company that you feel comfortable with. You are going to be sharing sensitive business information with them. That involves a relationship of trust between you and a custom software company.

The best and most reliable business solutions come from a process of cooperation and communication.

However, many companies request opt-out clauses in contracts – points in time when you can take your new software, as it is, and end the working relationship with that developer. It’s an insurance against a working relationship that isn’t working.

How you choose software companies to talk to initially to get the ball rolling usually comes down to price. You should have a good idea of how much you are able to invest in this project, so finding software engineering and development services that fit within that is vital.

Use the handy comparison system on this software engineering page to sift through available expertise that matches your budget, or to find software development companies offering value for money business solutions.