What is Custom Software?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Sometimes known as bespoke software, custom software is any type of software designed for the exclusive use of a particular organization. This approach is slightly different from customized software, which is essentially an adaptation of an existing software product that is intended for general use. With custom software, the idea is to create something new and unique that meets specific needs with a specific organization, and is not intended to be adapted for use by any other organization. This form of software product is desirable when the nature of the business or other entity is highly specialized, and there are no existing software packages that can adequately meet the needs of the entity.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

One of the best examples of custom software has to do with products designed for use in a business setting. For example, a manufacturer may commission the creation and development of software that drives all the automated functions associated with the production process. The program will be written in a way that ensures each step is executed within a specific sequence, and includes safeguards that company programmers can utilize when and as necessary.

Governments also sometimes develop custom software that helps to create private communication networks, establish links between different departments within the government structure, and allow for the sharing of key data between government entities with a certain level of security clearance. As is true with most types of custom software packages, the software is considered proprietary, and is not for use by any entity outside the governmental structure. This characteristic often makes the process of attempting to break through the security measures inherent in the software programming more difficult, and thus serves to protect the data that is shared via the function of the software.

The creation of custom software may be managed by programmers who are full-employees of the business, government agency, or other type of organization. There are also independent programmers who contract with customers for the purpose of creating a custom package. Whether managed in-house or outsourced to experts, the process usually begins with the establishment of what the software needs to do, the creation of a basic plan of operations, writing the first prototype, and beta testing this prototype. Over time, the prototype goes through several revisions as the testing identifies any issues that impact the efficient function of the software. Once the final product is delivered and installed, the custom software is usually placed under the management of an information technology team that makes sure the software continues to function according to specifications.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


This is a pretty good definition.Today a lot of startups are building custom software. For example, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon, eBay, etc. are all examples of custom software.

The software company I run works with start-ups as well, and custom software is designed and built to help them launch their business. This could involve web applications, mobile apps, or desktop solutions.

One of the main characteristics of custom software is that it usually involves database functionality. Not always, but most of the time.


I think customized software is more common, just because it makes sense to have a common type of software for similar tasks.

For example, I've worked in several different libraries and almost all of them had some variation of the same software running on their systems. I assume that also means that if the baseline software gets an upgrade all the different companies using it will


@browncoat - Well, it's a two way street. I've heard just as many stories of people who thought they had really told someone what they wanted and ended up getting charged more because what they ended up with didn't work out.

I think it's important to show whoever is working on the project how the software is going to work in the real world and, if possible, how the data is being used in the meantime.

Sometimes that's better than trying to explain exactly what you want anyway, because they might know better than you do what will work and what won't.


One of the most important steps in this kind of thing is to make sure the people who are developing your software have all the information they need about what you expect. It's a lot easier to implement options when you are writing from scratch than it is to put them in after the base code has been written.

I've never had this done myself, but one of my friends has helped with a couple of custom software design projects like this and he says the worst thing is when there isn't enough communication and they end up having to make major revisions after the fact.

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