When asked to work on software projects, the first question we ask of our clients is whether they believe their needs can be met by an off-the-shelf software package. Off-the-shelf software packages don’t always meet the demands of all businesses, however, so we often suggest a customised software solution that is written from scratch and tailored to the unique requirements of the business.
What are the benefits of off-the-shelf software?
Total cost of ownership (TCO)
The entry cost of off-the-shelf software is usually initially lower because the cost of development is covered by numerous users. However, as the subscription is based on an estimate of users, if things change it could become more expensive than custom software.
Off-the-shelf software programs just need to be bought and installed so setup is very quick.
Not all companies need customised software, so the lower-cost, quickly installed, off-the-shelf option is sufficient.
Developing businesses can road test off-the-shelf software
If your business is not well established, it might be a sensible approach to use off-the-shelf software in the initial stages to see what works and what’s missing, and whether an off-the-shelf package will be sufficient in the long term.
What are the disadvantages of off-the-shelf software?
You get what you’re given! There is no option to flex the package to suit your needs. This means you might need to use multiple pieces of software within your business to perform daily tasks. Using multiple pieces of software can be more costly and disjointed.
Support is given by the software provider which is subject to SLAs that might not be quick or flexible enough to satisfy your needs.
Your other company systems might not be compatible with an off-the-shelf solution which could be a deal breaker or a potential for user frustration.
Lack of security
You are not in control of the security of the software. You rely on the security protocols of the provider. Off-the-shelf software packages are also targeted more frequently by hackers.
What are the benefits of bespoke software?
Instead of the compatibility issues of off-the-shelf-software, custom software is easier to integrate into existing IT ecosystems, particularly for specialised systems and the processing of volume data.
Upgrades and scalability
Custom built software will be regularly upgraded by the developer, and if specific features are required the software can be upgraded to include them. Particularly important for growing businesses, custom software is also easily scalable both in terms of additional users and functionality.
Custom software will be continuously maintained, and any bug fixes will be done quickly.
Software developers will provide staff with specific training based on the features of custom software they’re using.
You pay for what you use
Whereas you receive and pay for all the features of off-the-shelf software, with custom software you only pay for what you need. This also avoids having redundant areas of a system, the presence of which might confuse users.
Infinite number of users
Regardless of how big your company grows all of your users will be able to use custom software packages because the software belongs to you.
Disadvantages of custom software
Company IT teams will need to spend time outlining what software they need, wait for the software to be built and then take part in testing prior to going live.
Data protection and data storage
You are fully responsible for data protection and compliance with GDPR.
Initial cost is higher
The cost of custom software is higher, but as mentioned above if the business grows or its needs change it could be cheaper than an off-the-shelf product in the long term.
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