Contact us!

Potential challenges with custom software

Custom software may sound like a real dream (and often it is!), but building your own solution is a massive project and there are some things that can be good to know from the outset.

Commitment and buy-in from the entire organization

There will be things you as a customer need to do internally. You have to involve many people at different levels, including representatives from the management team (how many depends on the size of your company) and you must be prepared to take part in, and take a position on, a lot of information and decisions.

The work to develop new software will include several preliminary studies, workshops, meetings, testing, etc. and it will take time away from your regular duties. But – it will be worth it if you approach the process in the right way. Therefore, make sure that you have really created a great commitment and buy-in around the development of your new system and that the whole organization sees the benefits of it.

Cost uncertainty

Estimating the cost of custom software is difficult – really difficult. It is a complex process where various aspects have to be considered and many decisions need to be made. The system your company needs and wants does not exist at all, meaning it will be built completely from scratch. Like any other invention, it will involve a multitude of uncertainties and concerns – which makes it difficult to estimate the cost at the start of the project.

In order to reduce the uncertainty surrounding the cost, it is important for the client (together with the development team) to clarify the scope and really define the requirements for the system to be developed. It is also an advantage to break the project down into smaller parts, which is something that can make cost control easier. As more information emerges along the way and more things are discovered, it becomes easier to manage changes.

The project paradox below shows how knowledge increases as the project progresses. At the same time, it shows that it is at the beginning, when the level of knowledge is at its lowest, that most – and the biggest – decisions are made. As a result, we tend to make the most decisions at a time when we have the least knowledge.

Therefore, it’s important that you as a client work together with an experienced development team that has experience of projects similar to yours and have clear strategies and methods to handle uncertainties. To prevent the project paradox, you should aim for a collaboration where detailed decisions are postponed instead of being taken hastily at an early stage. This way, you will be able to make well-informed decisions together throughout the development process.

Difficult to estimate time

Custom software is not a quick fix and tackling the process in the right way means, among other things, allocating the time needed, and not stressing your way through the work. But to estimate that time is unfortunately not easy.

Unexpected events affect both the price and the development time, which means that delays can occur. As a software developer, you have usually encountered most things – it can be everything from bugs that appeared out of thin air to confusion with third party suppliers or delays in decisions from the client. In addition, the developers who build the software can suffer from illness or other absence, which can delay the work. One thing is certain, however – it takes longer time to develop your own software than to buy an off-the-shelf solution. On the other hand, if you purchase a standard solution and need to adapt it, you’ll face challenges similar to those that arise when you develop your own software from scratch.

No matter what you do, it will be difficult to create a good estimate of how long it will take for the entire project from start to finish. The best advice is to not set too tight a time schedule but  to instead actually give yourself the time and opportunity to come up with the best possible solution. Here too, it is of course important that you choose the right development partner with solid experience. You must trust that they will deliver what you want and solve any problems that arise along the way.

Maintenance and support

Just like a physical machine needs a kick or an oil change every now and then, software needs a little nudge on a regular basis to keep it performing at its best. All types of software need maintenance of various kinds, and if customized, the maintenance can be more complex and therefore also more expensive. Because it is built for individual companies, there is not always a "best practice" or clear standards, and the documentation that exists can be insufficient.  

As custom software is usually developed by only a few developers, this means that it can also take time for others to familiarize themselves with and understand the code. If there are bugs or other problems with the software, it will sometimes be you who both discovers and reports it to the responsible company or person (and kindly waits for it to be resolved). After all, you are the only company using the system.

If you have a long-term collaboration with your development partner, maintenance and support of the software is usually not a problem. They will keep your software under constant supervision and work proactively to know when maintenance needs to be done. Should an unexpected error occur, they are always there to quickly solve the problem.

Great responsibility

Developing your own software means a lot of responsibility – even if you use a supplier. As a client, you must be aware that you are dealing with a large, complex product that is also subject to change. You are the only ones who have and use the software, and so you must count on some growing pains to arise in the beginning. You are usually also the ones who will notice if problems arise, which is not always easy. Depending on how the software is used, it may even be that your customers discover the problem before you do.

Testing and quality assurance

Off-the-shelf systems are built to be used by many different types of businesses and have therefore been tested endlessly, in a variety of scenarios, to make sure they generally work flawlessly (however, problems still occur even in these systems). Custom software, on the other hand, is usually not tested to the same extent, as it’s generally not necessary, as the testing is adapted to the specific software and its users.

When it comes to security and testing, it comes down to your development team yet again. You must have confidence that they have developed the software securely and that they have ensured it is adequately tested.

Despite the many advantages of custom solutions (read more about it here: 5 reasons to choose custom software), these are some things that are good to be aware of. The best way to handle them is to choose an experienced development partner who you know will make the process as good as possible for you. The journey will be characterized by uncertainties, but it is the development team's responsibility to reduce these, support you and deliver the best possible product.  

Meta Bytes have worked with many companies in various industries and helped them develop software, from apps to entire systems and platforms. Having us as a software partner, you’ll be in good hands as we have both the necessary experience and competence. Also, we are rather fun to work with! So, if your company is looking for a development team, you know what to do.

Want to read more about custom software?

Custom-built software systems – five ways to do it right
To the article
Block Quote