Custom Software vs. Off-the-Shelf: What’s Better for Your Business?


Sreejith FingentProgrammer at Fingent

Monday, November 8, 2021

Any business aiming to improve its business operations must ultimately choose between custom and off-the-shelf apps, which isn't always an easy option.

Article 5 Minutes
Custom Software vs. Off-the-Shelf: What’s Better for Your Business?
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In terms of technologies and market sophistication, modern businesses are in a continuous state of flux. Custom software is designed to meet the needs of the user, while off-the-shelf software is ready-to-use software that can be used directly after purchase. Choosing the best one for the business can be a daunting task at times.

Companies use ERP tools to secure potential results by attempting to manage the needs of the organization. As a result, most companies would consider the benefits and drawbacks of off-the-shelf software over custom software at some stage. In such a case, merely understanding the pros and cons is insufficient in making a final decision.

Adoption trends

Custom software is designed for a single organization, its target audience and its needs. Off-the-shelf software is less functional, but it’s always available. Nonetheless, it frequently has plenty of other unnecessary functions. As a result, the majority of businesses opt to order customized solutions that fulfil all of their needs while excluding features they don't need.

In other words, custom software adapts to the market, while ready-made solutions require the business to adapt. Let's dig deeper into the variations between these two trends.

Custom software vs. off-the-shelf

1. Build objective

Custom software is created to address the unique challenges of a specific organization or individual. It’s tailored to your specific requirements and, when properly constructed, offers a complete solution to your problem.

Off-the-shelf software is tailored for a diverse variety of users using a pre-existing standard design and framework. There’s a risk that it will not meet your specific needs, which will necessitate greater caution when selecting one.

2. Usage: Is commercial off-the-shelf software better than customized software?

Since it’s readily available, off-the-shelf software has the bonus of being used by a large number of people – anyone can order it and use it right away. However, it would require any work on the part of the operations staff to consider the software's functionalities.

Custom software is designed for a single person or organization for a specific purpose. The organization or individual should have a clear understanding of their needs and how the end products can satisfy consumer needs. The actual requirements may be identified during development, but this is uncommon. Furthermore, it will require additional time and effort. Since the software is created in cooperation with members of the organization, implementation and deployment will be easy and smooth.

3. Cost: Is custom software truly expensive?

Since the development cost is distributed over a greater audience, off-the-shelf software has low upfront costs. They’re affordable initially but can end up costing you even more in the long term due to inefficiencies, ongoing maintenance, or subscription fees.

Custom software is initially costly because it’s designed to meet individual demands, which requires time and investment. Though more expensive, they’re likely to last longer and make you feel yours distinctly, rather than marginally off at this or that place. Since it’s built for an already existing process, it saves time and keeps costs down in training the operations team.

Modifications: Can we make improvements?

When bought, off-the-shelf software is difficult to modify; you have no idea when the business will expand and when you will need to modify the purchased software. You must limit yourself to the purchased software options as you don't have control of the changes and upgrades to the software.

Custom software, on the other hand, is easily modifiable and expandable. You own the software, and to keep up with trending technologies, morphs and other changes, you need to make changes to the software while maintaining the pace of your business. A custom solution offers the space as well as the flexibility to accommodate changes as they occur.

Community support

The majority of pre-built software arrives with ongoing assistance, which can be subject to a fee. This will allow users to get assistance if they encounter any issues when using the software. If the app has a huge user base, you might be able to find a supportive community online.

In the case of custom software, you’ll have the benefit of consulting the custom solution provider to address any problems or concerns that might occur, meaning you won’t have to search for solutions to problems using the custom solution.

Time to develop and implement

Off-the-shelf software has almost no deployment time so the user just has to install the app and it’s ready to use. However, due to standard features, using off-the-shelf solutions can be unsatisfactory.

Custom software is created from the scratch, and there may be an endless list of customizations available. The development phase may take some time, which may not be feasible for some businesses. However, the end product can be customized to your specifications, saving you time in training the operations staff.

Competitive edge

By using off-the-shelf tools, you are choosing a solution that your competitors can also use, and your innovative ideas can be quickly replicated.

Custom software development, on the other hand, gives you a strategic edge over your competitors. This is because your competitors don’t have a customized solution, and as long as the software is well designed, you can quickly see yourself gaining a competitive edge.

Compatibility problem

Off-the-shelf software has compatibility issues, which means that your business operations, devices or other systems can conflict with the packaged products at a base level, rendering them unusable or extremely inefficient. Off-the-shelf software is loaded with features that your business may never use. Too many functionalities will eventually slow down your system, causing more complications than improving efficiency.

Custom software, on the other hand, integrates seamlessly into current business operations because it’s designed to meet the needs of the organization.

Choosing a software solution can only be beneficial and useful if it’s customized to the specific needs of the team; otherwise, you risk making the situation worse than it was before.

When deciding between commercial and custom apps, consider the company's requirements as well as the long-term implications of both options. Each type of business automation software has advantages and disadvantages, so it all depends on your preferences and requirements.

Sreejith Fingent

Programmer at Fingent

Sreejith has been into programming since 2000, and professionally since 2007. He works on different technology stacks, ranging from the "boring" (read tried and trusted) to the bleeding edge. He likes building, tinkering with and breaking things, not necessarily in that order.


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