custom software

Off-the-Shelf or Custom Software? Choose wisely

01 Apr 2021

CooperationDevelopment

Most businesses you can think of are driven by quality. The quality of the product, of delivery, of customer service. And most of these factors at least partially depend on the software you use. Considering all of the above, is it a good idea to get a solution readily available in a store? Or should you invest in custom software?

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions.

What’s the difference between off-the-shelf and custom software?
What is the meaning of custom software, and what advantages will it give you?
When should you even consider ordering custom software?

Off-the-shelf software is a readily available solution, usually in the SaaS model. You pay, you gain access, you use some kind of well-known platform: a CRM, some kind of work organization board, etc.

Meanwhile, custom software is software made for you. It doesn’t mean that it reinvents the wheel. On the contrary, it can be quite similar to what’s already out there but tailored to your needs.

So why would you even need it if something relatively similar exists?

Because when something is for everyone, it’s for no one in particular. The commonly used apps may not be super handy for your employees, may contain modules that you simply won’t use (but still pay for), may not be 100% compatible with your systems, or may lack something you need. 

Custom solutions can look, play, and offer whatever you wish. Most of all, they will be yours to keep: you will be able to freely evolve or modify them, independently from some publisher who may decide to end support. 

How to approach creating custom-written software?

1. Establish your needs

Assess what you are trying to achieve, what you need to support your progress, and why the software you are using now isn’t 100% perfect for this purpose. Try to check out different off-the-shelf apps. Who knows, maybe there is one that’s perfect for you, but you aren’t aware of its existence?

2. Consider time and money

When looking at what’s in the market, think hard about how much you are willing to spend, and if it’s worth the investment. Are you this dependent on a specific piece of software to justify producing a custom-made solution? And most of all, are you willing to wait? Deployment of off-the-shelf software is as easy as paying for access. When you hire a software house to code an app for you (or assign it to your internal development team), you’re going to have to wait. It’s often worth it, but still – think about it.

3. Evaluate how much control you really need

Is owning the app this crucial? It might well be. You may want to consider the direction your company has taken, the fact it’s going to grow, or expand to different areas. This may require adding new modules to your software, and that’s when it’s just great to have full control. However, sometimes what’s already out there is good enough. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide.

When to choose custom software development?

Tailor-made solutions are best when you have very specific needs, and not one of the readily available apps can meet them. Custom software is also great when you don’t want to fully switch to some new platform, but implement its elements or functionalities into what you already have. Not every off-the-shelf technology is compatible or flexible enough to cover this kind of need.

But there are other great reasons to go custom. Perhaps you want to stand out? Or try some new kind of strategy that requires full control? After all, no industry giant relies on some mainstream, widely available solution. They use exactly what they need: their unique applications to support their services, marketing, and other areas of activity.

Moreover, custom software may eventually start generating revenue. You can leverage it in a creative way to support your earnings, from something as simple as making it your company’s unique selling point to licensing it to external users.

Finally, the development of custom apps pays when you want to be ready for the future. When you want to have a say in its development, maintenance, and upgrades. All of the above reasons, of course, will require a fitting investment in the form of both money and time.

When you should avoid custom solutions and choose off-the-shelf software?

In most cases, it’s good to have a solution of your own. But, if you don’t really need anything out of the ordinary, you may just as well choose something from the store. If any app addresses your business needs completely, then there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Also, you might be hard-pressed for time or cash, in which case investing in new solutions may not be the best idea.

Not sure what to choose?

Don’t worry, we understand. The best thing to do is to take a close look at your situation. As a custom software development house, our team at fireup.pro can help you analyze your needs and confront them with the available tools. We can also suggest a tailored solution, and of course, realize it if you choose so. We provide full support at all times, from the pre-production stage to post-release maintenance and development.

Let’s talk. This won’t cost you a dime, and it might help you get the answers you’re looking for.

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