Off-the-Shelf Software vs Custom Software

Off-the-Shelf Software vs Custom Software

First of all, what does it mean that the software is off-the-shelf or custom?

Custom Software is one created at the client’s request. It is based on a deep understanding of customers’ needs and careful analysis of their idea and environment. As a result, developers create software equipped with all specific features and functionalities required by the business domain.

On the contrary, off-the-shelf software is a ready-to-use solution created and sold by the software provider, not designed for any specific organization. It is equipped with only default functionalities with limited options for extension and integration with other third-party solutions.

Pros of custom or off-the-shelf software

So, what are the main benefits of the two major types of software? Obviously, both of them present features that make them considerable. Let’s have a closer look at this topic.

Custom software is:

  • flexible
  • tailored to the specific needs
  • adjusted to the company’s business processes
  • developed and implemented according to the company’s changing tactical and operational goals
  • easy to develop and maintain according to the company’s goals
  • able to handle any traffic and number of requests
  • free of hidden costs.

Off-the-shelf software is:

  • available immediately and easy to implement
  • operating smoothly (within specific tasks)
  • supporting the automation of pre-defined business processes
  • available in ready to test, demo version.

Cons of custom or off-the-shelf software

On the contrary, what are the drawbacks of the two software solutions?

Custom software is definitely more complicated to obtain. It needs to be preceded with deep analysis and strategic planning that are inevitable in the tailor-made solutions production process. This obviously requires more time for the conception and validation, and at least a few developers are involved. This is why the implementation time might be then longer than just purchasing a ready-to-use tool.

However, off-the-shelf solutions will never deliver such flexibility as custom software does. They are designed to support a mass of various businesses or are dedicated to a specific industry or market demand. Many of the functionalities required to achieve the goals of the specific organization will never be provided, which may result in a constant inconvenience or excess effort to comply with the software’s limits.

Although off-the-shelf solutions operate quite well in a limited number of operations, they are unable to satisfy more comprehensive and sophisticated needs. In the long-term, such a situation can cause a severe slowdown in the company’s development process, and limit its expansion potential to the software’s capabilities, as they may not handle increasing traffic or the growing number of requests or features. Moreover, the company never really owns the solution and cannot enjoy the freedom to develop it in the desired way, as it remains in the control of the software provider. There is always the risk that the software provider will suddenly withdraw from the market, and leave their former customers without support. They also don’t have control over data protection, which might be critical for specific industries or business models.

Cost of custom and off-the-shelf software

Although it seems that off-the-shelf software should be more attractive and cost-effective, it is not necessarily true. Off-the-shelf software is usually purchased in a subscription method, which means ongoing annual or monthly costs. As the client cannot modify it freely, every attempt to adjust or update its functionalities may require paying an additional fee to the software provider or developer. Moreover, off-the-shelf software may have some hidden costs not revealed at the beginning, such as: paying extra for additional users, handling a bigger volume of traffic when the platform starts to grow, renewal of the licenses, periodic software updates, adaptations and integrations, data migration, user training and more.

Although custom software might be more expensive at the initial stage, at the end of the day it provides companies with great flexibility to develop and improve their solutions. This makes future updates easier, faster, and much more affordable. While developing a strategy for future custom software, it is possible to foresee the potential changes and select technologies that will support achieving specific goals. This is how developing custom software allows preparing for the upcoming challenges in advance and planning the costs more accurately.

Our recommendation

Nowadays technology is much more important than ever before. It is a major factor that helps to build a competitive advantage. Using off-the-shelf solutions may limit the company’s chances to unlock its full potential, and push it to its limits very soon. In our eves, development of the custom software will always be an advantage that will let businesses maximize the efficiency of their operations. Although off-the-shelf may be suitable for businesses needing support in a limited number of operations or less comprehensive tasks, custom software is usually the right solution if you’re planning the expansion of your software.

If you wish to learn more about the specifics and benefits of custom software, feel free to contact us. As an experienced software house, we will provide you with accurate advice and suggest proper technologies. With the help of an experienced partner, you will be able to develop solutions that match your business needs and achieve both short-term and long-term goals.