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The age-long battle: Custom vs. off-the-shelf software solutions

September 21, 2023

Software is all around us, from everyday tools like messaging apps to sophisticated systems like Integration platforms. Nevertheless, when the need for new software emerges, companies tend to choose from different types of pre-built solutions commonly known as off-the-shelf solutions. When organizations are smaller and their business processes are not very complicated, it makes sense to choose the pre-built software solution. On the other hand, software solutions tailored to meet the specific needs of organizations are becoming more and more popular. These solutions are known as custom solutions because they are developed from scratch or modified extensively to align with the specific business processes, workflows, and objectives of the company. From our experience, custom solutions are usually better suited for companies with complex processes or for those that cannot find a suitable pre-built solution on the market. It is very important to highlight that custom solutions offer the flexibility to cater to the requirements of all organizations, regardless of their scale or industry. In the next paragraph, we will outline some key characteristics of custom solutions and their main benefits:

1. Flexibility to meet the organization’s needs

Everyone involved in the business world knows how complex business processes can get. Now imagine that you need to adapt these processes to pre-built software. It can become quite difficult very quickly, often requiring a considerable amount of time and effort. Most importantly, as a Client, you will need to make some difficult compromises along the way. So, while off-the-shelf software products are designed to meet the needs of a broader range of users, custom software is built according to the very specific requirements of just one client. This means that custom software can adapt to specific needs and business processes inside each organization. This ultimately results in better productivity, efficiency, and user satisfaction. For example, each bank has its own very specific processes and procedures for loan approval. So, even though there are some pre-made solutions on the market, it's basically impossible to create one solution that would cover all the specificities of a loan approval process. This is why many banks consider customized solutions.

2. Greater control over functionalities and customizations

Although pre-built solutions generally have all the basic functionalities needed to perform tasks, they usually need to be upgraded for added functionalities. Platform-based (ready-made) tools do not enable such easy implementation. On the other hand, developing custom made functionalities can be fast and easy using modern and reliable programming languages, employing the best software development concepts and practices, So, one pretty obvious benefit of custom software is, of course, its customization possibilities.

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Let’s imagine a scenario where an XYZ Inc. corporation expands or introduces new business units. A custom solution can be easily scaled and modified to accommodate their evolving needs. They can integrate new modules or functionalities as per their growth strategy, without being restricted by the limitations of a pre-built system. Also, the same XYZ Inc. might already have legacy systems or software in place that they rely on. Custom-built software can be developed to seamlessly integrate with these existing systems, ensuring a smooth transition and continuity of operations. Greater control over software also enables you to adapt the application to new requirements and changes in the business environment. This way you have the ability to quickly respond to changes and update the software in accordance with needs/regulations. This flexibility ensures that the organization remains competitive and efficient in a rapidly changing environment.

3. Long-term cost reduction

At first glance investing in custom software may seem a bigger investment than pre-made software. And while it might be true in the beginning, it can result in significant long-term savings. Off-the-shelf software purchase includes annual payments for licenses, maintenance, and upgrades which are not insignificant expenses. And, this is before counting potential price increases because of inflation or other variables year after year. On the other hand, custom software is characterized by a bigger investment in the beginning but you have full control over upgrades and app maintenance as well as timings, teams, and investments.

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Teams that develop custom software solutions often use open-source technologies and tools that are free or have lower licensing costs. Also, after the development of the application, the organization does not have to pay a fee or license per user. Finally, the client is left with the complete intellectual property of the solution by the end. Speaking of, it is not uncommon for clients to end up selling their new software and opening up new markets.

4. Increased data security options

When developing software, data security should be a number one priority. But, in the case of commercial software, the organization relies on security measures implemented by the supplier which may or may not be secure enough to meet their specific needs. With custom software, the client chooses safety standards that are tailored to meet their needs. You have full control over security solutions including data encryption, user authentication, and activity tracking. This way security protocols are relevant to your business data and sensitive information.

5. Ongoing support and maintenance

For off-the-shelf software products, support and maintenance typically relies on the supplier which can result in longer response times and dependency on their schedule and priorities. While, with custom software, you get continuous support in terms of app maintenance, technical assistance, and bug fixing. This enables faster issue resolution, customization, and app upgrades. For example, we offer Managed Service contracts after the delivery of implemented custom build solutions. With this model, we are able to provide the Client with availability of key IT resources, control of all current and future costs and most importantly focus on their business, not IT development or maintenance.

To sum up

In today's digital world, independent development of custom software solutions offers organizations numerous advantages compared to purchasing off-the-shelf software products. The decision to pursue independent development of custom software applications should be based on the specific needs, goals, and resources of the organization, but the benefits it provides can result in long-term success and competitiveness in the digital age. Adaptability to organizational needs, greater control over functionalities and customizations, long-term cost reduction, increased data security, ongoing support and maintenance are just some of the key factors that make the development of custom software applications an appealing choice for organizations. SIGIT Agency is a custom software company with years of experience in this field. We have seen it all and can do much more than just development for you. We are proud of our experts with more than 15 years of experience in the industry. They can help not only with quality development and delivery, but with consultancy services on how to organize and establish adequate architectures and environment, as well as to adopt certain methodology and best practises with right set of tools for successful delivery on the long run If there is an intention or consideration toward custom software development, do not hesitate to reach out 👋