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Custom Software Development vs Off-the-shelf Services. Which is better?

Custom Software Development vs Off-the-shelf Services. Which is better?
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Software development has come a long way since 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. However, a debate that has been ongoing with no end is regarding whether off-the-shelf software development is better than custom software development.

The use of software services is an absolute necessity in today’s IT-fueled business environment. It helps companies integrate its operations and maintain sync between all activities within its internal environment. However, the means to attain enterprise and resource management software is a crucial matter in itself and involves many factors taken into consideration.

What is an off-the-shelf software? 

Custom Software Development vs Off-the-shelf Services

In essence, an off-the-shelf software is built, licensed and distributed with the intent to be productive for myriad purposes to the enterprises which use them. An example of an off-the-shelf software would be something like Microsoft’s Office suite of apps & software or the Google G-Suite. Software suites like these are used globally by companies to bring efficiency in daily operations of the business.

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

What is Custom Software Development? 

custom software development

When a company has complex activities requiring a high amount of integration and synchronization, it might require a software customized and tailored to its very own 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 eg. CRM software

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, all you’d have to do is purchase the licenses and use the software within the company. In comparison, Custom software development has a long and tedious process which 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 it, unlike off-the-shelf services, the end product is distributed to just one entity. Off-the-self software development companies such as Microsoft and Google distribute software across multiple entities, and this helps in easy recovery of costs and subsequently enables the development company to reduce licensing costs. 

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 its 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. 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 which make use of it. 

Also read: 5 Reasons to consider Software Product Development services for your Business

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, its an entirely different story. In addition to its differences with conventional software due to exclusivity, a 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.

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

This is the most important aspect of a 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. Once again, custom software development 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, a 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 molded as per the business activities. But most of the time, business activities and operations have to be performed in a way that makes it compatible with the software system.

Finally, in terms of upgradability. Custom software development once again holds the edge. Companies leveraging off-the-shelf software solutions have to rely on the 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.

To conclude…

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 if 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, then your organization must hire software developers for custom software development services. Off-the-shelf software services are only useful for SMEs and other business which focus on stability instead of growth. 

Save your time and up to 60% of your development cost with PixelCrayons. Get full-cycle software product development solutions from initial strategy & planning to final deployment and after delivery support.

Varun Bhagat is a technology geek and works with PixelCrayons as a Sr. Technology Consultant. He possesses in-depth knowledge of different web development technology and helps our clients to choose the best technology as per their needs.

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