The term ‘software development’ covers the broad range of activities in creating software to perform certain roles whether a mobile app, web portal, or a database to name a few examples.
What is software development?
When you ask an IT professional such as Objective IT in Essex to provide software development services, you’re in effect asking for bespoke software development – in other words, a piece of software to fulfil a specific purpose for your organisation or business as opposed to an off-the-shelf database package from a commercial vendor.
For example, you may decide to have your own app which is, in effect, a piece of software. Those using popular apps such as Google Maps or the BBC weather app are using widely available apps exactly the same as everyone else’s.
If you use an online banking app then this app is more specialised in that it’s been designed specifically for your bank and isn’t as ‘generalised’ and in as widespread use as an app like Google Maps would be.
Having an app created for your business takes the software development process into even more specialised territory in that your app is custom designed and developed specifically for your business. There wouldn’t be an app quite the same in existence anywhere else.
Similarly, in other areas of your business you could ask for custom software development of, for example, a database – or heavy customisation of a set up you already use within your business.
In a nutshell, software development in this sense is a package created or adapted specifically for an organisation’s particular needs. Why use an off the peg database when you can have your own created by a specialist software development company?
What types of software development are there?
Various types of software development are possible:
Mobile Apps – ranging from widespread ‘one size fits all’ apps such as Google Maps to those specifically designed to access certain social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
Because an app is basically software, it’s common enough for apps to be developed for specific purposes – witness the thousands available via app stores to perform all kinds of functions such as providing travel help, entertainment, learning, fitness and more.
Mobile apps form an ever-more popular part of custom software development as businesses seek to make the most of the widespread use of smartphones and tablets.
Web Application Software – a program that uses web browsers and web technology to perform tasks over the internet.
Many organisations use the web as a way of exchanging information with their market; for instance, in return for a website visitor or app user providing their contact data, content might be provided in exchange such as when using contact forms or email autoresponders to join mailing lists.
In general, a web application requires a web server to manage requests from the customer or user, an application server to perform the task required, and likely a database to record and store the data created.
Common examples of web applications include online forms, shopping carts, web-based word processors, spreadsheets and email programs including Gmail and Yahoo!
The advantage of web applications is they can be run on multiple platforms regardless of the operating system whether computer or mobile; part of the software development services provided by your expert would include full cross platform compatibility and with all popular browsers.
Custom Databases – bespoke software development is much in demand for creating custom databases, so businesses and organisations can have database software developed exactly suited to their data collection and usage needs.
The software development process might be in creating an all-new database or adapting an existing one to better serve the needs of the client. Sometimes a business may have got used to and like their current set up, but there are a few areas that could benefit from customisation or adaptation – bespoke software development experts can usually adapt software accordingly.
The explosion in the amounts of data being created means efficient data capture and manipulation is increasingly important, so databases exactly suited to an individual organisation’s needs are becoming more widespread.
Systems and Application Integration – when a business or organisation uses various different systems a degree of integration is often required to ensure efficiency and avoid wasted time and effort – for example, duplicating tasks such as entering the same data more than once.
A software development company can be called in to link together different databases, applications and systems to create one coordinated setup. Using a custom software development approach your systems will be able to ‘talk to each other,’ be more efficiently automated, and generally act as one linked system rather than a series of disparate pieces of software all requiring different handling.
Web Portals – as organisations use their websites to communicate more directly with customers and employees alike, web portals are becoming more widespread.
They can perform functions such as providing information to customers and collecting data; for example, serving contact forms and questionnaires and fielding requests for further information or direct contact.
On the employee side, portals can provide automation of certain admin tasks such as providing paperwork including holiday or expenses forms, and enable staff to book time off using a central calendar.
In other uses, portals can provide members-only access to parts of a website through secure log in areas such as for existing customers or when running a subscription-based service.
Through custom software development, portals can be designed specifically to the client’s brief.
Web Services – a software development process where an interface is created to enable different types of software to communicate with one another.
For example, an application programming interface (API) could enable your business’s mobile app to synch with your database programme to add data collected by the app, or update customer records.
Some creators of commercial software such as leading accounts package vendors may provide APIs so their software can be linked to the user’s other packages such as databases. A software development company could help in linking commercial software in this way along with creating unique APIs for the client.
What is the process of software development?
Bespoke software development revolves around creating a piece of software to exactly suit the customer’s needs, so the vendor obviously has to fully understood what these are.
To this end, the software development company would consult with their client to understand their objectives and how the software will help achieve them. From here the designing starts, and trial software may be developed so the client can ‘test drive’ the package and ensure it fully meets their needs.
Next the package may start being used ‘for real’ but with the software company monitoring progress, being on hand to provide close back up and advice, and ensuring the transition to full commercial use is smooth and seamless.
What type of bespoke software support is possible?
Sound support is integral to professional software development services, so look for the following:
• Fast and agreed response times to queries and possible issues
• Options of pay as you go or fixed monthly pricing for services covering bug fixes, maintenance and making changes
• A client portal
• Access to the actual developers who created the package or system
• Regular reviews of the software
• A dedicated account manager
What about keeping the custom software up to date?
Apart from basic patches and bug fixes, part of the custom software development service is ensuring the client is benefiting from the latest tech, so new innovations – whether enhancements or totally new software – would be offered.
This would fall under ‘regular reviews’ as part of the support included with the software development services.
What are the hallmarks of a professional software development company?
It’s important to engage the services of an experienced professional geared to meeting your organisation’s needs:
• Experience – how long have the company been offering bespoke software development?
• Their approach – do they appear to be focused on understanding your requirements and objectives?
• Scaled software development – will they involve you in the software development process in terms of trying the software out as it’s developed? Do they adhere to a structured routine to enable familiarisation before it’s put to full use?
• Partnership – are they interested in becoming your tech partner and trusted adviser over the long term as opposed to just providing a software package today?
What are the objections to custom software development?
For some organisations, commissioning new software is a big step so hurdles may present themselves:
Cost – while custom software development process obviously has a price tag, long term it should save money through increasing productivity and improving customer service.
Concern over using new IT – bespoke software can be made to feel and even look like the packages organisations have been used to, and part of professional software development services is providing full induction training to help users familiarise themselves with the tech.
Custom software development professionals are used to the concerns organisations may have over implementing new systems, so should be happy to talk through your needs and concerns.