When is the right time to build a custom web application?

Outdated or missing technology could cost your organization more than a new solution

Are limitations within your infrastructure costing your organization time and money?

It could be time to consider new alternatives.

In this article, we help you clearly identify and measure limiting factors your organization may face in order to quantify the urgency for change.

What are the impacts of your legacy technology?
Here are some scenarios you may recognize:

  1. Unique Business Processes that cannot be efficiently managed by existing software.
    • Are you currently performing a large number of processes manually?  
    • Are you implementing multiple workarounds to bend existing software to your needs?
  2. Scalability and Growth:  You need a scalable solution that can adapt to increasing demands.
    • Have you been acquired or find yourself with significant growth goals?
    • Is your organization built around a complex web of Excel spreadsheets?
  3. Innovative & Competitive Advantage:  You have specific features or functionalities that are critical for differentiation.
    • Are you under pressure to innovate and transform service delivery?
  4. Integration Requirements:  Data flow and communication between different business components are vital.
    • Are you lacking immediate access to summary data within your organization?
  5. Security and Compliance:  You handle sensitive data or need a high level of control over security measures.
    • Does your industry or organization require strict security standards?
    • Are your customers security conscious?
  6. User Experience (UX) is a top priority, and you want to design an application that perfectly aligns with your brand and user expectations.
    • Are your systems underused given the number of registered users?  If so, could that be a sign that your software is not easy to use?  See customer feedback below.
    • Do you have a brand style guide that needs to be followed across your organization?
  7. Cost-Effectiveness in the Long Run:  You want a solution with lower ongoing licensing or subscription costs.
    • Are you paying a per-user fee with a large user base?
    • Do you feel stuck in expensive licensing arrangements with 3rd party vendors?
  8. Customer Feedback suggests that existing solutions are not meeting their needs, and there is a demand for a more tailored approach.
    • Are you able to capture and summarize customer feedback and if so, what does it tell you about your current infrastructure?

Regardless of which scenarios above apply to you, given how much business is now online, if you cannot integrate and modernize software systems to meet your needs, your competition might reap the benefits of change before you do.

It may feel easier to hobble along with your existing systems.  

They are familiar and may require little training for your existing staff and users.  It’s easy to think systems like Excel are capable but the reality is you are building a technology debt resulting in a lack of agility and growth.  

We like to call this the Excel shanty town!

How to measure the cost of software opportunities?

The scenarios above are a natural part of any growing business but they can feel overwhelming, leaving you wondering where to start.  The steps below will help you prioritize your way to a manageable approach: 

  1. Build a list:  Start by listing all of the problem scenarios above that apply to you.  It is possible you may have more than one instance for each scenario.  Don’t be afraid of listing everything that comes to mind as the next steps will help you narrow it down.  For each entry, add a few financial indicators:
    • Cost:  What is the cost of doing nothing, either in inefficiencies or lost market shares?
    • ROI:  What is the Potential Return on Investment (ROI) or how much added revenue could come from addressing this issue?
    • Complexity:  What is the complexity of the problem?  You may not be able to assign a dollar figure but a 1-10 rating would suffice.
  2. Prioritize:  Go through the list and sort it, prioritizing high cost, high ROI and low complexity.  This allows you to focus on the most beneficial elements, while avoiding feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Gap Analysis:  Take the first 1 to 3 items on the list and perform a gap analysis, listing out mandatory business requirements needed to cover a solution for select items.  Our free Requirements Traceability Matrix is useful for this exercise.
  4. Quotes:  Consult with either or both:
    • Custom Off the Shelf (COTS) vendors that you believe have a system that could match your requirements.  Have them confirm what requirements their system covers fully, partially or not at all, and what it would cost to your organization.
    • Software development experts to figure out the cost of building and maintaining a custom web application (article coming soon on “How do you figure out the cost for a Custom Web Application?”) to address the listed need.  A ballpark figure may be sufficient at this point. 
    • If you think custom software is too expensive and therefore a non-starter, keep in mind that recent advances in low-code/no-code and AI have helped offer affordable solutions worth considering.  Plus if you have done your gap analysis in the previous step, you should be able to get a quote for free.
  5. Evaluate:  Using the costs determined in the previous step, determine  how long it will take you to recoup the investment based on the cost savings and ROI listed in (1) above.  If the resulting time period is:
    • Within 1-5 years, it is likely you should consider implementing your COTS or custom web application(s) now.
    • Over 5 years:
      1. Work with software development experts to find ways to cut the scope and cost.
      2. Seek another opinion if you have not already.
      3. This may not be a problem worth solving at this stage.  Go back to your prioritized list in (2) and see if other problem scenarios should be considered.

A boardroom-ready roadmap for technological innovations

The previous exercise will give you:

  • Clarity on what technology enhancements will drive the most benefit
  • Justification for pitching investment from the board

Whatever the outcome, you’ll end up with a list of possible enhancements to your organization that could be solved by technology.  Refresh that list at least once per year, to re-assess your current priorities and whether recent changes in software solutions and custom web applications are conducive to enacting new solutions.

Whatever the outcome, you’ll end up with a list of possible enhancements to your organization that could be solved by technology.  Refresh that list at least once per year, to re-assess your current priorities and whether recent changes in software solutions and custom web applications are conducive to enacting new solutions.

Selecting your custom web application partner

Almost one in four companies prefer to choose software development outsourcing services for their projects. 

We thrive in helping organizations build and maintain their list of software opportunities.  We deliver each step of the process outlined in this article but we most often help with:

  • Delivering the gap analysis and determining associated requirements through a series of facilitated workshops with key stakeholders typically within 1 to 2 weeks.  We’ll deliver a requirements traceability matrix that you can use with the vendor of your choice.
  • Quoting a custom web application solution, responding to your requirements with scope, approach, deliverables, risks and assumptions along with a 3-point estimate.

Our approach works best with organizations that are forward thinking through a desire to provide increased value, while being organized about work and communication.