In many industries, custom made software has become a powerful and highly desirable tool that ensures your business remains efficient and competitive. Although one-size-fits-all ‘off-the-shelf’ software still has in place in the corporate world, especially for SMEs and small start-up businesses, as an organisation’s needs and objectives start to grow, bespoke software and systems can become necessities. The question is, how do you know at what point your business would benefit from custom software development services?
In this blog, we investigate the pros and cons of custom made software, to help you make the right decision for your business.
Custom made software advantages and disadvantages
While it’s certainly true that both the development of custom software and buying off-the-shelf software requires considerable investment, both in terms of time and money, there are a number of significant differences between the two.
On the face of it, it’s worth remembering that although ready-built solutions can save you time when it comes to installation and initial investment, the one-size-fits-all nature of this type of software may cost you time and money later down the line. On the other hand, custom software, although more expensive and time-consuming to develop, can save you money and time in the long run thanks to bespoke flexible solutions that are easier to use and maintain.
Whether you opt for custom software development or an off-the-shelf alternative, this decision is likely going to affect your business, its employees and potential customers for many years to come. For this reason, regardless of what software you need, this is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Below we go into more detail about the specific advantages and disadvantages of custom made software to give you a better idea of what you can expect from this tailor-made form of software.
Custom made software advantages
As discussed above, deciding whether or not your business requires custom software can be a challenge. To help you come to a decision, below are four key advantages that your business can benefit from if you choose to invest in customised solutions.
- They provide targeted solutions to business-specific problems
Although an obvious advantage, the biggest benefit of using custom-built software is that these products can address the exact needs of your business. While off-the-shelf software will usually be a cheaper option, many businesses simply realise that these one-size-fits-all solutions are not completely fit for purpose or are inefficient in the long-run.
With this in mind, savings made by opting for package software might actually represent a false economy. On the other hand, by spending a little extra money, tailored solutions can improve efficiency, give your business’ systems space to organically develop based on needs, and outwardly show that you are serious about your organisation’s success.
- They allow for simply legacy integration
Whether you are investing in new custom software for all aspects of your day-to-day business needs, or just one new solution to solve a single problem, bespoke systems can be built in a way that allows them to properly integrate with existing systems. This can refine business processes and avoid legacy errors caused by incompatible software.
- They account for and facilitate growth
Naturally, as your business grows, so do your technical requirements. While off-the-shelf solutions may be sufficient for small businesses with no real ambitions to significantly grow, as well as start-ups in their first few years of development, one-size-fit-all software may start to become an issue once growth means they become unable to support your changing business needs. Additionally, package software may also become too expensive to license as your business grows. For this reason, developing bespoke software can ensure business growth will not be limited or stunted by inadequate software.
- They are more reliable
When you invest in off-the-shelf solutions, your business is in many ways anchored to the company that developed it. This is to say, the pricing, user agreements, and terms and conditions are all out of your control. If, for example, the developer suddenly goes out of business or stops updating the software you use, your business activities may be impacted while you find a new provider.
However, when it comes to custom software, once it is built, you can use it as long as you like, in the ways that you want. While maintenance and update costs do need to be considered, as a rule, you have far less to worry about.
Custom made software disadvantages
Although the advantages of custom made software solutions are generally thought to outweigh the disadvantages, there are a few cons that need to be considered before opting to invest in this form of software. Things to consider include:
- High initial investment
As previously discussed, developing custom software typically requires a sizable initial investment. Even if you know a tailor made solution would be beneficial in the long run, the size of initial investment required can still be enough to overwhelm and scare off business owners. For this reason, a good return on investment (ROI) analysis needs to be carried out before committing to the project.
- Time-consuming development
As well as being expensive, a significant time investment is also usually required to complete the custom software development process. Unlike off-the-shelf alternatives, which are typically ready to use straight out of the box, it can take months or even years to develop, perfect and deliver a usable bespoke software program.
- Potential glitches
Any software can suffer from glitches and/or teething problems. However, while you can be confident that off-the-shelf software has gone through a rigorous process of testing and bug-fixing by the time your business adopts it, this is not guaranteed when it comes to custom build solutions. Teething problems – only detected once the software has been deployed – are common with bespoke software and can lead to day-to-day work being impacted and productivity dropping.