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Self-identifying your business needs is the first step to building your own software.

So you’ve got a pain point in your business, and now you want to know: Can software help you out?

Software serves different purposes, depending on your business needs. You might be trying to bring a product to market. Software could function as a service to deliver the product. Or, software is the product itself for your business.

Or, perhaps you want to facilitate internal business processes. Software could be the time-saving, cost-reducing answer you’ve been looking for.

Sometimes, those two reasons to acquire custom software overlap. In other words, you need to bring a product to market and facilitate internal processes.

Finding out if custom software is right for your business takes self-identification. Take custom software out of the equation, and ask yourself one question. We’ll help you skip ahead to information you care about:

What is the next step you want to take to make your business grow?

Pick one: I want to fill a gap in the market by developing a new product or service.

OR: I want to facilitate business processes to expedite internal operations.

If you already know what you need, you can skip to the part where you get a free 30-minute consultation with us. We will help you identify how software can meet your business needs. Or, if you need more time to self-identify your pain point, read on.

When you want to use software to fill a gap in the market

Usually, when businesses want to develop a product, they have identified a gap in the market. Those businesses are trying to use software to fill that gap.

Maybe you need a smartphone app that you know you want to give to your customers. Or, maybe you’re going to create a software as a service platform. Ultimately, your goal is to fill a gap that you found in the market. In this case, your business is really the product. This means you’re left with two choices: Either try to learn how to do build the custom software yourself, or find someone to build it for you.

So what happens if you try to do it yourself? Usually (for non-tech folks only), your main problem is that you’re probably not a technology expert. But, you’re probably an expert in whatever field in which you’re starting or growing your business.

Suppose you’re an accountant, and you find some sort of gap in accounting software. Or, you find a problem that most accountants aren’t satisfying. You might have discovered how software can fill that gap or solve that problem. But all that really means is that you’re an accounting expert who knows your field inside and out.

You should focus on providing the best possible accounting experience for your clients. But, what if you’re also trying to figure out how to create a smartphone app? Or you’re learning how to create a software as a service platform? You’ll end up pulling yourself away from actually creating or growing your business while also trying to bring your product to market.

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Don’t build software in-house if it will distract you from your business.

In other words, building software in-house might distract you from your business. If you tried to learn how to develop the product yourself, then you’re investing tons of resources on learning how to do technology. That’s a steep learning curve. You’re going to make mistakes. You risk bringing software to market that just isn’t polished: essentially, a flawed product.

Sometimes, you just don’t know what you don’t know about technology. Let’s put it this way: It would be just as ludicrous for an accountant to create their own technology product as it would be for a technologist to start their own accounting firm.

When you hire somebody, (hopefully) you’re hiring an expert. Somebody who has created technology products before. Someone who knows the pitfalls. Somebody who knows where all the traps and opportunities to get stuck are. Somebody who can bridge that gap for you painlessly.

When off-the-shelf solutions are a better option for your business

Sometimes, you may not actually need custom software. In fact, we’ve told prospective clients no quite a few times because we’ve identified products that already help them. It could be that they come to us thinking that they need software to bring their product to market. In those cases, we found that their business model is more about performing a service rather than one of delivering a product.

For example, we once had a consultation with a prospective client who thought he needed custom software. We found that he was unaware of what software was already out there in his market. And so, when we investigated whether or not he was a good fit, we identified and recommended tons of products that could work for him.

Usually in cases like these, you’re not filling a gap by bringing a new product to market. And that’s OK. If you’re more of a “me too” company, usually there’s software out there that already does what you need. You can just pick that software off the shelf and start running with it.

When none of the above fits the bill because you’re building something entirely new

If you’re not a “me too” company, then you’re probably trying to satisfy some sort of latent demand in the market. Essentially, you’re creating a new market.

By definition, if you’ve identified a latent demand, then that means you found something that nobody understands yet. It means that nobody knows they could want your product. And so, just by definition, there’s not going to be any software that facilitates that market because the market doesn’t exist yet.

For instance, smartphones were a latent product. Nobody knew that they wanted a smartphone until they had it. And then, once somebody saw what smartphones could do, everybody wanted it. If you’ve found a latent demand, how can custom software help you?

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Are you filling a latent demand in the market? No one knew they fwanted a smartphone till it was invented.

If you’re fulfilling a latent demand, then you need custom software. By definition, there’s simply nothing out there that would satisfy your business needs.

Nevertheless, it’s still possible that there’s some custom software already out there for you. Consulting with a software development shop would help you figure out whether you need software. And maybe you don’t need someone to build it for you fresh and reinvent the wheel.

