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Custom Software

The Benefits of Semi-Custom Software

By Jon Siedlik April 23, 2020

Not every company can afford the money and time it takes to develop fully custom software. Semi-custom software is often a great option for these companies. It provides many of the benefits of fully custom software, but at a much lower price point. 

The Benefits of Semi-Custom Software

Fully custom software is the ideal for most companies. It is designed from the ground up. It can do whatever the company wants exactly as the company wants it done.

The challenge is that fully custom software is expensive in both time and money. Many companies cannot afford to take on a fully custom software project, even if they’d like to do so. 

So, these companies often feel like they are left with the less than ideal choices of...

  • continuing with an ineffective mix of standalone software and manual processes


  • using an off-the-shelf software solution that doesn’t fit the business 

Fortunately, there is a middle ground between fully custom software and inadequate off-the-shelf solutions. That middle ground is semi-custom software.

But, as we’ll see, semi-custom software isn’t really “in the middle.” In between the poles of “fully custom software” and “off-the-shelf software,” semi-custom software is much closer to fully custom software in terms of value, but without some of the unavoidable downsides of fully custom software. 

This makes semi-custom software ideal for many businesses. 

What is semi-custom software?

Semi-custom software can pre-built, configurable software or leveraging existing software as a foundation for a project. 

The good news is that you don't always have to build a solution from scratch. Instead, you can start with an existing software or system, and then build on top it and customize it to your needs. It’s a common approach that can save you time and money (without sacrificing functionality) and ensure a quicker launch time.

Real-word Example

A great example of this is how SPARK helped startup Leader Momentum bring its innovative leadership courses to the eLearning market. They needed a learning management system to distribute and manage the delivery of their educational content. The problem was that these systems are complex pieces of software that can take considerable time to build new.

To save time and money, SPARK helped Leader Momentum to leverage an already-existing learning management system and customizing it to fit their exact needs. With it, they can now reach a global audience with their leadership courses.

Read stories about successful business tools launched with SPARK →

Semi-Custom Software Can Provide Substantial Cost Savings

The right semi-custom software can provide many of the benefits of a fully custom solution but at a much lower price point.

For example, often the price of a fully custom software solution can be between $80,000 and $200,000. Now, for many companies, the benefits and ROI that a fully custom software solution will provide make it the right choice. 

However, some companies are not in a position to get a fully custom solution. But they can get a semi-custom solution for a fraction of the cost of a fully custom solution. And it will provide many of the benefits of a fully custom solution. 

The trade off in choosing semi-custom software over fully custom software is that the client might not get every item on its dream list for a software solution—what it would get if it purchased a fully custom solution. But it will probably get most of them. 

And the semi-custom solution will be a much better fit than any off-the shelf software solution the company might be considering. 

Faster Speed to Rollout

Another big advantage of semi-custom software is the speed at which it can be delivered. Fully custom software projects can often take between 6 months and a year to develop before they are rolled out to the customer. 

But semi-custom software projects are usually completed within 90 days and sometimes can be completed in under 30 days if necessary. 

The reason for the faster rollout is that most of the scoping and development work of semi-custom software is already done. The previously-developed base software is already close to meeting the client’s needs. Customizing that software for the client is then a much smaller project than starting new software from scratch.

You Are Likely to Get More Support for Your Semi-Custom Software

Another advantage of semi-custom software is that you are likely to get much more customer support from your software company than you would get if you purchased an off-the-shelf software package. The level of support you get is likely to be close to what you would get if you had purchased a fully custom solution.

The reason is that the semi-custom software company will get to know you and your business to customize the software for you. A company that provides semi-custom software becomes more committed to your success than an off-the-shelf software company would be. 

Your semi-custom software company is likely to develop a relationship with you, provide extra training as needed, and help you take full advantage of the software to improve your business. Your experience could vary, of course, depending on the semi-custom software company you choose. But at least that’s the way we support our SPARK Select semi-custom software clients in construction and the trades.

Want to find out if our SPARK is a good fit for your software idea? Please reach out. We’d love to hear your idea and show you the process!



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