5 tips to develop custom software with a small budget

By Martin Landreville

The decision to use existing software or to invest in the development of custom software is still subject of much debate. Using existing software that already has some basic features may seem tempting, but we often forget to compare it to the benefits of developing custom software.

For more than 17 years, Done Techno has been refining its development approach to maximize business value and make choosing customized software much more profitable in the long run. Nowadays, the software we use to manage our operations or automate our business processes is constantly changing as our processes and operations change much more frequently than before.

When your budget is tight, you must do what matters now and only what matters now. Here are some tips we give our clients to help them not engulf a fortune in their business process automation projects:

1. Start Early

The sooner you start automating processes, the cheaper it is because most of the time the processes are less complex. You need to choose the most cost-effective business process to automate first and make everything evolve as the business evolves. In addition to helping you on a daily basis, you reduce future impact on the budget.

2. Start Small

The secret to not spending too much is starting small. When you start early, it is also important not to look too far ahead. You must resist the temptation to develop features that will only be useful later. It can be very tempting to immediately include features that are part of a vision, but that will not be used for several months.

The investment made now must meet an immediate need, not needs that will be on the agenda when you have 150 employees, a sales team or do business in the United States. You see what I mean? If your reasons for investing in development start with “when we will…”, it is a good bet that it is not the right time to include this.

3. Do It in Small Pieces

This is about breaking down your needs as much as possible and prioritizing them. The more needs are broken down, the easier it will be to make wise choices at the right time. It may sound simple, but it is not always easy. We are often influenced by how others have developed their solution and without realizing it, we might want to imitate them, thinking that it is necessary.

You have to remember that you are automating one of your processes, not someone else’s. You will be able to innovate and evolve your processes and for that, it is possible that innovation needs to go through a manual phase, why not?

4. Cover Wide but Not Deep

It is important that in your automation efforts, you try to cover the entire business process as quickly as possible. For many of the clients I have met, this notion is very hard to understand and accept, at least when we start the development process.

Most clients have a very sophisticated view of the software they want and that is exactly what we are trying to avoid. You really must think simply in order to cover as wide as possible, as quickly as possible, always prioritizing what is most valuable.

This way, you make sure to spend only for necessary features. Especially if the budget is limited. Only later, if the budget allows it, can you “refine” the existing features according to the sophisticated vision of the start.

5. Plan a Budget for Improvement

 It is important to invest regularly in the evolution of your software. Obviously, I’m talking about evolution, not maintenance. Evolution concerns daily changes made necessary by your business field. The frequency and magnitude of these changes vary according to that specific field, but the principle is valid for all.

If you allocate an annual budget for improvements, even small ones, you are less likely to have to make massive and sudden investments and you are more responsive to change. Also, by upgrading your software, you use that opportunity to do maintenance and you avoid potential additional costs. During an evolutionary development, we use these opportunities to make necessary updates anyway.

Conclusion

Obviously, the meaning of small budget is very subjective. No matter how we determine the importance of a budget, the 5 tips listed above apply. Spending on unnecessary features seems pretty illogical to me, no matter the budget. Feel free to contact me if you want more details about how we achieve intelligent and efficient development.

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