How to decide between Custom Software and Off-the-Shelf for your business?
With everything going digital and the increase in the acceptance level of digital products, businesses are trying to provide online services to their clients and modernizing their work process. The one question that arises in the mind of business owners is whether to build a software or purchase a readymade one. This is the biggest challenge as the choice can result in the short-term and long-term goals of the organization.
Therefore, in this blog, we will discuss custom software and off-the-shelf software, the two types of software organizations can choose from to modernize and digitalize their business.
What is Custom Software?
Custom software is nothing but a platform created to cater to the particular needs of individual users or an organization. Custom software is designed by providing specific requirements like a field service equipment support program or an online banking app for its staff & customers.
Custom software development enables the developers to design, create, deploy, and maintain software for a particular set of clients or companies. This process is generally performed by the in-house custom software developers team of every IT company. But if any organization doesn’t have an IT department, they prepare to choose a software outsourcing service provider.
Like any other software development project, the custom project will also follow steps like requirement gathering, coding, testing, and deployment for its development process. The custom software service providers prefer to use methodologies like Agile, RAD, or DevOps for better development.
The custom software and its development process are also known as Bespoke Software.
Examples of Custom Software
The two most famous examples of custom software are -
1.Customer Relationship Management
It is a platform used to organize everything like sales, customer services, marketing of a product, and more. It creates an environment that focuses on the business or company’s requirements and fulfills its customers’ needs. Custom software for any business makes the work smooth for the customers, leading to more loyal customers.
2.Enterprise Resource Planning
When it comes to custom software development services, it enables us to demonstrate solutions for specific groups to address a particular requirement. Enterprise resource planning is something that is used to manage the business and share the standard information, which makes everyone’s work effortless.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Custom Software
Strengths of Customer Software
- Complete ownership
- Easy to change and maintain
- Perfectly designed business solution
- Unlimited options
- Scale can start with small
- Perfect fit for business
- Ownership without extra license fees
Weaknesses of Custom Software
- Costs high initially
- Longer time to develop
- Can’t be tested on all businesses
- Chances of hiring the wrong developer
What is Off-the-Shelf Software?
When we talk about off-the-shelf software, it is all about ready-made products. Unlike custom software, here, all one has to do is purchase it and start using it. It doesn’t require any specific design or development process. One of the best examples of it is Microsoft Office.
Off-the-shelf software is created for the mass-market and offers much more than custom solutions. In other words, Commercial Off-the-Shelf software is something that you get ready-made, and all you need to do is download it, set it up, and use it.
Examples of Off-the-Shelf Software
The software applications that are created for a broad audience are off-the-shelf software. They specify simplicity and accessibility to the users. For instance, email services, games, content editing software, accounting tools, anti-virus tools for your computers. These are the tools types that are broadly available for all kinds of audiences. These programs are more accessible in the market, and the brands of these programs modify them regularly.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Off-the-Shelf Software
Strengths of Off-the-Shelf Software
- Cheaper than custom software
- Reliable and well-tested software
- Easy to use and install
- A broad range of users
Weaknesses of Off-the-Shelf Software
- Customization cost is higher
- Slow with industry changes
- Compromises on uniqueness
Comparison Between Custom Software and Off-the-Shelf
Talking about software development trends, custom software and off-the-shelf software development come up. There we will compare these two software development types and see which is the best.
When we talk about off-the-shelf software, it has an additional advantage over custom software as it is used more by many users. This type of software can be bought and installed easily for use. But off-the-shelf software is one that requires an operational team to understand the functionalities and provide the software services.
The development cost in off-the-shelf software has low upfront compared to custom software, and that’s because it is distributed across a broader audience. They are not very costly to purchase, and this is because of ongoing maintenance or inefficiencies. Besides this, another expense that the organization will have to pay is for the formal training operation that the software development company will provide to its employees.
On the other hand, when we talk about costing in custom software development, it is quite expensive. As the custom software is created to solve the specific needs of the client or his organization, it involves more time and investment. This type of software lasts longer as it is customized for a firm, and it also saves extra expenses and time in training.
3.Time to Create & Deploy
In off-the-shelf software, the deployment time required is almost nil. This is because the user only has to get the software, install it, and be ready to use it. But an off-the-shelf software might not satisfy everyone because of its standard features. In addition to this, off-the-shelf software is not built with implementation and customization so that it can be created in a shorter time. The users need to pay charges of off-the-shelf software as a monthly subscription.
While in the case of custom software, it is created from scratch. Therefore, there might be many customizations possible. Here, the software development phase itself takes several months, which might not be feasible for every organization, especially those in immediate need of software. But, one of the best things with custom software is that once the product is ready, you see something that fulfills all your requirements.
When any organization chooses off-the-shelf software for the use of its employees, they might not get an advantage over their competitors as this type of solution might already be available in the market. In such cases, there are chances of your ideas getting copied.
But when it comes to custom software, the scenario is entirely different. Custom software is something that offers a competitive advantage by being one of its kind. In addition to this, custom software is developed by keeping users’ perspectives and requirements in mind, which results in users being more comfortable with the product.
Once an organization purchases the off-the-shelf software, it is difficult to modify it. The changes and up-gradation of the software are not in the hands of the users; it is carried out by the software providing company. They will provide updates once or twice in the year, and that is all the user gets. This is one of the most significant limitations of off-the-shelf software.
While the custom software is always open for expansion, one can modify it easily because it is customized for a particular group of people or an organization. The user being the owner of the product makes it easy to make changes frequently. Custom software can keep up with the trending technology, modifications, and morphs. This helps one keep the pace of the business intact.
The purpose of the Off-the-shelf software is to reach a wide range of users with a standard design. This type of solution generally does not fulfill all the requirements of the individuals. Therefore, before choosing off-the-shelf software, one must think of the ways it can help their business.
On the other hand, Custom software is created to meet the requirements and unique challenges of the user. It provides a perfect solution to the users and helps them resolve the difficulties in the business process.
Off-the-shelf is a type of software developed so that it can be easily installed and used immediately. But an issue with pre-built software is that if the user wants it to be customized and wants to add some features, then hiring a software developer becomes essential. And this can cost money and time.
While on the other hand, the custom product is created by a custom software development company for a particular group of consumers. Hence it is designed in a way the client wants. This makes it ideally more scalable and beneficial for the business.
In the comparison between the custom software and off-the-shelf, there is no definite winner. Which type of software to choose entirely depends on the circumstances and the business requirements. However, if one makes the wrong decision, it can cost a lot of money and time. Therefore, understanding both off-the-shelf software and custom software development concepts, its benefits, and rationalizing all of it according to your business circumstances is a must. Besides this, one thing that the software development companies suggest is that the users must analyze the off-the-shelf software and see that does it fulfill all the requirements, if not, then opt for custom software.
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