This is a question many companies consider. Whether designing a custom system from the code up to the user interface (UI), or "customizing" a system by linking together different applications, they will do so for several reasons.
Why Design Your Own?
You're a large company
With many moving pieces within a larger business, it can be challenging to find an "off-the-shelf" software that addresses all your markets, pricing structures, and service offerings.
And you may have had a bad experience using another software that left you dissatisfied in terms of performance, service and responsiveness to upgrades.
You have a unique service offering
You have developed management reports that are essential to your "way of doing business" and these can be hard to find in any other landscaper snow management software.
You're looking for features that don't exist within a single software company
Maybe you're looking for a software that syncs with your current billing software CRM, sales automation, bidding processes, or design software. Having all of these platforms under one umbrella sounds ideal!
You have dreams of selling your software to other firms
"Software talk" is guaranteed at any green or snow industry event, alongside the struggles of hiring and recruiting. Maybe one day after you perfect software for your firm, you can sell it to your peers.
These are all legitimate reasons! Yet, there are costs associated with writing and developing your own landscape management software.
The Financial Investment to Develop Software
If you're in the construction business, you have probably heard the story about a job that took longer to execute than the hours bid. (OK, this never happens in your company, but you heard it happens elsewhere ... :) )
Customizing a software application is like that job. Those who have elected this route report that it took far longer and cost far more than initial estimates... and that even this expense was only 20% of the 5-year cost to run it.
The Process of Software Development
If you're ready to write and customize software, start with these steps.
First, educate the vendor about your business.
Custom software development companies that specialize in the green and snow industry simply do not exist. It will be up to you to teach them of the intricacies of:
- Sales Management
- Crew Management
- Reporting (yikes!)
- Scheduling, etc.
The custom software developer may be an expert in maybe one or two of these areas, but the rest would be up to you and your management team. There could be hundreds of different versions of one module to approve before you get it right, and this will consume time for people within your organization.
Make sure you are clear on the revisions you'll receive, the time commitment from your software developer and then develop a contingency plan.
Second, plan for ongoing maintenance.
Much like a landscape project, software is never completely finished or "low maintenance" like many homeowners request. The more complex or all-inclusive your software is, the more maintenance it will require.
Consider tasks like documentation and keeping user manuals up to date so that your team and potentially other companies can be successful in deploying the software.
Ever find it challenging to keep up with the newest Google layout, Facebook algorithm, or Microsoft terminology? These changes are commonplace in the tech industry. Your software team must be able to fix bugs, manage data and keep up to date with all of these changes, BEFORE they even take place.
Third, consider overhead costs and missed opportunity costs.
Developing software is an overhead cost, or indirect cost, that doesn't relate to your business and it's certainly not something you can bill your clients for. It's going to take valuable time away from the key leaders in your business, and may even require hiring additional staff to do so.
The missed opportunities for your team could be endless.
Take the next steps
If you're still curious about developing your own software, talk to two experts.
Kevin Kehoe and Mark Tipton previously worked in the green industry as contractors and consultants. Then, they built The Aspire Software Co from scratch.
They'll give you the facts on the true costs of software development, options that exist and a few pointers on how to make the best decision for your team.