The rise of online, cloud-based software or SAAS Solutions (Software as a Service) has been embraced by both individuals and businesses alike. The SAAS model provides convenient access to readily-available software on the cloud for a small fee - as an alternative to buying the software outright and installing it on your own computer/network. Given the availability and range of solutions available online, many argue that custom/bespoke software solutions should be avoided due to costs and lack of expertise. However our experience indicates that there are merits in both SAAS and custom/bespoke solutions - the key lies in knowing when to make use of which approach.
SAAS or "Off-The-Shelf" Solutions
SAAS Solutions, or software as a service, are usually provided as "off-the-shelf" solutions - ultimately you choose to use the system as provided and often customisations for specific clients are not standard practice. As a user, you would sign-up to the service and have access to a suite of tools online for a nominal fee (usually a monthly subscription).
SAAS solutions provide an easy way to access technology solutions - allowing you access to immediate functionality, managed and developed by a third party. The third party provider can offer these services for a relatively low price as they leverage their software over a wide base of users (effectively sharing the software development, hosting and management costs across their client base). And functionality is consistent across this user base.
Examples of SAAS solutions include the accounting platform, Xero; email/business platforms such as G Suite for business; and document storage platforms such as Dropbox.
When to use: "Off-the-shelf" solutions
- Readily Available, Suitable Software: If you have identified software that meets your requirements, there is no point re-inventing the wheel. If you have a common business, there may be software already available. This also means you don't have to worry about on-going maintenance including security and hosting. However it's important to be careful that the software is exactly suited to your business.
- Non-Core Functions: If the software is not related to a core functionality of the business, compromising your approach to use an off-the-shelf solution may be an acceptable approach.
- Budget Restrictions: The cost of building custom software are more significant than those of an off the shelf solution. Sometimes, this is the most logical reason for a business to use off-the-shelf software.
- Lack of Technical Skills: If you choose to build your software in house, you need to make sure you have a strong enough team to continue supporting the software (either internally or by working with a software development business such as DCODE GROUP). Until you do have a strong enough team, it can be better to pass on using custom software.
- Time restraints: Building custom software takes time. Why? Because you have to start from the concept and work your way to the solution. This isn’t just with the coding; you also need to invest time in planning and design.
Custom Software Solutions
Custom (or bespoke) software solutions are those that are developed for a specific purpose/to a specific specification for a client. While these can also be developed to operate in the cloud (online), they are often developed around a more defined set of requirements likely to appease a smaller target market - specifically the client who commissioned the work.
Depending on the circumstances (and the scale of the work), custom software solutions can often be more costly than "off-the-shelf" solutions as the cost of development is not being shared by a larger client base. However, they can have a significant benefit for the client as they can often be better align with business objectives - creating more value for the end-user.
When to use: Custom Software
In some instances, an "off-the-shelf" solution may not be available to fulfill the requirements of a client. While there are alot of SAAS Solutions available, no two businesses operate the same way. Sometimes the uniqueness of a business is the very reason for their competitive advantage. Using an "off-the-shelf" solution in these instances can often have a negative impact on the business.
Like-wise, using an "off-the-shelf" solution in situations that is not a good fit can often mean that additional off-line processes are required to ensure that the business still functions correctly - eliminating any efficiencies that software can provide to businesses.
In these cases, a bespoke/custom solution can be a great way to ensure that the software captures and facilities the requirements of the business in the way the business needs to get things done. While the costs of development can sometimes be greater, the impact of working with the business can far outweigh the negatives of this initial investment.
When it comes to supporting your software, it's crucial you ensure this on-going support is in place. This could be done with an in-house team or if an agency is developing your software, it's important to negotiate what on-going support they can provide for you.
Common reasons to use a custom solution include:
- Inability to find suitable software: If you cannot identify software that will do what you need it to do, a custom solution may be a good alternative
- Core Functions: If the software is related to a core functionality of the business; it is important to ensure that the software works in the exact way you need it to do - as this is ensuring it protects your competitive advantage.
- Potential gains in efficiency: If the solution assists you in optimising how your business can deliver its solutions at scale; then investing in a custom solution is likely to be of significant benefit - both operationally and financially.
Here we are talking about how custom software has been shown to improve your productivity
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, we feel that both SAAS Solutions and Custom Software Solutions can provide great benefit to businesses. However the key to a successful software implementation lies in selecting the approach that best meets the business objectives.
While SAAS Solutions can be a great way to implement proven technology, they may have limited impact if they do not deliver on the needs of the business. Likewise, custom solutions can be expensive and timely; but if facilitate a specific requirement, can result in improvements in efficiency and effectiveness for the business.
Before looking to implement technology in your business, take a moment to consider your objectives. Reviewing this alongside SASS and custom alternatives, you can quickly identify the best solution for your business. This article provides a concise pro's and con's list for both
Read more about what custom solutions we can offer including Front and Back-end Web Design including mobile, Apps, eCommerce Stores and Squarespace Customisations
Read more about what technology we work with including Squarespace, Amazon Web Services, Laravel, jQuery, MySQL and PHP
These are some clients we have developed custom solutions for in-depth:
- Premax; a custom International Online Store
- Earth Solutions Group; a custom website and process management system
- Our own development, Defex; a Task Management software designed for use in construction, property and maintenance management
If you're looking to put a new software solution in place for your business, but aren't sure which approach to take then let's have a chat about which option is better for you and your business