When Does Custom Software Make Sense?

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Topics: Process, vCIO

With the wide array of off-the-shelf software products, the idea of custom software is something that many businesses don’t consider.

It’s true that custom software usually carries a higher initial price tag than most, but there are distinct advantages that make the decision to create your own software solution a very attractive option in the right circumstances.

MainSpringer Ryan Klenk working on custom software solution

Current process

The first question I ask someone when we are discussing a potential custom solution is what tools are currently being used to accomplish the task? What other products have been considered? Researching the options for available and existing tools is a key first step.

There are many basic processes that businesses handle in largely the same way, and the commercial software industry builds to those generic specifications. For industry and process specific needs, the options narrow considerably. These strategic applications make the best case for custom software as these are the areas in which your business process differentiates itself.


The key decision usually comes down to cost versus compromise. I encourage businesses to determine what percentage of their needs are going to be met by the off-the-shelf tool that they like the most. The decision then becomes, whether the value of the unmet needs is worth the difference in cost between custom development and the off–the-shelf solution.

The balance of cost and compromise is unique to every potential system we discuss, and even when 90 percent of requirements are met by an off the shelf solution, the remaining 10 percent can be valuable enough to justify an entire new system, or a smaller separate tool that can be integrated into an off the shelf solution.


The cost of custom software is also something that many people don’t realize is within reach. Mainspring focuses on using rapid application development tools that allow us to build custom applications for a fraction of the cost of many traditional tools. The key is to tailor the requirements to your business process. Avoiding software bloat and feature creep not only keeps costs down, but also makes for a better user experience.


Custom software allows you to run your business using your processes, without compromise. When an existing tool is leaving your needs unmet, exploring the costs and benefits of a custom solution might be the only answer. Discover how MainSpring worked with a client to build a custom system that allowed safety inspectors to gather information in the field with an iPad and then synch data with their business offices. This solution saved 30 to 50 percent on report generation time compared to doing things manually.

The experience of the Mainspring development team and the processes that we employ, from discovery to delivery, simplify the custom application development process. If you are investigating whether a custom solution makes sense, the first step starts with analyzing your needs. Whether you embark on this independently, or with the guidance of our team, gaining an understanding of your process and objectives is going to enable you to make the right decision to fit your business.