Making a move to Custom Software can have a significant impact on your business. It can lead to improved customer satisfaction and retention, more efficient operations, and strong ROI.
We explore the benefits of investing in custom software for your business. We cover what it means to create custom software, when to build it, when not to build it, and best practices to avoid risk and best optimize your project.
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(Karley Velasquez )
Welcome everyone, we plan to get started in just a few minutes, we’re just waiting on a few more attendees to join us. While we are waiting for others to join, during the last 10 to 15 minutes of our event we will be conducting a live Q&A. For those of you on Zoom, you can enter your questions in the Q&A panel. For our viewers on LinkedIn live stream, please submit any questions in the event chat down below, and we will answer as many as we can at the end.
Thanks for joining us. Welcome to DADEN Software, purpose-built software solutions for the best version of your business. Hi, I’m Karley Velazquez and we welcome you to today’s Virtual Event where we will be covering custom software and what it can do for your business, including when to build it and the best practices to optimize your project. During today’s presentation, our Chief Architect and CEO, Chris Daden, will tell you what it means to create custom software, its risks, the process itself, and ultimately the opportunities. So we’re going to jump in here and get started. How’s it going, Chris?
Great! Thank you, Karley. All right, we are going to have coverage of a very interesting topic today.
First of all, let me introduce myself for those of you who have not attended one of our events before. My name is Chris, I’m the CEO and Chief Architect and DADEN Software. I am an experienced software developer myself, I have a passion for programming, architecting, and just creating awesome software in general. In my career, I’ve created more than $30 million in software deliverables. I’ve been a founder, been the CEO, CTO, engineering director, and my systems have been deployed globally with millions of transactions. I also act as an advisor in the technology arm and consultant for enterprises and high growth startups. So I’ve been around the block a few times on custom software projects. Although, there’s always things that continue to surprise me.
Here’s a roadmap of what we’re going to be covering today. So we’re gonna spend about 15 minutes on the content, maybe 20. And then we’ll spend the remainder of the time on a live Q&A. Our roadmap is to cover, first of all, what is custom software? We’re going to talk about automation, ROI focus for a moment. Then, I’m going to give you some examples of what custom software types are out there and give you some example cases. And, I’m going to give you some ideas on how you can identify opportunities within your own organization to create custom software to enable you to increase efficiency, or get those benefits that custom software provides. Then finally, I want to drill into what custom software can do for your organization. I’m going to speak to the startup mentality, the mid-size, small medium business mentality, as well as the enterprise mentality. So for all of you in the audience who are from different types of organizations, you’ll find the information today valuable to you, no matter your size.
What is Custom Software
So let’s jump in. Many of you on the live stream may just not be familiar with custom software at all. So let’s start with a quick technical definition of what is custom software. Here we have IBM’s definition. “Custom software development is the process of designing, creating, deploying, and maintaining software for a specific set of users, functions or organizations. In contrast to commercial off the shelf software, custom software development aims at a narrowly defined set of requirements”. Here’s a more understandable interpretation of that definition. We essentially say custom software is when you identify, plan and create purpose built tools that create an environment for your organization to thrive.
Custom software is really a tool in a tool bag that allows you to run your business more effectively. Think of maybe an advanced website where you have, say, an estimator tool for your products or services that your prospective customers can fill out and get real time feedback. Think mobile applications to communicate with your customers, or provide value to your customers in a way that is more personalized and more automated than conventional older school methodologies, or internal calculators for your sales reps to create proposals automatically, or create sales quotes more effectively or efficiently. Those are all examples, quickly, of tools that can create an environment for your organization to thrive.
