Feb 15, 2021 Written by David Barlev

Exploring Custom Software Development: What’s the Right Tool for SMBs?

A mobile app development team

When it comes to custom software development it can be hard to find the right tools for SMBs.

Software options abound, ranging from simple to complex, affordable to prohibitive, useful to pointless—which is worth picking if you are to spend money wisely?

Whether it’s better tracking of your supply chain or more in-depth data about customers, it can be tough to figure out what your business needs in a software upgrade. There are plenty of questions to be answered first, so let’s take a look at some of the most popular SMB tools for custom software development.

Managing Customer Relationships

Two women sitting at a deskIt’s hard to pick a better place to start than keeping track of your customers. From keeping track of their progress in the purchasing funnel to forecasting next year’s sales goals, customer data is a precious resource for custom software development.

Some of the most prominent names in business software offer Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs to create extensive files to give you better information. These are names like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, and they can be expensive to obtain.

What do they do exactly? Well, they are at the crossroads of many different functions. They can act as an enhanced address book that reminds you when you last contacted a customer, as well as the next time you should drop a line. You can use a CRM to send out scheduled emails and other correspondence. Companies even use CRMs for customer service tasks.

In a CRM, the dashboard is your most valuable asset. This is where you can see all that data at a glance, and for the most part, this dashboard is customizable.

The best CRM? That’s a matter of preference, but recently, more and more SMBs are choosing to blaze their own trail with custom software that is designed exactly to their specifications. The benefits for doing this are obvious—you get nothing less than exactly what you need, rather than what a profit-driven company decides you’ll get.

A bespoke CRM can also save you money in the long run, since you won’t be paying subscription fees each month. As you list of the software choices for a CRM, don’t forget that building your own deserves a spot as well.

Keeping Track of Custom Software Development Resources

If your business deals with any sort of tangible goods, management of the supply chain will be inevitable. Depending on the size of your business and the complexity of your products, this can be a monumental task. Chances are if you’re looking for a better way, you’ve racked your brain trying to manage things on your own.

A CRM won’t be able to help you here. You need something designed to keep track of your finances, supply orders, stock on hand, and maybe even payroll. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is designed for this purpose.

Like CRMs, ERPs can carry a huge price tag that, unless you have the revenue to cover it, may simply be too much of an expense to justify. Subscriptions notwithstanding, many ERPs operate best when you have your own servers on-premise, as they must be able to communicate with devices throughout the entire company.

Oracle is probably the best-known software brand in this space. While they didn’t invent it, Oracle has become one of the tastemakers for how to build an effective, all-encompassing ERP that keeps businesses abreast of their operations. A license to get started using their software, however, can run between $5,000-10,000, and that’s before the $100-250 of monthly subscription fees per product!

Like CRMs, one problem with purchasing software from an established company is that, while they may have a great product, there is no way to customize it to suit your specific needs. As a result, you end up spending more and more trying to approach the right product.

Improving Your Marketing Efforts

Two coders at laptopsOver the last few years, it’s become painfully clear how important it is to not only get in touch with customers but to target the right ones—the ones that have the best chance of actually paying for your services. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a multi-billion dollar industry with all kinds of new offerings sprouting up each year.

SEO is a tough game. Unlike CRMs and ERPs that take hard data and organize it for you, there is no hard data for predicting which keyword potential customers will respond to. Instead, there are tools online like AHRefs and Moz that only tell you which keywords work best at the moment.

Everything is subject to change, and you never know if what worked yesterday will work tomorrow. However, they do provide helpful reports about where to put your next marketing dollars.

Why You Should Design Your Own Software

If you feel overwhelmed by the options available to you, you’re not alone. Software is expensive, and it’s hard to know whether or not the investment is worth it when you don’t have a chance to try it out long enough to establish its role in your company.

Why not design your own software? The cost is similar, you can define all parameters on your own, and if something needs to change down the road, you own the code and can make any needed adjustments.

More and more companies are switching to custom software these days. Why? Because no one knows their business better than business owners. By taking the time to draft up a program, they find unique ways to solve their own problems and can implement them in their own way.

The most appealing aspect of custom software development is the freedom from monthly subscription fees. These can sometimes be so expensive that companies are forced to shift their entire budgets around them. For these companies, bespoke software provides the advantage of ownership and customization.

Choosing the Right Custom Software Development Tools

A group of coders at a tableIt isn’t hard to find a capable software guru out there that knows what it would take to build the software you’ve dreamed up. However, finding the perfect developer means taking their work history into account and making sure you can collaborate with them successfully.

Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to go with a developer that has experience building software for your specific industry. Why? Because they can answer questions you didn’t know you had. Experienced developers have insights and in-depth knowledge about making software easy to use and bug-free.

As you start to survey potential developers, ask how many projects they’ve completed and in what areas. Do they have any tips about how to make your program work better? How about coding languages? Are they familiar with which medium works best for the program you’re trying to build?

The importance of planning can’t be overstated, either. You should have as clear an idea as possible about what your software does. Use case scenarios and wireframes are great for this—they can raise opportunities to solve challenges with functionality. Take the time to do your homework here.

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