Custom Software Development vs. Off-the-Shelf Versions












Every business has particular needs, and choosing the right software to meet those needs is often a challenge. Business leaders need to know that a commitment to any software will yield a positive return on the investment. Some companies develop their own software to suit their needs, but this is much more costly than off-the-shelf programs.

It’s up to you to decide what would work best for your company. If you’re just starting up or looking into what it would take to overhaul your operations, the decision between custom and prebuilt software can be difficult. Read on to learn more about each option.

Customized Software

The most obvious benefit to creating your own software is that you can tailor it to perform exactly what you need. If you’re considering a software change or upgrade, it’s imperative to keep your long-term business goals in mind and make sure your choice serves to accomplish those goals.

When you develop custom software, the most cost-effective approach is to design the features you need immediately and then augment the software as necessary. You’re going to need to consider exactly what kind of functionality you expect and make sure the result improves your business processes.

One of the biggest drawbacks to creating custom software is the time and resource commitment required to do so. It could be quite a long time before the software is ready for implementation, so you’re going to incur a higher upfront cost than you would choosing prepackaged software. If you don’t have in-house software development, you’re going to need to weigh the cost of contracting the work, too.

If you can dedicate the time and manpower to developing a custom solution, it will likely serve your business needs more effectively than an off-the-shelf option. Because you’re building it from the ground up, it will more accurately reflect your business processes and particular cybersecurity requirements. It will also be easier to train employees to use it, because it was designed specifically for your company.

Quite possibly the biggest advantage to developing proprietary software is that it belongs to your company. This could offer an edge over your competition. For example, you could create a streamlined program for fielding customer inquiries and complaints while your competitors struggle with typical support channels and prepackaged software. Again, you must weigh the upfront costs and be able to support it internally for custom software to work for you.

Off-the-Shelf Software

Prepackaged software’s biggest draw is that you don’t have to worry about allocating time and resources to software development. The vendor handles design, development, testing, and support. However, it’s important to note that the cost of ownership over time may be higher than customized software.

You’ll need to rely on the vendor for all your support issues. This means you could be at the mercy of the vendor’s tech support if it has issues. Additionally, long-term support may require you to sign a maintenance contract and regularly renew it.

Off-the-shelf software is much quicker to deploy, but it may take your employees longer to learn it. Bear in mind that prebuilt software is meant to appeal to a variety of potential customers, not just you. It may be laden with features you don’t want or need, so you must determine whether it’s worth the investment.

Finally, off-the-shelf software may also have other requirements that you’ll need to handle. These can include changes to your infrastructure or other applications to run the software. If you need to make changes later, or if you want to add features, these upgrades will come with additional costs as well.

The choice is yours. If you find off-the-shelf software that works for your business needs and won’t nickel and dime you to death, it might be worth pursuing for the convenience. However, if you have the time and resources to develop your own software, you can have something that is exactly what your company needs.