When you are trying to facilitate business processes in some way or internally

You might be ready to make your business more efficient and automated. If that sounds like you, you’re probably looking into custom software as a solution.

You’re not alone. Since the dawn of computers, businesses have been finding ways to use technology to facilitate internal processes.

In fact, a 1990s study published by IBM found that businesses typically spend $13 on manual processes for every dollar that they invest in automation. That ratio assumes that the employee is performing the manual process perfectly. Most manual processes have a 1 to 3 percent error rate. When you account for all the costs that go into correcting errors downstream, then the cost of correcting those errors is typically $92 for every dollar spent on automating that process. Keep in mind that an automated process avoids the mistake to begin with.

So, when you combine those two facts — by removing the manual part of the process as well as avoiding the mistakes altogether — you typically save $105 for every dollar that you spend on automation.

There are other benefits besides cost savings

Saving money is really what this is all about, but there are also other benefits beyond just cost savings. Usually, when processes are automated, it becomes much more timely. For instance, if it takes an employee all day to perform a task, some of those processes involved in the process can be automated down. Automated processes would just simply take seconds, making your new investment a time saver.

Facilitating business processes is a lot about consistency. It’s about ensuring that things are not only done quickly but that they’re also done right every single time. It also affects your business’s workload; when processes are done with errors, you have to go back and fix them, which takes time.

There’s no opportunity for mistakes in computers. They only do what they’re told to do. Once you instruct the computer to do something a certain way, it does it that way every single time. So as long as it’s written correctly, it does it right forever.

Keep in mind one thing about automating your business. When you create an automated process for something, it can only do that one task. Process automations are really rigid and strict. They’re highly specialized to do one thing. Your employees, on the other hand, are flexible human beings who learn to accomplish many things and figure out new and better ways to do business.

In those cases, you’re freeing up your workload and your capital. Now you can expand into other opportunities. In other words, you’re saving the time of your employees. Then you can focus their efforts on new opportunities. Or you could even further capitalize on your cost savings by eliminating the position altogether, if you don’t have opportunities to expand into.

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Automating processes saves you time and frees your staff to focus on newer, harder problems.

For the record, our philosophy at illumisoft is not to eliminate jobs but, rather, to evolve the position. We would rather see you free up that flexible, creative mind to focus on new opportunities. People are so flexible. People can do anything.

The best way to utilize your staff is to point them at new and hard problems. Then, once they figure those out, you can automate them. That’s what we typically like to do at illumisoft. We like to put people on critical-thinking tasks. That way, we have our workforce on the forefront of that creative wave. And then automation follows in behind to grant efficiency.

If you don’t know, ask. Then, ask again.

How do you know whether your business requires software solutions? If you’re not sure, consult with any software developer.

Any software development shop should give you a free consultation. They will usually give you a pretty good idea of whether or not there’s already an off-the-shelf software solution for you. We advise you to talk to at least a couple of developers.

It’s not just about getting a second opinion — although that’s important too. For us, it’s really about building trust. So, beware if you get the warm fuzzies from a software development company. They might be telling you that there’s nothing out there that already works for you — that purchasing custom software from them is your only option. That might be a good indicator that you should probably do a little bit more research on other software suites. You could just purchase an off-the-shelf solution rather than developing fresh.

Yes, there might be developers out there that just want to take your money and say, “Yeah, of course we’ll build it for you.” Before you decide to hire a developer, do even more research. There might be something out there for you.

Perhaps you’ve found an off-the-shelf solution, but you’re unsure if it’s your best option. You might still be a kind of “me too” company, such as a health insurance company. In that case, for example, we’re talking a really big, fat pie; there’s more room for your business to fit in the market. In that case, there’s probably software out there that you can pick up and run with. And perhaps you don’t need custom software if you’re fulfilling an existing demand in the market.

Get a free consultation (or two) anyway. It might be that you need to build fresh.

The bottom line is that self-identification. What problem do you have? What does your business need moving forward? Do you want to bring a new product to market, or do you want to facilitate internal business processes? Are you a “me too” company looking for the best solution, off-the-shelf or custom-made? Are you satisfying an existing demand, or are you satisfying a latent demand that you’ve identified?

And is custom software a tool that you need to solve this problem that you’ve identified?

At illumisoft, you get a free, 30-minute consultation with us to discuss your business needs. (But, let’s be honest, we’re going to give you more time than that; those meetings usually run hours long.) Give us a call today or fill out the form below, and we’ll be in touch.