Why Understanding the Characteristics and Variations of Custom Software is Important to Your Business

As a business leader, you’re already aware of the enormous impact of software on business. It can be found in all industries and nearly every company. Software can be used in a business process, used to make a product, or part of a product itself. From automobiles to televisions, appliances to mattresses, and everything in between, software is now playing a key role in product creation and competitiveness. So, how do you define software? And what are the characteristics and variations of custom software? What is it currently doing to improve your business?

It’s important to understand the role custom software plays in today’s markets. Understanding what it is and how it defines modern business is the key to your own success. Why not arm yourself with the knowledge of how software (or lack of it) controls what you do in business and how you do it? You know everything else there is to know about your business, so it’s important to realize how software, particularly custom software, can affect it and even define it.

Defining what software is

For our purposes, software relates to the written instructions that tell hardware like computers, and external drives, what to do. But before we tackle the definition of custom software, we need to establish what software development is, what it does, and how it does it.

To some, the word software itself may appear elusive. It may seem like something that lurks in the background of concrete things that you can’t really see or feel. Yet, it plays such a crucial role in so many business processes.

Hardware versus software

Hardware, on the other hand, is a concrete term that is more easily defined. For example, hardware refers to the physical components or tangible aspects of technology, particularly a computing device. This includes computers, motherboards, wires, fans, monitors, printers, and so much more. Whereas, software relates to the written instructions that tell your hardware what to do and how to do it. Software includes operating systems, application programs, related data, utilities, games, etc.

Is software a process or product?

For now, let’s focus on custom software development and processes, and how it relates to business (as opposed to products). However, it’s not always easy to separate software development/processes, particularly relating to custom software, from product. According to Software Process Definition: A Reuse-based Approach, in the Journal of Universal Computer Science, many researchers argue that software processes are also products. The fact is that software development has for decades taken advantage of “reuse techniques” including “software components, architectures, and product lines have been successfully applied in several contexts to develop software products…”

So, defining software processes may be difficult. As the article confirms, “Software process definition is not a simple task; it demands experience and involves knowledge from several aspects of software engineering.” The techniques that are used by engineers and the end results of their efforts are key. The knowledge used to develop/reuse software techniques in products, for example, can also be applied to software processes.

Characteristics of custom software

But the definition of software itself may not be as important to you as its characteristics. What kind of animal is it? For example, what are the factors of custom software that you should consider? What characteristics are more important to your business goals?

First, software differs from physical goods as it has no physical limitation. According to, Defining Software Ecosystems: A Survey of Software Platforms and Business Network Governance, “the main limitations are conceptual, social and economical.” Custom software is especially flexible and can make the phrase, “the sky’s the limit” a reality for what you are trying to achieve.

When deciding on custom software, there are various factors to consider including the “needs and characteristics of the organization or project, techniques and methods to use, adherence to standards and reference models, business constraints (schedule, costs, etc.), among others.”  Because every business is unique, so are the needs. This is an important factor when thinking about the role custom software might play in your goals. With this in mind, it becomes clear that as a business leader, your participation in deciding these factors is crucial. Therefore, as you may suspect, these considerations require the skills of a professional who can make sense of all these factors. And depending on what your needs are, you may need help from “experienced consultants” who can advise the best routes to take.

Does custom software really solve problems?

As you begin to realize the power that custom software holds for your business, it may start to become a more integral part of your business plans. Sometimes, without even knowing it, you’re thinking of better ways to get things done around your company that involve software solutions. Custom software translates the ideas you have in mind to greatly improve your business and make it grow.

So, the best way to think about software is to realize the many ways that it can solve problems. Software development can specifically address issues that plague your current processes with custom solutions that fit your unique needs. This is done by developers through evaluation of each step in the process. In the book, Software Engineering: Theory and Practice, software development requires analysis and synthesis. In other words, it’s the breaking down of a big, complex problem into smaller pieces (analysis) and building or composing software from “smaller building blocks” (synthesis).

What are the various types of software? Knowing the potential of custom software can help you decide its value relative to your business needs. Here is a list of different software variations:

Formal Procedure

Software can be an established method or “formal procedure” designed to accomplish your goal. For example, document management software is written to organize and manage files.

Tool or Instrument

Software can also be a tool or instrument designed to do something better as in automation. This type of software can cut production times and greatly reduce the need for manual processes. These tools or programs are also used to create, maintain, support, and debug other programs and applications.

Combined Tools and Techniques

Many times, software represents a combination of “tools and techniques to create a product.” An example of this may be project management software, which integrates online systems to work and collaborate on projects. Custom software can use any combination of these tools and techniques to zero in and solve problems that may be inherent in your current system.

Product Build

Finally, software is an approach to build a product. For example, the agile approach is widely used for its adaptability and speed to develop web-based software development and applications due to regular modifications. Think of it as the path you’ll take to design and develop your project.

Software as a function

But software can also be categorized by its function as it relates to performing specific tasks. More than likely, you are probably using software in many of your daily business functions by most of your employees in various departments. For example, productivity software can include spreadsheets or word processors. There is also graphic software (CAD/CAM), presentation software, and many others. In addition, industry-specific software is written and used in banking, real estate, retail, and other industries. If you take an inventory of everything that your business is currently using, you may be surprised at the number of current programs you use to get things done.

How software helps business

The bottom line is that software processes help to solve problems and improve all facets of business. There is really no escaping it! But taking the time to understand what it currently solves for in your business may help you to better decide what areas may need to be improved or replaced altogether. Knowing what needs improvement in your business can be the starting point to decide what custom software options you should consider.

Ask yourself what problems may exist in your business that are holding you back. What is it that your business can do better? For example, maybe you can save time through automation. By automating a manual process that is very time consuming, you not only save time, but in many cases, processes are more accurate. Is there a better way of doing something that will increase productivity? Being more productive relates to increased efficiency and revenue. If you can service 100 customers a day instead of 25, your custom software will also help you to grow and thrive. Competitors will find it hard to keep up with you.

If you’re thinking that custom software sounds like magic or a silver bullet, your half right. For although it can change your business dramatically, it’s more about the hard work of talented designers, developers, and engineers who devote their skills to making custom software and your business exceptional.

Bitbean can help your business

If you’ve decided to explore the benefits of custom software, Bitbean can start the conversation. Contact us to discover the many ways your business can benefit from custom software solutions.

 

Posted by Ephraim Arnstein