The Complete Guide to Custom Development for Enterprise Applications

Complex features, intricate configurations, and several integration points typically characterize enterprise applications. Building applications to meet these needs often requires large teams of developers working around the clock — that’s why custom enterprise software development can be challenging.

By 2028, the enterprise software market will be worth nearly $630 million — a huge opportunity for developers and businesses alike. In this article, we’ll explore custom enterprise software development, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of developing a custom platform, and provide tips for successful implementation.

What is custom enterprise software development?

Custom enterprise software development is the process of creating software tailored to the intricate needs of large companies. Building a custom enterprise application typically entails custom features, higher-level security, complex integrations, and long-term maintenance.

Common types of enterprise applications include:

  • Business process automation
  • Content management systems
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions
  • Human resources management systems (HRMS)
  • Inventory and supply chain management platforms
  • Billing, accounting, and payroll systems
  • Databases

An organization would look for an enterprise solution (like the ones above) only when an off-the-shelf version isn’t available. Banks, for example, manage all sorts of sensitive data and financial transactions. They require encryption and authentication layers that aren’t available in generic software.

The Challenges of Custom Enterprise Software Development

Without a doubt, a custom enterprise application is the way to go when businesses need flexibility and scalability that off-the-shelf solutions don’t provide. But it also entails huge challenges that most businesses don’t have the IT infrastructure (or capital) to handle.

It takes months (or years) to implement

Perhaps the biggest roadblock to developing an enterprise application from the ground up is that it takes a lot of time. Even with the right teams and resources, it can take anywhere from several months to years to develop an application that meets all your needs.

It’s expensive

Building an enterprise software solution isn’t cheap. It requires hefty investments in both upfront costs (like architecture design) and ongoing maintenance costs (like bug fixes and security).

On average, an organization can expect to spend anywhere between $50,000 and $250,000 to build its platform. And the cost of hiring an in-house IT team to maintain and build upon it will run well into the millions.

User adoption isn’t guaranteed

Over the course of implementation, the most important thing is user adoption. Without proper training, employees won’t be able to use the application and make it work for them.

You’ll need a reliable way of communicating with users throughout development and testing to ensure they understand how to use it in normal circumstances. If they don’t know how to use it, building the application will prove to be a waste of business-critical resources.

5 Steps to Successful Custom Enterprise Software Development

Although resource- and labor-intensive, the basic framework for enterprise software development is actually quite similar to other types of software development. It’s all about finding a rock-solid development team, planning for long-term success, and keeping users in the loop throughout development.

Step 1: Identify your business goals

Before moving forward with any enterprise project, you’ll want to make sure the application meets your business goals. Get managers, execs, the C-suite, and the board together to discuss the company’s current and future needs.

Your current needs are the immediate needs of the company. Usually, they revolve around a tangible benefit or feature your software will provide.

For example:

  • A sales organization of 300+ reps spends too much time with low-quality leads, so they want to build a sales CRM with AI-driven lead scoring algorithms.
  • A multinational B2B manufacturer develops complex medical devices, so they need a platform with CAD integration, product modeling, ERP, and inventory management for thousands of SKUs and custom products.

Future goals are the quantifiable metrics the custom enterprise application will (ideally) improve. In the example of the sales organization above, this could be anything from higher win rates to a more efficient sales cycle.

Step 2: Choose the right development team

Chances are, you don’t have the in-house workforce to build a new application from scratch and deploy it company wide. That isn’t a problem — most companies don’t (even large ones). You’ll have to hire a team of developers to carry out the project.

Dev teams are not created equal. And choosing the right one will make or break your project. To get the selection right, consider the following factors:

  • Reputation: Positive reviews and an established portfolio of completed projects are good indicators you’re looking at a reliable development team.
  • Experience: The right dev team will have direct experience with the same (or similar) type of application you’re trying to build.
  • Cost: Obviously, you’ll want to keep your costs within budget. Custom enterprise software development typically varies wildly, and you’ll have to consider multiple quotes before deciding on the right one.
  • Support: Errors, bug fixes, and user adoption are all huge concerns when it comes to developing enterprise applications. Choose a development team that offers ongoing support that will make it easier to hire in-house further down the line.

Step 3: Focus heavily on UX.

Again, if your employees can’t use your platform, development is a waste. User experience (UX) is often the difference between success and failure when getting buy-in from employees.

Aside from meeting the specific goals of your organization, your enterprise software application should be:

  • Easy to understand and use
  • Responsive
  • Accessible

Make the interface as drag-and-drop as possible. And create a logical hierarchy and user flow that makes navigation intuitive and efficient.

Step 4: Build scalability into its infrastructure.

No matter how popular or successful an application is, it won’t last long if it isn’t designed to scale. As the number of users and data grows, so too should your platform’s capacity for storage and processing power.

For this, most enterprise platforms have moved to the cloud. Cloud computing (or Software-as-a-Service) uses infrastructure owned and managed by a third party. Unlike on-premises platforms, data stored on the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, anytime. And since it’s stored in massive, remote data centers owned and managed by the cloud provider, there’s no need to worry about expanding storage capacity.

Step 5: Keep stakeholders involved.

Not every board member and exec is a tech guru, but they all need to have a seat at the table. Communication between stakeholders, developers, and users throughout the development process is key to successful enterprise software development.

Creating a continuous feedback loop between stakeholders and developers will allow everyone to address concerns, provide feedback, and identify areas for improvement. That way, there’s no worrying about whether the right features are prioritized.


Custom enterprise software development is a complex process, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. At the most basic level, all you have to focus on is stakeholder communication, user experience, and scalability. If you hire the right development team and keep open channels of communication, you stand a great chance of success.