Deciding between custom and off-the-shelf software is the same as deciding whether you want your software to suit your needs or your business to suit your software needs. Of course, price and other features like integration play their role as well, but at its core, this is the decision you’ll need to make.
Do you have specific needs? An innovative business idea that requires software features never seen before? Or you have already selected different software solutions for various processes, and now you’re looking to integrate another one? It all depends on your specific situation and circumstances. Now, why don’t we explore them?
Custom Software is Customized to Your Needs
Buying custom software is like buying a custom-tailored suit. When you buy yourself a custom-tailored suit and look at the mirror, you see that it fits you perfectly. The sleeves and trousers aren’t too short, and they aren’t too long. They are just right.
Everything seems to be just right. It is the same with custom software. The product is designed exclusively for your needs. It’ll fit perfectly to your specific requirements and it has all the features you need to provide efficient workflows and satisfy your customers’ demands.
When you buy custom software designed to cater to your specific needs, you make sure it doesn’t come with any superfluous design features you don’t need. When your vendor builds it for you, they will design it to suit your business’s exact requirements.
Commercial software, on the other hand, gets the job done in a universal way and doesn’t address your specific needs. It will often contain bonus features you won’t use or need, yet for which you pay as part of the process. If your business has specialized requirements, custom software is more qualified to meet them.
But if you’re running a typical business model such as a restaurant, you can go with a stock software that has already proved its effectiveness for your purposes.
Stock Software is Customized to Meet Everyone’s Needs
A possible issue with using off-the-shelf software is that it’s not customized to fit your particular business needs. Most of us know that to build a successful business, you need to improve every aspect:
This is true across all the fields — from individuals you hire to processes and procedures, and projects you work on. Yet, stock software isn’t made to increase any of this. It’s built to cater to the needs of the mass market. It will rarely be the best possible solution for your business, simply because it’s made to be the best possible solution for everyone.
Its developers didn’t consider your business when they were making it. Even more, your company was likely an afterthought. This means you get a solution that could enable you to do what you require, but often not in the most straightforward or effective manner.
When you’re looking to save money with stock solutions, you’ll make your workers jump through hoops, lowering their productivity. They’ll waste more time inventing workaround processes just to deal with tasks that were supposed to be basic administrative work. Meaning they’ll have less to focus on more complex and critical tasks.
Custom Software Means No Innovation
Using pre-made stock software just for the sake of saving some money often works against a competitive advantage you’re trying to create in the first place. Not with it.
When both you and your competition are using the same stock software, you both have the same constraints and advantages. Anything unique you’re able to do, they can do as well. This means there’s hardly any place for true innovation on both sides. At least in the context of using such software assets.
Now while you likely want less innovation from your competition, you can’t disregard your own.
You Need to Differentiate in the Market
Off-the-shelf solutions mean your line-of-business application wounds up looking the same as that from the competition. Especially if you use the same stock solution. While this may not be important for some businesses, others may consider this a key feature to work on.
This is where custom software comes in handy. It can act as a differentiator. Software that doesn’t look or behaves like that from the competition, giving your customers and workers a truly unique experience. This is particularly important if the user experience is a big part of your pricing strategy or employees’ productivity. It’s often key to offer unique functionality or services your competition can’t, or doesn’t offer.
On the other hand, if technology isn’t your competitive advantage, you may not need custom solutions. Let’s say you own a retail furniture shop. In this scenario, using a customized tech won’t represent an important factor to set you apart from the rest. Or something that will provide a higher quality product or service at a lower expense, making your customers select you over others.
Custom Solutions for One of a Kind Problems
Some businesses, like those in SaaS (Software as a Service), often have a unique idea or want to provide an innovative product or service to their customers. Usually, a unique problem or need will follow it.
But how do you find software for a problem or need that hasn’t been solved before? This is where custom software comes in handy, as you can design it together with third-party providers to solve precisely that.
If your business is ahead of its time and has one-of-a-kind needs, you may need to talk to a custom software provider to turn your dream into a reality.
Integration With Existing Business Processes
If you need a smooth integration with existing business processes, custom software may be the better solution. Custom software is easier to integrate with your current processes. In addition, the employees will require less time to learn how to use and master customized software. They won’t have to bother with unnecessary functions and features.
Not to mention that if you got automated processes for payroll and for managing finances, sales, and leads, you will have an easier time integrating these departments with custom software. This leads to more effective, high-quality work. More efficiency means a faster return on investment. Last but not least, integrating custom solutions with legacy IT systems is easier.
Integration with Other Commercial Solutions
Every business is complex with multiple needs. Using different apps is often the solution. You find the perfect accounting app. A great content management system. Smooth HR app. All pieces to solve your puzzle. But to complete the puzzle, you need to either:
- Integrate all these different platforms.
- Use custom software to fill in the blanks of these apps.
- Make a custom solution for all of your business needs.
Remember that you can either make homerun swing at all your company’s needs or modify custom software into your existing environment to solve more targeted issues.
Sometimes, off-the-shelf solutions aren’t compatible with each other. You may use one app for one task and another app to finish a related one. If they aren’t communicating efficiently, it may lower your business’s productivity. On the other hand, if you go with custom software, you could integrate it with a broader group of APIs from various data and software partners.
One more thing. If you already use a custom solution, it will be hard to integrate a new, stock solution with it. Most of the time, people used to custom solutions tailored for their companies find it hard to use a new, commercial solution. They have to find compromises and workarounds to make it work.
Moreover, keep in mind that sometimes you will have trouble integrating custom software with commercial solutions. Since you use another’s code with commercial solutions, you can’t modify it to suit your evolving needs. Rather, you need to wait while the owner of the source code updates the core code. Plus, no one guarantees you they will.
Maybe if you have enough influence over the stock software provider, they could be open to update the app to suit your needs. Even so, such instances are rare and slow to complete.
Every company has or does something different than the others. Different goals come with needs and talents. Situations vary. But it’s key that we understand this isn’t an issue. But an asset.
You got your own thing. No one does it like you, your way. This is the reason why your customers like you in the first place.
So, why’d you tried to cram all these unique aspects of your business into a one-shoe-fits-all software? That’s the most important feature you’re losing when you go with commercial solutions.
We need to end this practice.