In the ever-evolving digital landscape and competitive business environment, companies are in constant pursuit of perfecting processes to help them deliver the best value and experience to clients and potential customers. Accordingly, businesses have unique and specific workflows that can be automated and streamlined with software, from productivity, collaboration, reporting, messaging, and other tools. This is where the question of whether to buy off-the-shelf software or customize your own arise.

Balancing your company’s short-term needs and long-term plans is fundamental to the success of your business. Often, it can be tricky and daunting. How, then, do you choose between buying off-the-shelf software solutions and outsourcing software development builders?

Many business owners and managers often face this dilemma. To help you decide, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of buying off-the-shelf software and building custom software solutions.

Some organizations are perfectly content with off-the-shelf software or canned software solutions to improve their workflow. There are software and tools in various categories from productivity, collaboration, messaging, office solutions, conferencing, marketing, sales, and much more. These are immediately available to individuals and businesses for a one-time fee or a monthly subscription fee. Some are even free, with limited features available.

On the other hand, some companies have very particular challenges that they need to address with custom-built software, so they either hire dedicated developers or outsource software developers to build one from the ground up. Costs for custom software development may vary from company to company.

The infographic below presents a comparison between Off-the-Shelf or Custom Software to help you decide which is best for your business.

Some organizations are perfectly content with off-the-shelf software or canned software solutions to improve their workflow. There are software and tools in various categories from productivity, collaboration, messaging, office solutions, conferencing, marketing, sales, and many more. These are immediately available to individuals and businesses for a one-time fee or a monthly subscription fee. Some are even free, with limited features available.

On the other hand, some companies have very particular challenges that they need to address with custom-built software, so they either hire dedicated developers or outsource software developers to build one from the ground up. Costs for custom software development may vary from company to company.

Cost-Effectiveness

Off-the-shelf software is generally cheaper than custom-built software. Some offer it for free with limited features or you can get premium features by paying a one-time fee or a low monthly subscription fee.

For most start-ups and small businesses, the free software works, until such time that they need the full set of features. They can then choose to upgrade once they decide that the software fits their needs.

Custom software development may incur high upfront costs, especially if you choose to hire an in-house team of developers. Outsourcing software development is more cost-effective for bespoke software solutions.

Availability

Off-the-shelf software solutions are readily available. It’s as simple as signing up, placing your payment information, and you can immediately start using the service. On the other hand, custom software development may take months to develop, depending on your specific requirements.

Compatibility

Most off-the-shelf software can be integrated with other popular tools. However, there may be limitations. You may encounter a canned solution that perfectly addresses your challenges, but it’s not compatible with the current systems you have in place.

If you have a custom software, developers can ensure that it will work for your current infrastructure. Should there be a new software that your company needs to be incorporated into the workflow, you can ask your in-house or outsourced development team to work on it.

Functionality

The off-the-shelf software offers a wide variety of features and functionality to cater to the needs of a large market base. Sometimes, you’ll be surprised to find an additional feature helpful to your process. But often, there are more features than you need, which can make the product more complicated and hard to use.

This affects the performance of your team, making it difficult to get them onboard the new workflow and software. Your team members are the end-users of the software, and at the end of the day, it’s what’s easiest for them to use that matters.

On the other hand, a fully customized software guarantees to meet all your business needs, as it is tailored to match your specific requirements. Should there be an additional function that you would like to add in the future, you can ask your outsourced software developers to update your software.

Support

Customer support is usually provided for premium users of SaaS. However, customer support is limited to community support forums for free software users. If your growing business needs prompt attention to an issue, your options may be limited.

This is not the case for custom software. At IntelligentBee, we provide warranty for our code, and our software developers will work on bugs and issues on the spot, at no extra charge. Maintenance programs are also available to ensure a continuous focus on your custom software features and functionality.

Scalability

When choosing between off-the-shelf software solutions and fully customized software development, ask yourself this – can this software grow with your business? Scalability is an important consideration.

SaaS providers often roll out new features and updates without increasing their subscription fees, but these new features are not tailored to what your business specifically requires as your grow bigger. You can submit a feature request, but it may be ignored or rejected if it doesn’t fit the needs of a larger consumer base.

With a fully customized software, you can scale up the features whenever you need to or however you want to. You can start with your minimum business requirements, and slowly add features as your business grows.

Intellectual Property

Your company owns the intellectual property rights of the custom software built for your business. This can be considered an investment for your company. Factor in the added value that your custom software offers your business and your end-customers.

Competitive Advantage

With off-the-shelf software solutions, you’re basically using the same software that other businesses in the same niche use. It would be difficult for your organization to outperform your competitors if you employ the same workflow and tools.

Obviously, when you own custom software, this provides your company a competitive advantage over your competitors. You use and own a tool that none of your other competitors have, giving your business a leg up in your industry.

Think of the value that your custom software can potentially offer your end-customers. By designing a software solution that meets all your unique business needs, your team will be more efficient, you can gain insight into the customer journey, and be able to improve your product and service, optimizing the customer experience.

Every business, small or large, has unique needs. Carefully considering the relevant factors when choosing between off-the-shelf and custom software is paramount to an organization’s efficiency, productivity, success, and eventual growth.

Ultimately, every organization’s goal is to improve performance and deliver the highest value to your customers. Custom software development for the web and mobile applications can help you gain a competitive edge in today’s demanding market.