Should your company invest in an off-the-shelf software? Or do you need to build a custom solution?
The answer lies in the complexity of your project. The more complex a project, the more likely you are to need a custom solution.
Complexity is not a bad thing when it comes to software development. A complex solution can be what sets your digital product apart from competitors. Automating a complex business process can allow for lightning efficiency and more productive employees.
When software solves these kinds of complexity, it is incredibly valuable in terms of ROI and your bottom line.
But complexity does make it harder to find an off-the-shelf software product to fit your needs.
This means you need a clear understanding of the complexity of your project in order to pick the right software solution, and the right development partner.
Here are four examples of complexity that you need to consider when choosing your solution:
1. User Types and Permissions
It’s important to understand how many user types are in your system. You can define user types as groups that will try to do something different in your system—for example, make a purchase, contact customers, manage employees, etc.
Different types of users often need different permission levels to ensure they access only the information they need in your system.
If you have multiple types of users, or if you need specificity and control over the permissions different user groups will have, then your solution will need to be more complex. In this situation, you need to fully investigate whether an off-the-shelf solution will allow for the user types and permissions you need.
If you have especially stringent security needs, you will need to choose a solution that meets those needs.
Is HIPAA compliance required? Are you managing customers’ identity and financial information? Then you’ll need to make security a key factor in your software decision, and study off-the-shelf software specifications to discern what security levels are offered.
If your system needs to connect to other systems, it may add complexity. The level of complexity for these integrations depends on multiple factors such as the other software’s API and the documentation for that API.
Before you make your choice between an off-the-shelf product and custom software development, make sure you understand what integrations you need and how complex they may be.
Another factor that can create complexity is the sheer size of your web app or mobile app. If you’re trying to manage massive amounts of data, or if you’re trying to effectively present hundreds or even thousands of pages, then (you’ll forgive the Jaws reference) you’re going to need a bigger boat. Make sure the off-the-shelf solutions you’re considering are yachts, not dinghies.
A Note about Overseas Development Partners
Your project’s complexity level should also weigh heavily in any decision to choose an overseas development project. Complex projects require more direct interaction and feedback loops. You’ll also want certainty that your developers are experienced and working according to best practices.
One factor to consider: failure to plan for complexity on the front end may require you to invest significant time in communication and project management during development — and that time investment may end up being more costly than the dollar savings you get from choosing an overseas company.
Complexity isn’t evil, but it is a constraint that you’ll need to plan for from the start. Otherwise it can derail an effective software launch. So start by accounting for complexity from the beginning by making wise choices about off-the-shelf vs. custom software.