Every day, there is an increasing number of businesses that are expanding their software to meet customer needs, using CRM and marketing tools, incorporating automation of processes, and so much more. So, I thought it was the right time to give my readers insight on how we helped a company be on the Inc 500 Fastest Growing Company for four years in a row.

Out of the myriad of questions that I am asked, the most common are: 

  • How long does it take to build custom software?  
  • What will it cost? 
  • What is a tech stack?
  • What is an API and how to I leverage it?  
  • How do I know the custom software is secure?  
  • How do I know the software will meet my needs?

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at these points, so you can learn more about what goes into the software development process. That way, you can better serve your own business and your customers in the future.

How long will it take to build custom software, and what will it cost?  

As the adage goes, it all depends. Building any software is a lot like building a house. The better defined the blueprint is, the more predictable the cost and timeline will be. In software development, customer requirements are the blueprints from which we build the software. As a general rule of thumb, most software projects fall into one of three buckets: Small (0-3 months), Medium ( 3-6 months), and Large (6+ months). Our clients are typically surprised to find that most projects fit in the Small to Medium range because of the time we spend up front defining the “blueprint” for what they want. These size estimates can be used to help maximize the ROI of a project, but as the old adage goes, Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance! 

What is a tech stack, and role does it play in building my software?

Now that we know how complex the project is based on the requirements, we can start building the foundation of the software by picking the right tech stack. A tech stack is simply the combined technologies, server(s), coding language(s), and tools that we’ll need to build the structure of the software. Just like you wouldn’t build a large multi-family home for a single adult because it would be more than they would need, the same goes with software where you don’t want the extra overhead that exceeds your needs. With that being said, if a requirement is to support 100 or more users over time, the architecture of the tech stack should be built in a way that scales up to support this demand from the beginning. When done the right way, there is minimal to no additional effort over time to support this type of growth. For simple API integrations to other systems, it is common that the third party software already has the tech stack built out, so there isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel.

What’s an API anyway?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. When you use an app on your mobile phone, it connects to the Internet and sends data to a server. The server then retrieves that data, interprets it, performs the necessary actions, and sends the result of the processing back to your phone. The mobile app then interprets that data and presents you with the information you wanted in a readable way. To explain this better, let’s examine a common scenario. Imagine you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant with a menu full of choices. The kitchen is the part of the “system” that will prepare your order. What is missing is the critical link to communicate your order to the kitchen and deliver your food back to your table. That’s where the waiter—or API—comes in. The waiter is the messenger that takes your request or order and tells the kitchen (the system) what to do. Then the waiter delivers the response back to you. In this case, the response would be the food.  APIs typically respond with your result in a fraction of a second.

Should I be worried about security?

The answer is yes and no. Let me explain. From a software point of view, security that is built in from the beginning rather than being added later as an afterthought will result in the most secure system. This is done by using current best practices that offer the highest level of protection. Think of the type of software that banks and cyber security firms use for maximum protection. This level of protection doesn’t need to be costly; it simply needs to be planned in the right way from the beginning. Think of this like adding a security system while building a house vs. adding one after the house is built.

The most common form of security exploit is password theft—not an actual system vulnerability, which can easily be mitigated with additional authentication checks like Multi-Factor Authentication, Geofencing, and Whitelisting/Blacklisting IPs. These tactics will help you make sure only the people who are intended to use the system actually have access. APIs are made secure using a combination of special Keys, Certificates and OAuth for trusted account verification. These technical details that make up the backbone of the trusted internet are important for any developer to know about, but most businesses only need to know that they need to keep their passwords safe and never share them!

So, you may be asking yourself: Can’t I just hire a developer directly to do this work? Yes, of course you can, but there’s a lot more to it than just giving a developer a list of requirements and asking them to start building. You probably wouldn’t want an electrician doing plumbing work (even if they claimed they were really good at plumbing). In this case, you’d prefer an electrician so that you know the job is getting done right. Just like there are different specialists for building the different parts of a home, software development is also continuing to become more and more specialized with platforms, languages, frameworks, libraries, and certain architectures. You want to make sure that the expert you are hiring is more than a good communicator; they also should have deep knowledge in the architecture they are building so they aren’t learning a new skill on your dime… or worse, not building it in a secure and scalable way.

Will the custom software solve my needs?

A common question I’m asked every week is, “What guarantee do I have on the software you build?” What the business is really asking is, “Will the custom software really meet my expectations and solve my needs?” While I cannot speak for others in the industry, Beachcliff Technologies always offers a 100% money back guarantee in the first weeks of a project while we are fleshing out the design and going over the requirements of the project. We feel it is the right thing to do in the case that there are any surprises that cannot be properly handled. Every business case is different, but we are the experts at figuring out requirements to ensure the right thing gets built and that it gets built per the schedule. Having the right solution built to achieve the end goal is key. You don’t need a rocket ship if your goal is to commute to work in the same city, but we build software to take you anywhere you want to go.

At Beachcliff Technologies, we are a boutique custom software development firm that has been designing and building solutions by the most talented developers in the industry for more than 20 years.  We have written more than 1,000,000 lines of code that focuses on creating the right solutions with the most value and the least complexity in the professional, marketing, eCommerce, manufacturing, industrial, CRM, online systems, and countless other market sectors. Feel free to contact us at 216-808-8080 or via LinkedIn with any software development questions.