Why custom software development pays off and what to look out for

Why custom software development pays off and what to look out for
Articles and interesting facts

Would you prefer a tailored suit or a ready-made one? We understand that there are a number of parameters and personal preferences at play, but we can probably agree that a tailor-made suit will fit you like a glove and look exactly how you want it to. Unfortunately, it will be considerably more expensive than the ready-made alternative. The situation is similar with bespoke software. Read on to find out when it's worthwhile and what to look out for from a customer perspective when developing bespoke software.

Before we start comparing individual solutions and procedures, let's clarify at the outset what the software actually is and what you can expect, whether you opt for a so-called boxed solution or custom software development.


Software 101

What exactly do we mean by software? The English term itself means "soft goods"; in proper English we would say software. At a very general level, it refers to programs on a computer that perform the required functions. It sounds simple, but sometimes the line between what is just data and what is software can be blurred - an example might be an HTML file. While it is data, it may also contain executable code.

Software can be divided into several basic categories:

  • Malware - this includes viruses, spyware, bloatware, adware, in short any malicious software that at best slows down the computer, at worst tracks users, sends sensitive data, or even encrypts the data on the computer completely. This is not software that we voluntarily install on our computers until there is a problem, usually we don't even know we have malware on our computer. We use security software to make sure we don't have it there or can remove it.
  • Security software - This category includes, as the name implies, all software that is related to cyber security - whether of endpoint computers or entire systems. These are primarily antivirus and software firewalls.
  • System software - a kind of layer between the hardware (the physical hardware of the computer and its peripherals) and the application software we normally use. We do not usually use system software directly - this includes the operating system within which we use applications and firmware. The latter provides low-level operations without which the computer hardware would not function and initiates the execution of the operating system.
  • Application software - is usually what first comes to mind when you say software. These are the programs that we actively use when we perform an activity on the computer. This includes office applications (typically Microsoft 365), information systems, communications software, web browsers, graphic editors, engineering applications, in short, anything you can think of. If you have custom software created, it will most likely be application software, or applications for short.


Programming languages

In order for customised software - or any software - to come into existence, it must first be programmed. Programming languages are used for this. What is a programming language? It is a block of syntactic rules for specifying algorithms to perform specific tasks. Such a notation is then called a program (typically application software). In simple terms, a programming language is a means of communication between a developer and a machine, through which the developer specifies the execution of the required actions.

There are over 9,000 programming languages worldwide. In practice, however, the number of languages used tends to be in the lower teens, and it is rare to come across a developer who is proficient in more than 5 of them. In fact, it is usually recommended to focus on mastering one language and then move on to others. Let's have a very brief introduction to the most used ones to keep you in the loop.

  • C - no, it's not a typo or missing letters, indeed this programming language has such a short name, although you can also encounter variants of C++ and C#. These are pretty much universal and efficient object-oriented programming languages, from which many others have emerged and are still widely used. After all, in addition to a lot of application software, a lot of system software is written in "C" - from various firmware to the entire Unix operating system. C# is used, for example, at Microsoft.
  • Python - again, it's an object-oriented general-purpose programming language with a relatively long tradition, stretching into its 40th year. But this does not mean that its popularity is declining; just two years ago it was the most popular programming language. It is very often used in custom application development, but also for ML (machine learning) and AI (artificial intelligence). Python is used in Google Search, for example, and Instagram was created in it, as well as many websites and form applications.
  • Java and JavaScript - these are currently the most in-demand programming languages, at least in terms of demand for developers (despite the fact that the Java family of languages has an even larger community than the aforementioned Python). In fact, you will see code from these programming languages on almost every web page - they are used to create dynamic elements of the web (e.g. buttons or graphics that respond to the presence of the mouse cursor). But Java is also used, for example, in the banking sector and is being used by players such as Amazon.


Custom software development - development methodologies

Custom software development is the kind of software that you get developed according to your requirements and specifications. That's probably pretty clear. But it's up to you how personally involved you wish to be in the development process. And that, in turn, depends on what project methodology the development team uses. Two basic and at the same time completely different approaches to project management are the waterfall model and the agile approach.