Custom Software: Automation ROI
The next most important thing to focus on when it comes to custom software, and everybody asks me this is, you know, custom software can be expensive. It’s more affordable than many of you may think. We always encourage those to evaluate the costs of alternatives before deciding that custom software is too expensive for them. One area of focus is ROI, and in order to achieve a strong ROI, you should really look at how you can create custom software for automation in your organization. So here’s a definition of IT automation from VMware. “IT automation is the process of creating software and systems to replace repeatable processes and reduce manual intervention. With it, automation software is used to set up and repeat instructions, processes or policies that save time and free up staff for more strategic work”. This is actually a great definition. A simpler interpretation of that definition is for software automation to use technology to increase efficiency, while being the best version of your business. So while we’re talking about custom software, keep those two definitions in mind. For those of you that already are familiar with custom software, we’re gonna jump into some of the meat now. But for those of you who are learning what custom software is, and how it may help your business, those are the primary objectives as well as the primary opportunity for you to achieve ROI by automating systems within your organization.
Examples of Custom Software
Here are some specific examples of custom software. The term custom software eludes many people. In conversations, I frequently say DADEN Software creates custom software for the best version of your business. A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, that’s great, but what is custom software?’ and I think it’s important to cover some examples here of what custom software is. So, think about custom facing portals. If you belong to say, a bank, such as Chase Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, any of those top tier banks and you need to access your financial information, you’re logging into the customer facing portal to manage your account. If you’re logging in to pay your utility bill on the gas company or the electric company, or the water company, you’re using a customer facing portal. If your customers need to login to pay invoices, or manage their account or edit their information, you’re essentially exposing a customer facing portal. Custom software is a common and frequently used way to create those portals.
Also, CRM systems: CRM stands for customer relationship management. Most companies out there who have modernized their sales process, use a CRM. Those who do may use Salesforce, or HubSpot, or Pipedrive, or any of those common CRM systems. They’re great tools. However, there may be times, say you are an insurance company, construction company or technology company and you really need a customized CRM solution in order to match your sales process more precisely . Frequently, custom software can be used for that. CMS systems to manage content, maybe you’re a video provider, or an article or writing provider. Maybe you need an internal team web portal for HR purposes, or employee incentive programs and membership application. So if you’re a coffee shop, and you offer a reward system that is more complex, maybe you have five or six locations in your coffee shop chain, and you want all of those locations to adequately accept your rewards, coupons and programs. These are all excellent examples of custom software. Maybe you’re in the legal industry, insurance industry or health industry, and you’re looking for a more effective way to manage the records that are associated with your day to day. If you have administrative employees, or if you have an office staff. If you have a team that is involved in processing records on a regular basis, there may be certain custom workflows that would allow your business to scale and be much more cost effective if you were to create a custom record management system in any of those industries.
There are so many more examples of custom software out there. These are just a few that are common use cases that we’ve specialized in over the years and that may help get your mind thinking about what custom software is and how you can see these match the definition. And maybe, it starts getting you to think about custom software that your organization could benefit from.
Should I Buy or Build?
The next very important concept to consider, and this has been said a lot in my career in executive management, in the startup process, do we Buy or Build? At the end of the day, you have to truly evaluate certain criteria before you decide to make custom software. Or, if you should buy an off the shelf solution, like was mentioned earlier in the definition by IBM. So here are some things to consider, should you buy it? Or should you build it? So every single time a situation presents itself to you about custom software, you should ask yourself, and I’ll use CRM as an example. Should I purchase an existing CRM, like Salesforce, or HubSpot, or Pipedrive? Or should I evaluate creating my own custom CRM system, building it to my exact specification, with my exact sales flow in mind designed for my type of employee, in my type of environment? You should also ask yourself, what’s my budget right now? There’s always a good consideration in stopgap solutions. So maybe, I’m going to use HubSpot, Salesforce or Pipedrive for the next 12 months to build out my sales process that they don’t have yet documented and then I will make a decision to build out my custom CRM system at the time that I’m positive I understand my sales will most effectively.
You should ask yourself how complex is the project that I’m about to embark on. So custom CRM systems can be very complicated. They have lots of small features that the big softwares give you right off the bat from the day that you pay your subscription fee that you are going to have to consider building into your custom software. You should also ask yourself, is this piece of custom software going to contribute to the core of my business, such that it improves a critical metric. In executive management, we used to think about critical metrics as employee happiness, overall efficiencies of development teams, or overall efficiencies of support teams, sales teams, and at the end of the day, how happy did something make our clients. When you think about all of this, it’ll help you make the decision of whether or not you should buy versus build.
