If you’ve ever played a round of golf with someone else’s clubs, you know what a difference it makes using a set that fits you. Too long, and you’re pulling your shot left into someone’s backyard. Too short and you’re shanking right into the woods.
Software is no different. It should be customizable, allowing the customer to tailor the software to their specific needs and preferences, not what suits the most people. It’s important to note that the custom software we’re talking about here is different from an off-the-shelf option that just slaps your company’s logo on (aka ‘white labelling’). Real customization means the functionalities, size, and even price of the product are unique to your business.
Here are some reasons why customization is important
1. Improves User Experience:
Customizing software to a customer’s specific needs can improve the overall user experience by providing the features and functionality that are most relevant to the customer. This can make the software easier to use and more efficient. Custom software can be tweaked with the end-user in mind, making it intuitive, easy to use, and tailored to the specific needs of the user. This can lead to increased user adoption, improved productivity, and reduced training costs.
2. Increases Productivity:
Customization can help customers optimize workflows and streamline processes, leading to increased productivity and efficiency. By tailoring the software to their specific needs, customers can reduce the time and effort required to complete tasks. A custom software that mimics your existing workflow can automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, freeing up employees to focus on higher-value work.
3. Improving Communication:
Custom software can improve communication and collaboration among team members, especially those who work remotely or in different locations (think: office to site, or GC to sub-trade communication). By providing a centralized platform for communication and collaboration, businesses can improve productivity and reduce the time it takes to complete projects.
4. Enhances Functionality:
Customization can enhance the functionality of the software, making it more useful and valuable to the customer. By adding or removing features, customers can create a software solution that fits their exact needs and requirements.
5. Cost Effectiveness:
Customizable software can be more cost-effective for users in the long run. While off-the-shelf software may have a lower upfront cost, it may not be tailored to the specific needs of the business, and may require additional customization or integrations that can be costly.
Custom software can be thought of as a one-time capital expenditure and can be designed to automate processes, reduce errors, and increase efficiency, which can lead to cost savings over time. In addition, the total cost of ownership (TCO) of custom software can be lower than off-the-shelf software, since custom software can be designed to be more scalable, flexible, and adaptable to the changing needs of the business.
6. The Goldilocks Zone
Part of a good custom software is a custom price. Have you heard the term “bloatware”? It’s all the features in an off-the-shelf software that you don’t need – but still have to pay for. They also take up space, using precious memory and storage, and slowing you down.
7. Supports Innovation:
Customization can support innovation by enabling customers to experiment with new ideas and approaches. By customizing the software to their specific needs, customers can explore new workflows and processes that may not have been possible with a more rigid, off-the-shelf solution.
8. Increases Customer Satisfaction:
Customization can help to increase customer satisfaction by providing a software solution that meets their exact needs and preferences. By tailoring the software to the customer, the software provider can build stronger relationships and foster customer loyalty.
9. Competitive Advantage:
Custom software can give users a competitive advantage by allowing them to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Look for features like white-labelling or custom branding to really step up your game and professional presentation. By having software that is tailored to their unique needs, users can offer better products and services, improve customer satisfaction, and increase market share.
So, why doesn’t everyone do it?
There are several barriers and challenges to making software customizable. Here are some of the most common ones:
Software products can be complex, and providing customization options can make the product even more complex. Designing and implementing customization options requires additional development resources and can add complexity to the user interface and user experience.
SaaS products are designed to be scalable, meaning they can handle a large number of users and data. However, customization options can limit scalability, as each customized feature may require additional resources.
Providing customization options can also create support challenges, as each customer may have a unique configuration of the software. This can make it difficult for support teams to diagnose and resolve issues.
Customization options require ongoing maintenance and support, as each update to the software may require updates to customized features. This can increase the development and support costs for the SaaS vendor.
How to do it right
Making software products customizable can be challenging, and requires careful consideration of the tradeoffs between flexibility, complexity, scalability, security, support, and maintenance. To overcome these challenges, SaaS vendors must carefully design and implement their customization options, and provide clear guidance and support to their customers. As a customer, how do you make sure your provider has found the right balance between the benefits and drawbacks of customization? Here are a few things to consider:
- Look for a company with a product that is scalable in both function and price (like a per user or tiered pricing model). You want to make sure the product is one that can grow with you as your company grows.
- In terms of support, having a designated customer success representative is a great way to ensure that when you have issues, someone who is already familiar with your unique set-up is on the job to troubleshoot for you.
- Make sure that development and QA are priorities at the software company. The product should be at the heart of any SaaS business, so enquire about the testing process.
- Who is doing the customizing? Depending on how tech savvy you and your team are, you may want your software to be customized for you. For example, when digitizing forms you may feel confident with a user-friendly template builder. But if you’re short on time or less experienced with technology, can the company fulfill this function for you?
- Check out the onboarding process. This is a chance for you to learn the product, but also for the provider to learn your company. Again, a dedicated CS representative comes in handy here, as they can help figure out your workflows and unique needs, and help you tweak the product to fit like a glove.