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Businesses today are going through a digital transformation era, and web or mobile apps for customers, sales teams, ops teams or vendors & suppliers are driving forces for better engagement, retention and efficiency for the business. Apps are built around various use cases, right from enhancing the customer experience to reducing the process turnaround time for the business. At the end of the day, each factor has an impact on the cost of business, ROI and long term benefits for the organization.

If you want to build a mobile or web app for your business, you always have the option to choose from a readymade off the shelf solution or to build the application from scratch. It’s always a tough decision to make, given the time and cost impact of both. Based on my years of experience in working with businesses, understanding their pain points and solving challenges later based on paths taken, these are some of the insights that can help you make the RIGHT choice.

TIME

Time to Go To Market is a major deciding factor in your decision making. While a custom app will take minimum 3 months and maximum 6 months to go to market, your readymade app with some customization can be up and running in a matter of few weeks. The key points to consider here are:

  • Switching Costs from one to the other if it does not work is high, expensive and painful. So evaluate the solution thoroughly if it’s a readymade one to ensure it solves all your business problems. If it makes sense to give it a few months’ time to get the RIGHT solution, then in the long run that definitely works out better for the business.
  • You can also see if a custom solution can be taken to the market in phases, with each launch tailor-made to take care of key business problems.
  • If the readymade one offers the same solution as in the custom one, and if you anticipate no future major changes to it, go for it and take the advantage of one!

COST

Custom Apps are much more expensive than a readymade solution, as the investment costs are high in addition to the costs involved in maintenance and upgrades. In the long run, subscription costs of readymade solutions may also turn out to be higher when the user base or data volume increases. There is also a risk that the product if not from a solid provider can be shelved off or become obsolete.

With the AGILE way of building web applications and with iterative development linked back to customer feedbacks, it’s possible to build and take apps to market within 2-3 months thereby reducing the cost & risk of non-acceptance of the app & guaranteeing success to a large extent. For SMEs, cost maybe a constraint when it comes to the initial investment with custom built apps usually costing anywhere between 10K USD to 50K USD for small to medium apps. The cost can however be phased out based on milestone based payments and going with an MVP first.

However, if you are interested in a long-term investment in getting the right solution for your business, the effort and costs will pay off in going for a custom build one.

BUSINESS FIT

This should be the key driver for your decision to go with a custom or readymade solution. If the off the shelf one does not give you the required branding customization, user experience, functionalities and scalability then its possibly the wrong choice, and can pose roadblocks for you in future, and force you to switch to a tailor made application at a later point in time. The business fit should therefore be analyzed by the business and strategy team for current and long term scalability in tune with your long term business goals.

The major issues found with readymade apps are with performance, customizing workflows for different business stakeholders, additional features and fields that does not make sense for the business, user experience that is not tuned to your target audience & sometimes not supporting key factors that can hamper business growth. Here are some of the commonly found business use cases we have come across that many off the shelf solutions do not cater to.

  1. Inability to scale to all geographies due to constraints in supported payment gateways and local banks.
  2. Limited Multi-Lingual and Multi-Currency support.
  3. Inability to customize workflows for different stakeholders.
  4. Mobile Application and extensions not supported fully.
  5. Performance Issues when data load increases.
  6. API connectivity to integrate with ERP platforms are difficult in readymade platforms
  7. Constraints In branding and customizing the user experience to your needs!

However if you find a readymade solution, that is the right fit for your business & do not have any of  the above constraints, then you may as well just go for it.

DATA SECURITY

For many businesses, this simply becomes the key decision maker. If you require the customer and business data in your eco-system and not hosted with any other third party datacenter, then you need to go for a custom application where you have 100% control of the data.

However there are also many products that give you hosted solutions to control the data, however do note that without the application the data is still useless. And secondly a hosted solutions licensing cost are much more expensive and usually outweighs that of building a custom solution.

Also where Intellectual Property is concerned, if you want to control the IP associated with your business and bring in a business intelligence layer to it with custom built algorithms and analytics reporting these possibilities are mostly available only with custom built apps. From that perspective, ROI in the long run is higher for custom apps than off the shelf solutions and there’s a lot of value to the business that gets added over time here.

OTHER SOFT FACTORS

  • Competitive Advantage – By tapping into your business’s existing data and customer needs , a custom-built app can help you develop a lasting competitive advantage.
  • Customer Experience & Centricity – Customer Experience is the key to the success of any business application, if your customer or your staff loves using the app, 75% of your headache is taken care of. Seemingly insignificant, this one can be a major ground breaker in adoption of the app.
  • ERP & 3rd Party Integration – As the business grows, it’s important for the application to be integrated with accounting platforms, CRM systems, marketing automation tools and this flexibility is available only in custom build apps usually. Not all readymade solutions may give you the API integration required to suit your needs and building them in is usually a big challenge.
  • Right Development Partner – It’s extremely important to get the right development and solutions partner for your custom development to create a bespoke App. It’s important to find ONE that is reliable, competent and understands your business well. If you’re looking for such a development partner, do get in touch with Carmatec.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make keeping in mind the business goals and long term implications.  Once made, walking back is expensive and painful. Make the right choice and enjoy the business benefits that are sure to follow!

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