More frequently, we see clients choosing to buy while they figure out a recipe for what they need to create. Then once they’re more mature in their cycle of understanding their sales process, or their support process, or whatever it may be, then they launch into a custom build phase. Generally, it is much more cost effective and time efficient for organizations to build something after they’ve implemented, essentially what we call an MVP, or a working manual model, in the form of buying a solution. And just a tip– it’s not always a binary decision. You don’t always have to choose to buy or build, you can actually do a combination of both. We see and we advise a lot of companies who have limited budgets, as they transition from buy to build. They can build customized tools, say laterally to Salesforce, and we can build out those tools and link it to your Salesforce database. We can still be effective in that hybrid model, which is kind of in the middle of the buy and build options. So don’t feel like it’s a binary decision, you can do a little bit of both, and that is quite effective sometimes.
Custom Software Development Examples:
I’m going to go through three quick examples in more detail of custom software that may benefit your business. One of them is if you’re a larger enterprise or a medium enterprise, and you’re using a CRM, but maybe you’re receiving common complaints from your staff, like, there’s too many buttons or we don’t use half of the CRM system. Why is it so complicated? Maybe when you onboard a new sales employee, it takes you a lot of time to educate them, train them, maybe they’re not logging things effectively. If your sales staff is not using the CRM, there may be a barrier involved in maybe the complexity, or speed, or whatever it may be. Those things may lead you towards building a custom CRM, for example. Some of the things you would achieve with a custom CRM system is increasing in-house efficiency, your sales team is more likely to log their calls, log their emails, use the system to update customer records, and it’s easier for them to use so you’ll increase that efficiency with their time. You can really drill in, and every organization has a different demographic in their Human Resources pool, so you can really design the features of your application to be more user focused. Maybe your company has 80% of its staff out in the field, and they’re working from tablets or mobile phones a lot. A lot of CRMs aren’t very fast and fluid on those types of devices and you may wish to have a system that is more focused on that style of integration.
Also, you may want a competitive edge by reaching out to your customers faster, or prioritizing alerts, or if you’re in a highly competitive industry, like insurance and the lead comes in, you need your staff to effectively round robin and get that call quickly to reach out to that customer. You need to make sure that your team is on top of it to maintain that competitive edge in these really competitive environments, and a custom CRM may enable you to do that. Also, when you look at the off the shelf solutions, such as a CRM, even HubSpot, Salesforce, and those kinds of systems are quite expensive when you get into the pro versions of automated workflow. Some of the things your organization may need, you may see $20,000 to $30,000 a year in licensing fees, or even more. Some of the clients we’ve worked with had north of $100,000, up to $500,000 in annual license fees for their CRM because of the sheer number of team members they have in their organization. So when you start reaching those levels, custom software can really be more attractive to avoid those unnecessary service and licensing fees.
Executive teams at that scale can benefit from customized reports and automated reports to their email. It feels really good for an executive team to be able to say, I want my CRM system to do XYZ every Monday morning. For example, I want to notify my sales staff at this time every day for follow ups and to be able to dictate exactly what you need for your organization to succeed. To have that be implemented and delivered is a very valuable trait and custom software is very strong for that. Also, you own this proprietary asset so when you make this custom CRM system. One of our clients is in the construction space, and they created a custom CRM system that is really tailored to that specific industry. It uses all the localized lingo, all the terminology that is relevant to that type of business and they’ve created this custom CRM system for a niche environment. They own it completely, so maybe they can license it to others in the space. Or once again, they can maintain that competitive edge by being really well resourced, really well efficient and managed, while they use their custom CRM system. So really, it is a great factor to know that you own this proprietary asset when you create custom software.
Custom CRM Case Study: AMPCO
That construction example I was giving you is with one of our valued clients, AMPCO. We have a case study here. I’ve put a QR code on the screen, so feel free to scan this and read more about our implementation with AMPCO for a custom project management and CRM system. We really value our relationship with AMPCO and it’s another great example of custom software.
