Why is custom-made software better than off-the-rack?

Software is an unavoidable part of business nowadays. For the organizations that still need to add a technological component to their activity, or to expand it, choosing correctly is imperative. The market is overloaded with choices, both from providers of custom-made and off-the-rack software. Yet, knowing which one is suitable requires an analysis of the workflows, resources, and goals of the company that is looking for a technical solution. Making this choice should not be a spur-of-the-moment affair, but a well thought of endeavour. How can businesses make the right choice? By knowing which are the advantages and disadvantages of both options and taking an informed decision. 

Off-the-rack software 

There are numerous choices available at this time and the abundance of possibilities makes it seem like there is something for everyone. To some degree, this is true, with some caveats. 

Advantages 

Cost 

One of the most stringent issues when it comes to any investment is cost. Off-the-rack software is decidedly cheaper and if you don’t have very specific needs, that is the choice to make. Nevertheless, because this type of product should appeal to a large number of customers and needs it might not do what you expect it to. If that is not a big concern, then a smaller price could be the answer for your organization. 

Availability and support 

Off-the-rack software is easily available and comes with documentation plus support for a certain period of time. Having the information necessary to use the system you have purchased and integrate it into your company’s set of activities saves time that you can use to focus on business. The support that comes with choosing this type of solution can be enough for your employees to learn and then easily manage the system going further. 

Reliability 

Since it has been on the market for a while, a pre-designed solution is more reliable because it has had time to mature. The vendor has smoothed out initial issues and has improved upon the initial offering making the system trustworthy and safe. If you choose it, you will not have problems with it crashing, or with seeing bugs that impede your organization’s activities.  

Disadvantages 

The future 

A ready-made solution is not under your control. Whether the vendor maintains it in the long run, or takes a really long time to offer an update is not something you know in advance. You run the risk of using an older product that is not that suitable and creates problems in your day-to-day activities. Another concern is that a future update might come with unexpected added costs. The same being true for security patches, or other improvements. When you choose this route, you cannot know what will happen in a matter of years. 

Inaccessible code, incomplete documentation 

The code belongs to the vendor and is not open for change. If there are issues, the support can only come in the amount that the vendor decides to offer and within some limits that the owner does not want to cross. 

There are chances that the documentation lacks important information. For example, there might not be a record of changes made in time, and this might impede the integration process. 

Does not accommodate changing needs 

If your organization grows and requires extra options, or if the volume of work increases and needs to go through the purchased system, you might come upon a dead-end. The off-the-rack software might not have the capability to do that. Such a situation can put your business at risk, or you will be faced with the need to change providers and so commit to a new investment. There is also a risk that the software you invested in is not compatible enough with your industry and implementing it will mean a compromise between what you want and what you can actually offer.  

Custom-made software 

Bespoke software means that your organization is involved in all the steps of the planning and creation of the system you need. Everything is done from scratch and according to the information discovered in the preliminary phase of requirements gathering. This type of solution means a much higher level of involvement and commitment than buying something ready-made.  

Advantages 

Vision 

Your vision will be followed as closely as possible. All the features and functionalities that your organization needs can come to life. The custom software will be built from the bottom up following extensive discussions between the business side of your organization and the tech team, or the third-party software creator. You can add any changes or extras to the custom software at any time during the process depending on any modifications in the market or the direction of your activities. Furthermore, there is no overload of features that are useless to you. This means extra agility and speed for the system. A higher degree of performance has no downsides, ever.  

The custom software you commit to will be unique and will fill a gap in the industry providing specific and particular features. Plus, it will come with high-quality operations and efficient automation of your business flow. Later on, this gives you the opportunity to move your business in even more directions by licensing the system you created. 

Scalability 

The team you choose to help you will build software that is as modular as you desire. You will be able to build on top of the existing structure when your business grows and needs to expand. An investment in bespoke software means that you predict an upward trend for your endeavor and it is a way to get ready for the future. Ready-made systems do not offer this freedom to change and incorporate new processes, or a higher number of customers, or extra traffic.  

Support 

The project you want will come with step-by-step documentation and extensive support from the developer, plus user training, so your company is able to manage the system as easily as possible. Even if the custom software is built by a third-party provider, you can choose the technology used, the stack that the system is built on. So, your in-house team will be able to manage the system without too much help from the outside, which is an important cost reduction strategy. The benefit of having access to the code is immeasurable because no matter the issue encountered, there will be ways to fix or change it accordingly. 

Disadvantages 

Initial investment 

The cost of custom software development is, or course, higher because of the amount of work that goes into the development and the number of processes it provides you with in the end. On top of that the responsibility for the lifetime cost of support, any patches, upgrades, and functional enhancements, and general maintenance comes to you.  

That said, the product you have at the end is premium and opens up vast possibilities.  

Time 

A custom system developed from scratch takes time. This can be as little as a few months to as long as a few years depending on the complexity of the custom software you need. Just like the cost, it requires a very thoughtful commitment. Without being aware of the downsides, starting on this path might mean a very bumpy ride. Yet, with enough planning and care, a great custom software will more than make up for the wait and the perceived losses of the beginning period. 

Takeaways 

Choosing between ready-made and custom software is no small matter. It requires careful thought and a detailed analysis of the needs and resources of your organization. Both of them have advantages and disadvantages, yet being your own master and having complete control over the code is an invaluable asset. Not to mention the many paths that it creates for an organization. It could make the difference between being dependent on technology or participating in the exciting digital transformation happening in the world as we speak. 

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