Custom vs off-the-shelf — 5 key advantages of custom software

Author Petra Ignjatović
Category Technology
Date May 28, 2020
5 min read

When a company decides to improve its business by adding a new digital tool, an application or a new piece of software to its arsenal, it has a choice — take the custom route and get a solution that’s fully tailored to its needs, or choose one of the available off-the-shelf solutions that cover only a part of those needs. In this blog, I’ll explain why and when is custom software the way to go!

Before we jump into the core of this topic and show you 5 key advantages of adding custom software solutions to your business, let me start with the basics and give you some more context.

What exactly is custom software?

When we talk about custom software, we usually talk about different types of applications, whether web or mobile apps, that are built to order — they are built to have specific features that can handle a specific company’s specific needs. Businesses that are most commonly looking for custom software are either companies that are just starting out and are looking to make software a core part of their business, or more mature businesses who want to utilize custom software as a way of upgrading their processes or adding a new stream of revenue.

Companies whose software is their core business are always building it from scratch, so in this article I’m going to talk more about companies who use custom software to enhance their existing operations.

There are usually a couple of different scenarios that occur once those kinds of more mature companies decide to use software solutions for a specific function:

  1. They either buy an off-the-shelf solution
  2. Or they develop their own software — or hire a specialized development company to build it for them

If you’re considering going custom, these are some of the main benefits you can expect to get out of it.

5 benefits of custom software

#1 Custom software fulfils the specific needs of your stakeholders

One of the most prominent advantages of custom software over off-the-shelf solutions is that it can be tailored to fit all of your business needs and made to seamlessly integrate with your existing systems. On the other hand, when you use an off-the-shelf solution, you need to be aware that you are using one made to satisfy an average customer.

With off-the-shelf solutions, there is a great possibility that you will need some specific features or a specific type of integration that it will not be able to provide. With custom software, the world’s your oyster and there are no limitations — you can make it to be anything your business needs it to be, and to function in a way that is most appropriate for the users.

#2 With custom software, you are the owner

With custom software, you have the safety of knowing that you’re in full control because you are the owner of the software. If you decide on using a custom solution instead of an off-the-shelf one, you don’t have to think about the possibility that the provider of the off-the-shelf solution might possibly change an aspect of the tool that is crucial for your company, or that you’ll be forced to start the entire process all over again and find a new solution if they potentially go out of business.

It is true that owning a piece of software will require you to do some more monitoring and maintenance, and it’ll also need to be upgraded from time to time by a development team, but you don’t need to worry about it not being there one day.

#3 You can change custom software to meet your evolving needs

As your company grows and the market situation changes, the needs of your business will change as well. You might implement a new process that you’d like to connect with the software you’re using, maybe you had a huge influx of new employees and you need a system that can handle it, or maybe you just need a few extra functionalities that you’re currently missing that would make your entire operations more streamlined. Whatever the case, it will be much easier to implement if you have your own custom software — all you need to do is contact your go-to development team and have them handle the upgrades. It’s relatively quick and easy, and it won’t take your focus away from your day to day operations.

With off-the-shelf software, on the other hand, what you see is usually what you get. With a lot of them, you can choose different packages that come with additional features, but any type of customization is rarely an option.

#4 Custom software can turn into your new business opportunity

If you’ve built software that your company needs, that solves a specific issue or improves processes in a certain way, there’s a possibility that your company might not be the only one with those specific needs, issues or processes. They too could benefit from such a solution, so why not start a new product and offer it to them?

Having custom software will enable you to expand your business and services, and create a completely new revenue stream for the company by selling the software to other companies who might need it.

#5 Good custom software increases your employee productivity and satisfaction

You’ve surely heard about this phrase: “but, that’s the way it’s always been done around here”. It can be often heard in companies that have a hard time embracing innovation and technology, and it is dreaded by all of the companies that are looking for continuous and healthy growth.

Custom software can make that phrase disappear because it can make your employees more productive in their daily work and thus more satisfied with their achievements, which ultimately makes your operations more efficient and can lead to increased returns on investment. When properly planned and built, custom software improves your company across the board — from enabling faster sales and ordering to boosting production and upgrading every other business function.

Will you be going custom?

As you can see, taking the custom software route is all about future-proofing your business and having the maximum amount of flexibility if the needs of your company change, as well as making sure that the software you’re using will be able to scale accordingly and seamlessly follow your company’s growth.

If you’d like to learn more about custom software and off-the-shelf solutions take a look at this blog that will show you what you should keep in mind when choosing one or the other, and if you want to find out more about starting a successful custom software project, check out our free ebook about product discovery.

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