SaaS or Custom App? How to Choose the Right Model

There is no question that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has changed the IT industry. Rather than purchasing perpetual licenses for business software, most organizations are choosing to “rent” some of those applications on a monthly, per-user basis and access them via the cloud.

The growth of the SaaS market signifies the value and convenience the concept brings to businesses. SaaS enables organizations to avoid the upfront costs associated with traditional software licenses, and to readily take advantage of new applications without IT infrastructure upgrades or disruptive implementations. With SaaS you can generally try an application with limited commitment, and roll it out to users as needed regardless of location. It is inherently resilient, flexible, scalable and agile.

The Downside of SaaS

SaaS is not without its drawbacks. Security remains an inhibitor to SaaS adoption, with regulatory compliance a related concern. Organizations must consider where sensitive data will be located, how it will be secured and whether privacy can be maintained.

Performance and availability are also considerations. A remotely hosted application accessed via a browser may not deliver the performance needed for certain processes. Disruptions in Internet connectivity could restrict access to critical applications and data, hampering productivity and customer service.

But perhaps the biggest limitations of SaaS involve limited customization and integration. Like its packaged software counterpart, SaaS requires users to accept generic features and functionality with upgrades and enhancements controlled by the service provider. Integration with other applications is generally limited or difficult to achieve.

The Custom Alternative

While SaaS has been a game-changer, one key fact remains: Few businesses can thrive using only generic software solutions. Organizations need applications that conform to their workflows and business processes, not the other way around. And the best way to achieve that is through custom application development.

A properly designed custom app will help streamline operations, increase productivity, reduce waste and enhance customer service. It will allow data to move seamlessly through workflows, minimizing errors and providing the actionable insight that improves decision-making. And unlike generic software, which tends to be rigid, your custom app can be modified as your business grows or your needs change.

Custom software doesn’t mean that you have to give up the benefits of cloud-based software, such as anytime, anywhere access. A good developer will listen carefully to your requirements, and determine if a browser-based interface might be the best fit for your business.

Dispelling Myths

Many business owners have the perception that custom application development is a budget-breaking, time-consuming process. However, good developers have tools and techniques that enable them to develop apps quickly and cost-effectively.

If you’re concerned that you’ll wind up with an app that doesn’t meet your needs or that your employees find hard to use, a good developer can put those fears to rest. So-called agile development processes allow you to see and test the software in incremental phases so that the app can be adjusted as needed along the way. Seemingly simple things like screen layouts can make all the difference in the functionality and ease-of-use of your custom app.

Should all the software you use be custom? Not hardly. In our next post, we’ll look at some the factors you should consider in choosing SaaS, packaged software or custom apps.