Custom Software vs. Off-the-Shelf: Which is Better for Your Business?


Custom Software vs. Off-the-Shelf: Which is Better for Your Business?

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Technology gives businesses a considerable advantage. The appropriate software makes a huge difference, whether used internally to facilitate simpler workflows or provided to external stakeholders like clients, consumers, and the general public.

Companies usually have two options for adopting software for business use.

  • Design custom software tailored to their unique needs
  • Purchase pre-existing software from a vendor; or off-the-shelf software

Off-the-shelf software can offer a quick and simple answer, while custom software development provides more customization and flexibility. You can examine the advantages and disadvantages of each choice in the next part to assist you in selecting the best one. Continue reading below.

What is Commercial Off-the-Shelf Software?

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) refers to pre-packaged software offered for sale. Some examples of COTS include project management, accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and HR management software. Businesses in various industries can use these plug-and-play solutions to manage their operations better and more efficiently.

Advantages of COTS Software

  • Low upfront and upkeep costs, as the developer shoulders the development and maintenance costs.
  • Software is ready to use and does not need to be developed, which saves time and makes implementation easier.
  • The vendor can assist with updates and bug fixes.

Disadvantages of COTS Software

  • Meeting the needs of a large target market means a lack of features for a niche industry.
  • Mass production can present safety vulnerabilities in the software.
  • Catering to a vast user base makes customizing and flexibility difficult.

What is Custom Software?

Custom software describes creating software suited to a particular company’s demands and specifications. Developers create custom software intending to meet specific business demands.

This software has several advantages, including greater productivity, data management, and decision-making. Although it is possible to develop custom software in-house, many businesses prefer to collaborate with an outsourced development team to benefit from their knowledge, experience, and cost-effectiveness.

Advantages of Custom Software

  • Fits the exact requirements of a business, including specific workflows, processes, and functions
  • Its unique architecture makes it harder for hackers to break into it.
  • Businesses can choose which software and hardware can be integrated into the software.

Disadvantages of Custom Software

  • Can be more expensive than using COTS due to the need for specialized software development skills and expertise
  • Takes longer to develop as it is built from scratch and tailored to meet the specific needs
  • You may find bugs and glitches as the software iterates over time.

Custom Software vs. Off-the-Shelf: 5 Factors to Consider

Businesses must choose between investing in custom software development and using off-the-shelf software. To assist you in making an informed choice, we’ll go into great detail about these considerations.

1. Type of business

While COTS software can function for some firms with regular processes, custom software better serve businesses with distinctive or complex workflows. Companies can guarantee that their software is adapted to their unique demands for more efficiency and better outcomes by developing custom software with skilled software development professionals.

2. Budget

Since the development and maintenance costs are split among customers, businesses frequently consider COTS software the most economical choice.

However, custom software development can fit a specific budget and needs. A full-stack developer can create a unique solution that matches a company’s needs without exceeding budget. Moreover, custom software demands more time and money upfront, but the long-term advantages frequently surpass the original cost, making it an affordable option.

3. Time constraints

COTS software may appear to be the more sensible option for its accessibility. However, given the right resources, experts can develop custom software in a reasonably short timeline.

The development team may create software tailored to the organization’s unique requirements by prioritizing the company’s most essential features and functionalities. Moreover, experienced developers have playbooks that help them quickly make a working system while avoiding common bugs and glitches.

4. Required features

COTS software may not provide the special features or capabilities required by a company because it caters to the needs of a wide variety of users. 

On the other hand, custom software can meet unique business requirements, ensuring that all necessary functionalities exist. Building custom software with unique functionalities can produce a more significant ROI for the company, even though it may involve more time and money upfront.

5. Future scalability

COTS is easier to scale than custom software, as additional features can be added by upgrading its license. In contrast, scaling a built software in the future may entail another round of development, which can prove costly overall.

With that said, hiring an affordable offshore software development team who can make updates and increase the product’s functionality can ensure that your custom software remains relevant in the future.

Investing in the Future of Your Business

Both COTS and custom software have advantages and disadvantages. Here are their pros and cons in summary:

Factors to ConsiderCustom SoftwareOff-the-Shelf Software
Type of businessSuited for businesses with distinctive or complex workflowsSuitable for companies with regular processes
BudgetCan fit a specific budget and needs; long-term advantages may outweigh the initial costLow upfront and upkeep costs; cost is shared among multiple customers
Time constraintsCan be developed in a reasonably short timeline with the right resourcesQuick and simple solution, ready to use
Required featuresCan meet unique business requirements, ensuring necessary functionalitiesMay lack specific features needed by some companies
Future scalabilityMay require additional development for scalabilityEasier to scale by upgrading the license
CustomizationHighly customizable and flexibleLack of customization and flexibility 

Your unique business needs require building custom software with competent software professionals. This ensures that your software meets all your requirements, is secure, and offers greater scalability.

If you need help finding remote and offshore software developers who can deliver custom software solutions, there are expert recruitment firms in the Philippines to help you. The experienced team in Manila Recruitment can provide you access to the top software development professionals who can create a tailored software solution for your business needs.

Contact Manila Recruitment today!

About Lawrence Barrett

Lawrence left the UK in 2010 after been headhunted to live and work in Shanghai in the financial services industry. Then in 2014 his company asked him to move to the Philippines to set up an office and establish a team to support our international business development efforts in the region and, like most people, he fell in love with the place. Lawrence always had an entrepreneurial mindset and so there was a burning desire to start a business he could call his own. In 2015 he decided to team up with a friend to start a business in the Oil & Gas industry that is centered around a globally patented pipeline sealing technology (The Halo Seal). As time went by he developed a close relationship with the Founder and CEO of Manila Recruitment and so in late 2017 he was invited to become an equity partner and to help expand the brand. And so here he is now, a part of the most dynamic headhunting firm in the Philippines. Connect with Lawrence Barrett on LinkedIn