Custom Membership Mobile Apps
Moving on another example is membership mobile apps. With membership mobile apps, you can create direct to user communication. So say you’re a coffee shop, or you’re selling a rewards program, or you’re selling a membership program, say AAA or an insurance company and you really want to drive membership value, you want to drive user retention, and you want to have an on-ramp for future functionalities and enhancements. Imagine if all of your members have your mobile app downloaded, every quarter you can release an update to your app and drive new functionalities so that you can re-engage your customers to really, truly create that high retention snowball effect. As your users gain traction and stay with the company, you can focus on those modern interactions with members. You have a global reach when you have a membership mobile app, and it doesn’t matter what country they’re in. They can download and take advantage of your membership application. There’s a lot of features that if you’re like a physical, like say AAA, and your mailing booklets in the mail or you’re giving, you know, like they used to give maps, etc. There are certain perks that can only be achieved digitally, like location finders, or directions, or instant emergency alerts, or notifications. By having a membership mobile app that’s customized to your specific use case, you really can benefit from those perks and features and so can your end members. They gain those conveniences. For this type of software, think about the Starbucks app with their rewards program, think about an American Express app with American Express travel, think about Groupon with their coupons, and the things to do finding functionality. Those are all great examples of custom membership mobile applications.
Custom Membership App Case Study: A.G.I.A.
If you want to read more about the membership app we built for A.G.I.A., a travel insurance and their emergency assistance plus product. That’s a great example of a membership app that we created on both iOS and Android. We’re very grateful to have deployed their app globally for A.G.I.A. insurance, their Emergency Assistance Plus program, so please scan that QR code if you’re interested in more.
Custom SaaS Products
The final example I have here for custom software is a very interesting one. It’s a SaaS platform product. SaaS stands for software as a service, for those of you that don’t know. What it means is, it’s a piece of software that gets generated, you purchase it and you use it, and typically it’s the same product that everybody receives. Think about Microsoft Office online, like Office 365, that’s a SaaS platform. You go online, you purchase it, you use the product, and you’re paying maybe a monthly or annual fee for that. So maybe you’re a self-funded or venture capital startup, that really needs to build purpose-built custom software because you’re set out to be the next Uber Eats or Doordash, or whatever, and you want to build custom software to achieve the needs of your startup. The benefit of this is you really get full control over everything. You can do tailored payment systems, you can add commissions percentages, you can really control the workflow and lifecycle of users or contractors, or anything using the system. You can really control everything and you still get your global reach as a startup and get all of the custom features and innovation. One of the examples I’ll give you is our client Burn Return. They’ve innovated heavily with their fitness app and they needed really good low level calculations from Apple fitness in the Apple Watch application. We were able to tap into that, compute, verify, calculate energy, calorie burns, etc., using the Apple Watch health kit. Those are the kinds of examples of custom software for a SaaS platform or product software products. You can think of companies like Doordash, Waze, StubHub, which are all product focused and repeatable applications that are all forms of custom software.
Custom Saas Case Study: Burn Return
Here we have the case study for Burn Return. They’re a startup company, self-funded, and a great group of guys. We designed and developed their application for iOS and Apple Watch. Go ahead and scan the QR code if you’re interested in that case study. This is an example of a startup SaaS custom software.
How do I identify opportunities for Custom Software
Here’s what I want to leave you with– how to identify opportunities for custom software in your company. So you’re going to look for things that provide time savings, customer satisfaction, increase your professional appearance, or your brand identity, maybe reduce costs in your organization, or help you scale more effectively. Those are some of the things you need to keep an eye out for.
You want to ask yourself, are the tasks from an automation perspective? Can you think of any tasks that you repeat on a regular basis or that your staff repeat? Are they generally consistent in structure? Should they be automated? Because quite frankly, not everything should be automated. Are they capable of being automated? That’s when you might ask an expert for some additional information, but if you think about these repetitive tasks, it gives you a good capability to identify opportunities of where custom software could provide you that automation value. That’s going to lead to the highest likelihood of ROI in the shortest amount of time. You should ask yourself, what existing tools am I paying for in my business, and are those customized to the extent I need? Do those tools fit the needs of my organization? Have I outgrown them? Are they effectively working for my team? Are they driving value? Those are all very important things to consider and if you think about this list of items, you’ll definitely find some opportunities for custom software in your organization.
