By: Dave Devitt on July 11th, 2018
Custom Enterprise Software Features You Think You Need (But Really Don’t)
From flexibility and scalability to complete control over the development process, custom software has much to recommend for it. Yet the power that custom software affords can sometimes cause companies to bite off more than they can chew. According to a study of 100 custom-developed software applications, 45 percent of features were never actually used.
One of the main selling points of custom software is that you can get exactly the features you want and need—with the caveat that you have to pay for them. Features and functionality that require more time and expertise to build will cost you more, as a result.
If you prioritize the right features during the planning process, you can get a high return on your investment. On the other hand, if you waste much of your budget on features you don’t really need, you’ll be dissatisfied with the product that you end up with and make little progress toward your business objectives.
This article will discuss four types of features that have little impact on the ROI of custom software, so that you can avoid wasting time and money on these pitfalls in your own custom development project.
Planning a custom software project? Our planning checklist takes you through the key steps to set your project up for success.
1. Tangential Features
Tangential features are those that don’t tie back to your original business needs and goals. Since different businesses have different priorities, it’s important to reflect on what your primary needs and goals really are.
When considering a custom-built application, the first piece of advice is always to consider the pain points that you expect the software to solve for you. Any features that don’t work directly to eliminate these pain points are extraneous to the main thrust of the development project.
For example, if your goal is to increase productivity and efficiency, then anything that doesn’t help you streamline or eliminate your business processes should be considered a tangential feature. One good question to ask yourself when evaluating potential software features is: What could have happened today to make my job easier?
The good news, of course, is that custom software is much more flexible than a packaged product. If you later decide that a “tangential” feature really is important, you can always go back and add it in.
2. “Nice-to-Have” Features
“Nice-to-have” features are tangential features that specifically enhance the user experience, but without providing any real business value. These features are expensive and can easily distract you away from your original goals.
For example, “decorations” such as changing the interface colors or adding animations may provide some nice window dressing, but they don’t actually help employees do their jobs any better.
If you have a sky-high budget and a lengthy timeline, then “nice-to-have” features are less of a problem. However, most businesses need to make some trade-offs during development, and “nice-to-haves” should be some of the first targets if you need to make cuts.
3. Too Many Reporting Features
Reporting features tend to be among the most expensive and time-consuming to create. This is because they often require a great deal of manual integration with different APIs and software. As a result, you should only prioritize the reporting features that will actually be useful to you.
One good strategy during development is to start with the top five types of reports that you believe will help your business the most. If you find that you truly can’t live without another kind of report, then you can incorporate it at a later date.
4. "What-If" Features
These features are ones that you already know you won’t need to use every day—perhaps even as little as once or twice.
If you realistically envision yourself using the feature only a few times, or only in select scenarios, then you probably won’t see a great deal of ROI by adding it to your custom development project.
Choosing Custom Enterprise Features
The key to choosing the right features for your custom enterprise software is to learn the difference between “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Because you’ll be paying for everything that ends up in the final product, pare down your list and restrict yourself to the features that deliver the most value (at least for now).
Remember that features which seem relatively simple and straightforward can actually be very time-intensive and expensive to create. If you’re developing custom e-commerce software, for example, then there are a variety of concerns that contain complex business logic. Handling special cases for shipping and promotional codes can take longer to develop than the shopping cart itself.
To avoid bloated software, follow the advice below:
- Make sure everyone in the organization is aware of, and has defined, the end goal for the software. Getting all employees on the same page is key to the project’s success.
- Take the input you receive as suggestions, not as a concrete direction for the project. Selecting which features to exclude is just as important as deciding which features to include.
- Classify your feature suggestions into three different buckets:
- Essential (necessary to accomplish your goals)
- Nice-to-haves (not necessary, but several possible use cases)
Learning to separate necessary and unnecessary features is key to your project’s success. With careful reflection and pruning in your planning process, you can avoid the software bloat that plagues so many custom development projects.