The Great Debate: Custom vs. Out-Of-The-Box Software

Which one is right for you?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “There’s an app for that.” Need to send a document half-way around the world for someone to sign? There’s an app for that. Want to track your expenses and income? There’s an app for that. Looking for a pet sitter for next weekend? There’s an app for that. So in the world of ready-made software solutions, why would anyone ever be interested in a custom software build? 

As software developers, we know that sometimes, out-of-the-box just makes sense. We’re not going to try to convince our clients to let us build a new word processor for them because there’s already a variety of solutions that work for just about any application. But, for many companies and their day-to-day processes, an off-the-shelf solution isn’t a good fit. That’s where custom software development comes in. 

So when should you look to custom software solutions vs. out-of-the-box software?

Cost Comparison
It’s undeniable that the up-front cost of out-of-the-box solutions is significantly less than a custom software build. Installation is usually pretty straight forward and you can often be up and running in a day or two. But when calculating the cost of your software, you need to look at the whole picture. Most of the time, when you buy a boxed software solution you’re paying for features your company will never use. And if you’re using a subscription-based service, you’re likely paying monthly fees for software that may only partly fit your company’s needs. With a custom build,  your software is designed around your company’s processes, so everything in your solution is tailored to your company’s usage model.

Software Flexibility
An off-the-shelf solution is often the quickest solution, but it’s also rigid. Instead of the software working for you, you have to either adapt your processes to the software, or utilize several software solutions to meet your process needs. But custom software is built around your company’s specific needs. It takes into account how your team works and provides a workflow solution that is tailor fit to your specific company. Not only do you not need to use multiple programs to accomplish related tasks, but the software can guide users from one step to the next in a logical flow to improve productivity and reduce errors.

Custom Compatibility 
If you work with suppliers or have to tie in to a data partner, the canned solution may provide you with roadblocks. Integrating data from one source to another with an off-the-shelf solution is often difficult, if not impossible. But custom software solutions are built around your data requirements, allowing you to seamlessly connect with data partners and suppliers to share data.

Automation and Scalability
As your business grows, it makes sense that your software solution should grow as well. Out-of-the-box software is limited in its ability to adapt to your company’s growth, but with a custom solution, your software can be modified to meet your company’s growing needs. Custom software can also automate processes for a variety of needs, including reporting, process tracking and more.

Data Integrity
Many companies using off-the-shelf solutions must also augment their software systems with paper processes, but with a custom software solution, you can ditch the paper and manage all of your process needs from a single program. This not only cuts down on time and employee effort, but also ensures that all of your data is stored in a single place, improving your reporting and tracking efforts.

Keeping up with the ever-increasing pace of business often requires that we adjust our processes and business practices quickly. And as we adjust, we must ensure that our new processes are adopted by all team members and that they are being utilized efficiently and correctly. Out-of-the-box software solutions limit this ability. And that’s where a custom software solution makes the most sense. It adjusts to your team’s workflow, rather than adjusting your team to software limitations. So while the upfront investment may be more, the return on that investment is far greater.

If you think your company may be in need of a custom solution, we are your custom software experts. Just give us a call to find out how we can craft the right solution for your business.

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