Software: Custom vs. Off-The-Shelf

Custom vs. Off-The-Shelf Software

What is better for my business?


Before choosing between custom software and off-the-shelf software, you should first identify your business needs. You may wish to consider the following:


1- What are your software development goals? Customized software includes an endless possibility of features. It’s important to identify the software features that your company requires. It’s also important to identify the platform systems that you want the software to be compatible with (Android, iOS, Windows, etc.). You can then research off-the-shelf software packages and determine if the packages meet your needs or if you require custom software.


2- You may need to speak with both your staff, and your stakeholders as they may be able to best identify your brand, technical, and consumer needs. You can then apply these needs to your software concepts.


3- What do you want your business to gain with this software? You may be looking for more brand recognition with your software or you may be looking to sell products through your software. Identifying your business goals will help you decide which type of software is best for your business. When you can fully identify and communicate your business needs, our custom software developers can best implement those needs to give you a viable business solution.


Custom Software Development

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Pros to Custom Software

  1. Custom software is built for the unique challenges of your situation. Whether you want mobile or web-based applications, one-time or ongoing software development, to integrate your existing brand or start something completely new, custom software is designed to meet your every requirement.
  2. Custom software can easily be updated. Since you own the software, you can implement changes as your company and brand evolve throughout the years. Furthermore, as technology advances, you can advance your software accordingly.
  3. Custom software offers a competitive advantage as the specific software is something only your company has. This offers you an advantage over your competitors; who don’t have this software and lack the business opportunities that your software brings. Some of our clients have even developed unique software systems to sell to their industry partners.


Cons to Custom Software

  1. Customization is a complex process that takes time and by extension, money. Custom software development can require an upfront investment. However, this expense becomes an asset, and ultimately the software is designed to: streamline your business, reduce employee load, and fully meet your needs. Many off-the-shelf software options have monthly subscription fees which can end up costing equivalent to building your own, if not costing more over time.
  2. Custom software development can take time. Developers need to build the software from the ground up. The software development process may take weeks or months, depending on the feature list being built out. Think of it like building a house: the development team will start with the framework and build it up floor-to-floor adding features and key elements.
  3. You are relying on a good team of developers to develop your program. It’s important to research into the company: if you choose a reliable, established company, you will receive a quality product with good code that can easily be scaled and updated.


Examples of Custom Software Development

  1. Amazon and eBay have developed their own eCommerce platforms which connect buyers and sellers. They advertise a wide range of consumer products including; electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys, jewelry, and more. Consumers can create a profile, save items to wish lists, and purchase items to be shipped to any location they would like.
  2. The Vancouver School Board Mobile App, developed by Essential Designs, allows education professionals to quickly access emergency procedures, instant messaging, and contact information for the 109 schools in the district. Integration with automated SMS messaging services allows for instant connection to problem-solvers in emergency situations. A fully automated back-end allows the VSB to add on new districts at any time, each with their own set of emergency data, contacts, and outcomes.
  3. Lifeguard Mobile App, founded by LifeguardOD, partnered with British Columbia Emergency Health Services (BCHES), and developed by Essential Designs, is a digital ‘safe consumption’ product designed for the opioid crisis in B.C. The app was built as both a native iOS and a native Android mobile application to make it universally accessible. The app is designed to protect drug users from overdose by enabling direct access to emergency services.


Off-The-Shelf Software Integration


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Pros to Off-The-Shelf Software

  1. Off-the-shelf software is designed for quick installation and use. However, off-the-shelf software is a package designed to meet the needs of a variety of businesses and as such, it is not customized to your needs. As a result, the off-the-shelf software may require minor customization, or “tweaks”, to be implemented into your business system and existing platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, etc.).
  2. Off-the-shelf software does not require a large upfront investment because it is not built from scratch like custom software development. However, software integration, subscription fees, and maintenance can add up, often resembling these upfront investments. It’s important to also factor in your budget room for growing monthly fees.
  3. Off-the-shelf software can be reputable. You will find more resources for the software: look up reviews and see examples of the software in a variety of projects because the software package is mass produced. Other companies who have purchased the off-the-shelf software may provide solutions to problems that you also are having, as they may have dealt with the same issues in the implementation process.


Cons to Off-The-Shelf Software

  1. Off-the-shelf software may not meet your specific requirements. If the software package is not efficient – in that it is not compatible with your current legacy software or office systems (iOS, DOS, Windows, etc.) you may end up losing money. The loss can happen in the time it takes to tweak the software to fit your business, or in need to hire someone to manage the gaps in compatibility, and therefore a resulting salary to pay.
  2. Off-the-shelf software can be difficult to modify. Upgrades for the software may not be available or may cost more money. As your business grows, you will want to modify your software accordingly. You may be unable to do this quickly, easily or in a cost-effective manner with off-the-shelf software.
  3. Off-the-shelf software may not be compatible with different platforms. Software on a variety of devices (ex: iOS, Android, or Windows) may not be compatible with the off-the-shelf software and could require custom APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) in order to properly integrate.
  4. Your competitors will have access to this software because of its mass production. This means that your business ideas, implemented with this software, could be replicated. Your competitors will be able to produce the same concepts by using the same software.
  5. Ongoing support can end. In the world of SAAS – Software As A Service – you are subscribing to a monthly subscription of that product. Online software companies are frequently acquired, merge and take a new path, or can even close their doors, leaving you without a supported solution for your business.


Examples of Off-The-Shelf Software

  1. Gmail and Microsoft Outlook are software applications designed to allow millions of people to communicate via Email.
  2. Sage and Quickbooks are SAAS accounting applications that record and process accounting transactions within functional modules such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, journal, general ledger, payroll, and trial balance.
  3. McAfee Total Protection and Norton Antivirus are antivirus software that manages online pop-up ads and detect and block viruses. Antivirus software defends against ransomware, viruses, spyware, malware and other online threats.


Choosing Custom Software & Integration Developers

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It’s important to find a custom software or software integration development company who can meet your specific business requirements. Custom software development is a process that begins with planning, wireframing, coming up with a design, developing and testing the code, and deployment of the new system. Software integration uses off-the-shelf software and integrates it by setting up on a local server or in the cloud, using APIs for inter-connectivity, and ensuring the workflows accommodate your business needs.


The following are some key traits that you should look for in a software development company; either for software integration or custom software development:


1- They are thorough. The ideal software development company will ask important questions about your software needs, take notes on your specific requirements, and continually update you on the development process. Listening to you and understanding your needs should be their priority.


2- The software development company should have good references! They should have a portfolio for your review, commonly found on their website. If you cannot find one online, you should ask to see samples of their work in person. These past projects should showcase a diverse range of work, reflecting their expertise.


3- You also need to cross-examine their proposed price with your budget. All software development comes with a cost. Even the cheaper off-the-shelf software packages can add up over time, as discussed above. Investment in software is an investment in your company as a whole: make sure you prioritize your needs to find a solution that works for your budget.


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