  • Waterfall model - a classic project management approach that is based on sequential execution of phases. Customized development is carried out in pre-planned phases with the understanding that none of the phases can be skipped and the next phase can only be started after the previous phase has been completed and closed. It is useful if you require a fixed timeframe, implemented features and costs. The disadvantage of this approach is that the requirements must be precisely specified and may not change during the course of the project. And this can sometimes be a problem in custom software development.  Once you have agreed on an analysis that fixes the scope of the custom software development, you can just wait for the delivery of the finished solution.
  • Agile management - relies on a modern iterative approach. The product is developed and delivered in periods (called sprints, which typically last two weeks), each of which contains phases like the waterfall method above. A sprint usually includes software testing. At the end of each sprint, you will have another iteration of the customized application under development to comment on. This gives you ongoing control over the direction the final product takes. Likewise, you can continuously intervene in priorities, add requirements or change features that have a different effect in practice than that which was expected. Agile management is also often used within the DevOps methodology.

→ Tip: See how artificial intelligence can be used in software development.


Compare a customized application versus a packaged solution

Good - you want a customized application because you haven't found any "boxed solution" on the market that satisfactorily covers all your requirements and specifics. Or have you found a packaged solution that only satisfies your requirements to say 80%? Then the question is whether it makes sense to compromise. So let's compare the advantages and disadvantages of a packaged software solution and customized software.

Custom software - advantages and disadvantages


  • Ownership - if you have agreed with the developer, you own the developed application. Beware, even a bespoke application can be provided as SaaS (i.e. a service you pay for every month) - it is important to check this in the contract.
  • Features - exactly what you need. Of course, the same applies to other aspects (UI, integration options, etc.).
  • Price - higher acquisition cost.
  • Support - depends on the vendor, they usually provide the following support for the delivered software and training.
  • Flexibility - any additional related applications or upgrades must also be custom developed, usually by the same vendor.

Boxed solutions - advantages and disadvantages

  • Ownership - not owned by your business.
  • Features - may not exactly meet your specific requirements and needs.
  • Price - lower acquisition cost.
  • Support - depends on the vendor.
  • Flexibility - related applications or upgrades are usually readily available.

Legal window - what to look out for when entering into a custom software development contract

A contract for bespoke software development and delivery should definitely be in writing. Sometimes a framework contract is also concluded, where the parties cooperate on the development of a more complex system (the development phases are then dealt with in sub-contracts or addenda). Be careful not to confuse software development contracts with sales contracts. In addition, pay attention to the following recommendations:

  • Definition of requirements and target state - clearly state all the requirements you have for the customized software to be developed. Carefully define the target state and don't forget the delivery date.
  • Handover of the customized application - clearly define the handover process, this includes testing the software and who is responsible for it.
  • Responsibility for defects - specify which non-functionalities of the customised software the supplier is responsible for, how these defects will be reported and by when they must be fixed.
  • Licensing arrangements - unless specified, by law you have the right to use the bespoke application in accordance with the purpose of the contract. It is advisable to have a statement in the contract from the contractor that they are entitled to supply the software and that they have addressed all copyright and industrial rights that apply to it.
  • Source code - if you agree an exclusive licence you should be entitled to hand over the source code, be sure to contractually address this.
  • Confidentiality - the contractor is likely to gain access to confidential information during development, you in turn may become familiar with the know-how of the developers. This information should not get to other parties.

Custom application development - how does it work?

Custom software development is a complicated process, regardless of which of the above methodologies is used. Development will always involve multiple phases and activities:

  • Specification of requirements - as mentioned earlier, the requirements should be specified contractually. Even so, there will be analytical meetings and consultations with the contractor.
  • Architecture design - specifying how the software will be implemented and what the architecture, software components and their communication will be. On the basis of this phase, the actual development will proceed.
  • Development and implementation - your requirements are implemented and programming is done. In addition to the actual programming, this phase deals with the ongoing testing of the software and its verification. This includes storing and sharing source code, configuring the development environment, etc.
  • Deployment - the customized application is handed over and deployed into live operation in your company. At this stage, support and training is important, as well as adding additional functionality and customization if necessary.
  • Operation - if it is a customized web application, for example, the work does not stop, because there are constantly requirements for operation, running environment and cybersecurity.
  • Scaling up - even after deploying a customized application into live operation, your requirements may change. Your company grows over time and your business processes may change with it. The bespoke software will need to adapt to these.

At Algotech, we develop custom softwares and can translate even the least specific specification into a final product. Contact us - thanks to our senior team of developers, we can handle even the most complex projects and guarantee that any fixes will always be resolved free of charge.

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