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September 21. Software Partner

Software development for small business

Why and when to take the journey of creating your own software.

First let’s have a brief introduction. Some 30 years ago if you needed a CRM you would hire a silicon valley tech firm and pay millions to implement it using let’s say Oracle. Obviously this type of software was out of reach for small businesses, which instead relied on excel sheets and employees magic talents to organize the business.

In recent years with dramatic drop in the costs of tech devices, with rapid development of the internet, everything became more affordable. Mobile devices and cloud services changed the way businesses operate. Same goes for custom software development. Today small business can afford and should invest in order to develop custom software that will distinguish them from the competition.

Fast forward to the future. Are you in need of software and do you own a small business? Do you find a lot of solutions and none of them matches your flow completely? Are you asking yourself - do I need to do the custom development of the software or to find someone to do it for me? Do I go with off the shelf product or solution? Do you just see how to improve on the flow of certain business using software or you have a groundbreaking idea but no development power or a partner to make it happen? Maybe you have great entrepreneurial skill and see the opportunity in solving a problem for others? If any of these questions are on your mind then you are at the right place.

You have been in the situation where you dedicated significant amount of time searching for the product that solves your problem and yet after finding and choosing one it still does not fit the requirements as expected. Your workflow and productivity is unaffected by the change. Maybe you have multiple software solutions, each of them solving a piece of your business puzzle but they do not communicate well - or at all to each other. 


Choose to make your own and do it properly

First make sure you checked enough of what is on the market. You talked to your peers and the solutions they are using are not matching your needs. 

There are a number of other things to consider before making a decision to start with creating your own software.

Choosing the company that will make your software is maybe the biggest deal in this process. Make sure you pick one that understands your business. And not only understands but that will be prepared to actively contribute to your idea. Your future partner needs to challenge the idea and to have different expertises so they can be competent to analyse your problem from different angles. You need to feel as they are extending your team and knowledge.

Second most important thing is for you to identify what you should expect as a result. That means with custom development you should be in a position to better plan and execute your business and ease improve your works performance. It should work for you. Your custom software development partner should try to create enough automation so your software will work almost on its own, automating stuff, making it easy to use.

Once you know the strengths and weaknesses you can plan and apply steps to get better results. Ask for planning of your software. Usually there is a creative force involved behind the plan and you might be charged for it. Even if 'most' of the idea was yours, the plan that is step by step and explanatory of the functionalities, features etc. is a creative thing done in the partner company. 

There are things to consider in the plan. For example ask if this involves any further costs other than the development costs, are there libraries and languages used that will have more charges, maybe monthly, yearly or any at all. Be sure you understand the plan. Be sure you own the plan. This is important as you can walk away for any reason and hire another company to make your software based on the plan. Also it is important as you maybe asking for new features or for an upgraded version of your software like a Software as a Service or SaaS for short.



What is SaaS?

Maybe your new software is so specific and great that you know you can sell it to your competitor. You are already aware of the problems he has and you are arranging them to be fixed in your software. SaaS is this soft way of saying - hey we made your software easy enough to be deployed elsewhere and customized for anyone else besides me, so I can even make money selling it.

As you can see this could be a potential new source of income for you in the case that you understand your branch / niche of the industry and have planned software well enough from the start, or you chose to go agile with MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This is where you also see how well the partner developer company you chose is and how future forward thinking they are. Be sure to agree on how the maintenance and new features of your software will be done. This is crucially important for you as a client of a custom software development company.

One important thing to mention - once you started developing with one company, do not think it is easy changing them. Why? Well like with a lot of things in life you might end up paying more & doing the things already done.

At the start of this article I mentioned that things are getting to be 'easier' or cheaper. It is because of all of the innovations that are going on. That is what is going on because a lot of people are innovating their software solutions, among other things of course.


Is custom software solution really for me, I am a small business owner?

YES! Let us take a step back and talk about why would custom software be the right choice for a small business or you as a matter of fact?

While off the shelf products can be broad enough to cover many areas, custom software is tailor made and better adapted to fit and fully cover your workflow or to add features as they arise or become obvious. Moreover, custom software is usually developed by dedicated team that reacts in the right time and adapts along with the changes, either triggered by your company growth or by dynamic always changing market. Maybe you remain a small business just because you didn't realise you need to act big.


Financial thoughts

It is not a small decision to make your own software and finance it. But is financing your software really a big deal? Let us make a comparison.

For example, your software will be smart will save you money on the licenses of other software. Do the math. Do a yearly sum of them and compare if this efficiency is achievable with what is your budget for a smarter software. 

Maybe the software will be 'smarter' and solve a bunch of your issues so that you can run your business better and therefore you are unable to understand its financial impact at the moment. Anyway we leave this up to you as people are really entrepreneurs or employees in the end, with no disrespect to any of the 2 groups.

You can check our engagement models, maybe it clears some of your doubts. 


Conclusions & steps to take

We all need to learn, improve and grab onto the new world. We all need to go only forward. So investing in the heart of your business process which could be your software is a step to take even for the smallest business.

You understand this by now so I will write up the steps to take and consider when the decision to look for better software is made.

  1. Look for a solution that already exists and works 95% for you, If you found one no need to go further
  2. Look for a company capable of making your perfect software and check a few things:
    Are they capable & smart enough to understand your business and challenge you and ideas & plans?
    Are they a true partner you would go on working with for a period of time?
  3. Again make sure you are choosing the company wisely, you will remain with them if you do not want to have a lot of extra costs
  4. Validate your plan, depending on the model of engagement, some features might be costly to implement afterwards
  5. Be sure you own the plan
  6. Prototype the software so you can understand 100% how it will work and feel
  7. Make sure you choose the right engagement model, check our on this link
  8. Monitor the development of the software regularly
  9. Analyse the market to see if you can resell your software
  10. Improve your business with your new software & profit




Zoran Popovic

Latest post: Javascript master


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Software development for small business