Custom Software: Benefits
So to recap, we want to create custom software for organizations, because there’s a tremendous amount of benefit. Some of those benefits are like creating an asset for your organization. You maintain ownership over that intellectual property and it can actually be added to your balance sheet as an asset, (speak to your CPA, or accountant for that information,) but you create a form of wealth and value for your organization when you create custom software. You can create those custom tailored tools to your business’ specific needs. That software can scale alongside your business. You can deliver to your customers and the experience they expect, which is the best experience and interaction with your products. You get exactly what you want, and nothing that you don’t want when you build custom software. So think of those big CRM systems where you don’t use half of the features. It causes complexity in training your staff, you can actually eliminate those things that you don’t want to focus on and focus on what you want. You can yield a very strong ROI and you can maintain a higher level of data security. You can ultimately streamline business operations and increase efficiency when you look at these types of custom software solutions. There are more benefits to custom software, but this is just a recap of what we covered today for you to take away and give you some motivation to consider custom software for your organization.
With that, I’ll say thank you. We are going to end here and we’re going to go into a very brief Q&A. We’ll take a couple of questions. If you need help identifying or creating your purpose built custom software project, don’t hesitate to get in touch, I’d love to talk to you. As an architect, I can learn more about your business and come up with ways that we may be able to create custom software to assist your organization.
So with that, I’ll pass it back to Karley.
All right, thank you so much, Chris. That was a lot of great information. I really think that you answered the “why” a business may need custom software. So although we don’t have as much time for questions, I think kind of going from the why, we can go to the how. We had a question come in: How long can I expect for the development of my custom software?
Great question. So custom software varies in complexity. However, on average, a software project at DADEN Software takes three to five months from start to finish. Remember, a lot of software development isn’t just jumping in and building the application, it’s a lot of planning, a lot of designing and a lot of wireframing. We have our 7 step process that we use to guide our customers through that. So I would say to anticipate no less than three months realistically. Any strong custom software project should not take less than three months to complete deployment and go live. Maybe that might be up to six months, or if your project is really complicated, like a custom CRM, you may develop over a year and maybe release over every one to two months. You release groupings of functionality as they’re completed. So it does vary, but hopefully that helps with that question.
Great. Let’s try to answer this other question here: What would be the biggest difference between purchasing a software system for a company as opposed to building custom software?
In my experience pricing is important. Money is always important. Budgets are important. But what it really comes down to is, if I’m the CEO of an organization, and I’m purchasing a larger piece of software and it’s complex and heavy, hard to use and slow. The biggest difference between me choosing to buy the software or build my own is really coming down to efficiency, ROI, making it easy for my team, increasing employee happiness, and increasing client satisfaction. So really, those metrics are the most important when it comes down to buy versus build. And budget, of course, is also very important. But at the end of the day, if you’re trying to scale your business, you know spending money on the things that can drive the most effective efficiency and happiness for employees and clients should be one of your highest priorities.
Great. All right. Well, thank you so much for that, Chris. We did have a couple of other great questions that we weren’t able to get to, so we’re going to go ahead and answer those in the event chat on LinkedIn at a later time. But a big thank you to all for joining us today. We hope that you found today’s topic helpful and informative about building custom software and what that could mean for your business. Please reach out to us if you would like to know more about what building a software system for your business could do. And don’t forget to follow DADEN LLC on LinkedIn. We have a QR code on the screen for you to scan and that’ll allow you to receive notifications for our upcoming events and other software development strategies like we talked about today.
Our next month’s event will be a roundtable discussion with a special guest. We’re going to focus on the ins and outs of payment processing on websites and applications. Please keep an eye out for our invitation to join us then and we’ll see you guys next time. Thank you.