What is Custom?

At The Jonah Group we say that we design and build custom software solutions. Now, most of those words are familiar to us. ‘Design’ and ‘Build’ are self-explanatory, and the words ‘Software’ and ‘Solution’ are well-understood by most of us in the IT business. But in my experience the word ‘Custom’ can sometimes require a little explanation, a little ‘unpacking’ as academics like to say, in order to clarify its meaning – and its true value.

On one level ‘custom’ stands in opposition to ‘generic’. This means software that is custom-fit to a customer’s needs, as opposed to generic off-the-shelf software that comes as a one-size-fits-all product. But there are other, deeper implications to the word ‘custom’…

Q: What do custom-cabinetry, custom suits, custom homes, custom motorcycles and custom software all have in common?

A: Maximum usefulness and ease-of-use. Durability and dependability. Exceptional quality.

In other words, custom work is the best work, pure and simple.

Interestingly, the word ‘custom’ is very close to the word ‘customer’. Both of them can be traced back to the latin verb ‘consuetumen’, meaning ‘to accustom oneself’. And that latin verb can itself be traced much further back, to Proto-Indo-European, in which the phoneme ‘swe’ meant ‘oneself’. Thus the very history of the word ‘customer’ is rooted in the notion of individuality, of recognizing that every customer has ‘custom’ needs.

A good service provider should give every customer its full attention, acknowledging the uniqueness of each organization and its distinct requirements, resources and infrastructure. Tailoring custom-fit software solutions to unique customers means genuinely understanding each client’s business and what sets them apart from their competitors. And it means caring about quality, about reputation, and about getting results, as much (and in some cases even more!) than caring about fattening your bottom line.

Like a custom violin-maker who is concerned above all with creating beautiful sounds, the best custom software developers care deeply about creating beautiful software. It’s a mentality, a set of values that we, as custom developers, share with other craftspeople creating custom products of all kinds. Custom services are for clients who truly want the best and are not willing to settle for the mediocre over-the-counter tools that their competitors use. Custom work is for organizations that want an edge, and that genuinely seek excellence.

It’s a common misperception that custom software costs more than off the shelf software. It’s true that there may sometimes be higher up front costs to build a system that is tailored to an organization’s needs, parameters, personnel, strategic objectives and capacity. But unlike generic solutions which are cheap to deploy but may fit as poorly as a discount suit, the savings that instantly accrue from the seamless deployment, rapid integration and efficient use of a custom-built application consistently generate meaningful and sustainable RoI.

We think all ‘customers’ deserve ‘custom’ work. And since ‘custom software’ fits better, feels better, and saves money, we also think there‘s no good reason to settle for less.

  1. Couldn’t agree more with this. I just built a custom closet for an odd space in my home, having first considered buying a wardrobe of some kind from the store. The build was obviously a lot more involved than the buy would have been, but now that I have the louvered doors I wanted, the drawers (and pulls) I wanted, and the custom-built, plastered, sanded, and painted walls and shelves within I wanted, I wonder how I ever could have considered IKEA-fying that space. Turns a few heads, too!

    Jeremy Chan
    May 20th, 2010

Add a comment

Comment feed
The better to greet you with
No one will ever see this
Your pride and joy
The reason this comment form exists

The crew behind ASOT

We're a team of interactive, software, and business intelligence experts skilled in the design, construction, and management of online enterprise systems.

Visit The Jonah Group site

Get in touch with us