Business today is impossible without software. Every company uses it for competitive research, payroll and accounting, email communication, or more complex activities such as employee time tracking, or project management.
The digital market is overwhelmed with software tools that already offer solutions to the most common needs.
However, there are companies whose profile is a little more complicated; the available software does not fully meet their specific requirements.
To successfully run their business and to keep their and their customer data safe, they choose to create custom software instead of purchasing off-the-shelf solutions.
Now let’s review the main difference between custom and off-the-shelf software and see on the real-life examples why dedicated software is more effective and efficient.
Difference between custom and off-the-shelf software
Custom software is designed specifically to meet the individual needs of each company, while the latter is produced by software makers for the mass market.
Companies need to decide whether they need sophisticated software or whether they can handle their needs or issues with ready-made solutions. Various factors should be considered.
One of the most important factors is cost. Building custom software is much more expensive than buying an existing solution.
However, in the long term, custom software can be much more cost-effective. While standard software requires companies to pay a certain license fee, the custom solution is entirely yours to maintain and scale.
Another factor that may seem important in favor of a commercial product is time. Buying ready-made software is quick and easy. You only need to decide on a specific option, and you can start using it right away.
The process of developing an individual solution can take long months, depending on the complexity of your project. But once that’s done, you can save a lot of time in the long run.
Furthermore, having a fully customizable solution means that any error or issue is immediately resolved by an IT/software development team.
The customization is endless, unlike commercial software. But is it really a huge mistake to use out-of-the-box products? Not at all! Commercial software is more affordable and can provide a plug-and-play solution in a matter of minutes. However, out-of-the-box software is much limited in its functions and capacity: you’re good to go with it as long as you don’t have specific requests or sophisticated requirements.
“Commercial products are only customizable to a certain extent, so if your business suddenly grows or adapts to a different target market, off-the-shelf software won’t let you respond to such changes fast enough,” says Colette Wyatt, CEO of a UK-based software house Evolve specialized in custom software development.
While at first deciding to choose mass-market software seems like an easy and obvious choice, it doesn’t if you think about the future implications of this decision.
That is why you will have to compromise with off-the-shelf software, as it may not be entirely suitable for your business goals.
You may not find its functionality suitable for your company or end-users, so you will probably use a few commercial products to fill in the gaps. But the lack of features isn’t the only problem you might run into when using out-of-the-box software.
According to Colette Wyatt, such software contains features that your company may never use. And that’s a big problem. Too many features can slow down your system, causing issues rather than efficiency gains. Such software will only complicate your workflows and be a pain in the neck down the road.
Although the initial cost of commercial software is much lower than the price of custom-made software, it will start to accumulate over the years. This will result in a rampant software sprawl (when different departments are using different licenses of the same software solution, etc.) and a technical debt that will cost you a fortune to eliminate.
Licenses need to be renewed every month, quarter or year, so the total cost of your off-the-shelf product will be two or three times higher.
Some time ago, Lafarge, one of the UK’s leading aggregate suppliers with more than 140 plants across the country, struggled to procure the right amount of transport to fulfill customer demands and expectations cost-effectively. Their costs were high; the customer experience left a lot to be desired; the unnecessary delays and backlogs led staff to work overtime and feel burnout. The internal analysis showed that most of the issues were due to highly unscalable and uncustomizable commercial software Lafarge used across departments. Having replaced its out-of-the-box solution with tailor-made bespoke software, Lafarge could save as much as £4m per year.
Benefits of custom software for early-stage companies
Custom-designed software consistently proves to be the best option for most companies.
You get exactly what you need to run your business successfully, nothing more, nothing less.
It may cost you a small fortune in the beginning, but you will soon realize that this was the most economical solution. Here’s how else you can benefit from creating your software.
Exact match to your business goals and customer expectations
With ready-made software, you can rest assured that it will meet all your requirements and increase your efficiency.
Colette Wyatt from Evolve emphasizes that bespoke software scales to your needs and anything is possible with little effort, time and money. It will also support your company growth and help you scale painlessly.
Higher becomes lower
Developing custom software indeed requires a substantial investment, but in the end, it will cost you a lot less because you don’t have to renew your licenses or subscriptions. Nor will you lose user loyalty as a result of giving them features they don’t need and failing to provide the ones they need.
Plus, a tailor-made solution does not need to be continuously modified to suit your company’s needs. It’s like an investment that will pay off in the future.
With custom software, it’s easy to implement changes
Making any changes to custom-made software is very easy. If you ever need to change something because of new legislation or customer requirements, you will do it in no time. All you need for this is your software source code and a tech team that will implement those changes without compromising your business.
Custom software is easy to support
One of the main benefits of custom software is the range of support you will receive.
Some software development companies offer assistance after initial setup, so be sure to use one of these providers.
A solid support plan is critical to running your business smoothly and successfully.
A team of experienced engineers and testers who have developed your software will be able to fix any problems or customize your solution much faster and more efficiently than any 3rd party support line.
Custom software translates into increased efficiency
Companies usually have to use several programs to operate. This leads to a decrease in efficiency since the systems are incompatible with each other. Not to mention, maintaining them all at once can be quite tricky.
This does not apply to custom solutions. Having custom software allows businesses to tailor it to their needs, ensuring smooth and efficient operations.
Human factor minimization
Thanks to the automation process, the human factor is minimized when it comes to bespoke software. Thus, tasks are performed much faster and more accurately compared to mass-market software.
Many manual processes involve a higher level of control, which reduces the likelihood of errors.
Custom software allows for top-notch cybersecurity
Currently, companies, as well as individuals, are facing a myriad of cyber threats such as DDoS attacks, phishing, ransomware, etc.
Since commercial products can be purchased by anyone, hackers can easily find ways to compromise your system to steal some valuable data.
Using a specially designed solution makes it much more difficult for cybercriminals to crack your system, so an attack is unlikely to occur.
Custom software caters to an unlimited number of users
With out-of-the-box solutions, you are usually limited to a certain number of people who are allowed to use the software. Unlike it, ready-made software lets an unlimited number of users in.
If you have a small company, this might not be such a big deal, but imagine a business with over 100 employees.
The cost of the software can seriously hurt your growth budget. Another reason to invest in custom software development is to save money in the long run.
Types of software customization
When it comes to bespoke software, we can distinguish three main types of customization:
Complete Customization – The software is tailored to every aspect of your business needs.
Semi-customization – adjusting already existing software to your business needs.
Copied customization – using software developed by another company with similar objectives and needs.
How to customize your software is entirely up to you. You can choose to build a completely new solution from scratch or adapt an existing one to your requirements.
Based on this, you will be able to automate several crucial processes in your company, such as invoicing, time tracking, purchasing solutions, efficiency tools, etc.
If you choose to build your own software, you also need to be prepared for a rather long and complex yet exciting development journey.
The lead time depends on the level of complexity and your specific requirements, but it usually takes several months to complete. It may seem like an eternity, but patience will pay off if you find a reliable tech partner!
Over the years, software companies have realized that bespoke software is much more efficient in the long run.
It doesn’t matter if you are running a small business or an enterprise: the demand for customized solutions is constantly growing across industries, resulting in commercial products lagging far behind tailored solutions.
Success may not be far off. The choice is yours.
Stay tuned with Software Focus!