Software development has come a long way in the past decade. With each year, new trends keep the software development services market alive, and companies scramble to make the most use of them. 

The use of software services is an absolute necessity in today’s IT-fueled business environment. It helps companies integrate their operations and maintain sync between all activities within their internal environment. The means to attain enterprise and resource management software is crucial and involves many factors considered.

However, a debate that has been ongoing with no end is regarding whether off-the-shelf software development is better than custom software development.

In fact, you may have been wondering whether your business should use off-the-shelf software or hire custom software development services to build your company’s online presence. 

The article helps find the right balance between the two options to get the most value out of each without spending too much money or wasting time.

What is Off-the-Shelf Software? 

Off-the-shelf software is a pre-written program you purchase from a developer and install on your computer.

In essence, off-the-shelf software is built, licensed, and distributed to be productive for myriad purposes to the enterprises which use them. 

An example of off-the-shelf software would be Microsoft’s Office suite of apps & software or the Google G-Suite. Software suites like these are used globally by companies to bring efficiency to daily business operations.

Off-the-shelf software is not developed exclusively for any particular application; they are built for various use cases associated with certain types of work. Graphic designing software such as Adobe Illustrator may be licensed by a Digital Media agency to be used for its daily activities.

Such type of software doesn’t have as many features as a custom program, but it’s often easier than developing one from scratch.

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What is Custom Software Development? 

Custom Software Development is the process of building a software program from scratch. It starts with an idea and can take many different forms.

When a company has complex activities requiring a high amount of integration and synchronization, it might require software customized and tailored to its needs. This is where Custom Software Development comes in and plays its role.

Custom Software development refers to the process of software development done by a company exclusively for itself. Unlike off-the-shelf software development, these are made either by the company’s in-house development team or a custom software development company. For e.g., CRM software.

The process of custom software development can be more expensive than an off-the-shelf service, but it will also save you time and money in the long run.

Start With Understanding What You Need!

The first step in deciding between custom software development and an off-the-shelf service is understanding what you exactly need. That way, you can make an informed decision on which option is better suited for your needs. If you need a more complicated system that requires a lot of data input and analysis, then it would be a good idea to go with off-the-shelf services. If you’re looking for something simple but specific requirements in design or functionality, then go with custom software development. 

Custom Software Development vs. Off-the-Shelf Services

If You’re Making a Decision Based on Costs:

If you’re an enterprise looking to integrate software solutions for handling business activities, and if costs are a concern. Then off-the-shelf software services might be beneficial in the shorter run.

With these services, you’d have to purchase the licenses and use the software within the company. In comparison, Custom software development has a long and tedious process that involves the hiring of developers/outsourcing services through a custom software development company.

The reason for higher costs in custom software development services is that, unlike off-the-shelf services, the end product is distributed to just one entity. Off-the-shelf software development companies such as Microsoft and Google distribute software across multiple entities, and this helps in the easy recovery of costs and subsequently enables the development company to reduce licensing costs. 

But, when companies start getting larger, off-the-shelf products may not be good enough. The customization that is needed can only be achieved with a customized solution. This also has an effect on the cost of developing that product, as it has to be done by a team of developers and engineers who specialize in this field.

Read More: Why agile for software product development?

When Time is a Concern:

Very often, companies place a high emphasis on time for implementing new practices within the company. Now, if we put software development in this context, both methods, off-the-shelf software and custom software development, consume a high amount of time in the process of deployment and delivery.

In both cases, some time is definitely required for training the employees to use and control the implemented software solutions. However, off-the-shelf software programs are more beneficial in the sense that such programs might already be put into use in many companies. 

Custom programming takes more time and money, but it ensures you get exactly what you want.

So chances are, an employee or many employees might already know how to work around a particular software through their past work experience.

Another aspect where off-the-shelf software steals the cake is in terms of time taken for development. Custom software development takes a lot of time and effort, but off-the-shelf solutions, on the other hand, can be used instantly after licensing and installation by companies that make use of it.

If Competitive Advantage is the Primary Motive:

For any company, attaining a competitive advantage requires it to develop a core competency and convert it into a distinctive competency to surge ahead of rivals. In the corporate world today, IT services are crucial to the development of such competencies. Using off-the-shelf software services in these cases does not do much to make a company stand out.

With custom software development, though, it’s an entirely different story. In addition to its differences from conventional software due to exclusivity, custom software takes a reduced load due to the absence of unnecessary features and additions.

Off-the-shelf software does not have such an advantage as these are developed with an entire industry and many use cases in mind. Custom software development services, on the other hand, are purely meant for one entity. Thus it allows a company to introduce new features and additions to create new trends in the industry and create new benchmarks for its competition.

Therefore, If you’re looking for a competitive edge, it may be best to invest in custom software development.

On the basis of Performance, Flexibility, Scalability, and Upgradeability:

This is the most important aspect of the software. The primary purpose of using software services within an organization is to enhance these 4 most important elements: performance, flexibility, scalability, and upgradability.

Off-the-shelf software solutions are inferior in performance in comparison to custom software development services. The reason is that the latter is developed exclusively keeping in mind the company’s specific needs and requirements. This allows the company to eliminate any redundant features (off-the-shelf software comes loaded with pre-enabled features which cannot be removed if unnecessary) and keep only the most productive functions within the software. Doing so saves a tremendous amount of space, decreases load times, and increases performance.

When it comes to flexibility, custom software development once again holds the advantage here. The flexibility of Off-the-shelf software services depends on the type of software and its application in the business. In the case of custom software, however, any changes to the software’s function or application can be made as per the company’s requirements.

As far as scalability is concerned, custom software is way more scalable compared to off-the-shelf software, as the former can be integrated more easily with every activity within the business. The problem with off-the-shelf software in these cases is that these are not moulded as per the business activities. But most of the time, business activities and operations have to be performed in a way that makes them compatible with the software system.

Custom solutions, on the other hand, can be changed at any time and allow for scalability.

Finally, in terms of upgradability. Custom software development once again holds the edge. Companies leveraging off-the-shelf software solutions have to rely on distributors to update the software to bring new changes. But custom software can be upgraded at any point in time by the custom software development company supporting the client firm.

With a custom solution, we will always be able to make adjustments without costing additional money.

Custom Software Development

Risks Associated With Both Options:

Off-the-shelf services will have a higher upfront cost but will save you money in the long run. They are also less risky because they are easy to update and customize. However, if you’re developing a highly specialized app, it may not be available with an off-the-shelf service. Custom software development allows you to build exactly what you need without any drawbacks.

Adoption of Off-The-Shelf Software & Custom Software in 2022

Custom Software Development vs Off-the-shelf Services

According to the research by Citrusbug, as the business investment for custom software development continues to increase, we should also expect to see more investment and purchasing happening in the coming years.

To Conclude

Choosing the right solution will depend on the size of your company, what you want the system to do, and how much time and money you want to invest in it. 

When competitive advantage, future readiness, peak efficiency, and productivity are the top concerns, custom software development is the most beneficial for businesses in the longer run. However, if budget is a constraint and all concerns are only for the shortest run, then off-the-shelf software services would do the job well enough.

But if you ask me, I’d say that if you’re a business owner looking to reach the highest levels of profitability and success, your organization must hire software developers for custom software development services. Off-the-shelf software services are only useful for SMEs and other businesses focusing on stability instead of growth. 

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