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Custom Software vs Off-the-Shelf Solutions: Pros & Cons

Dmitry Pomohaibo

Dmitry Pomohaibo

Head of PMO at Andersen

Custom Software
Jul 18, 2022
6 minutes to read
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An ever-increasing global trend towards digital transformation has made companies' need for efficient software solutions evident as never before. In this piece, we'll share our expertise on the difference between custom software and off-the-shelf software. Andersen's team hopes that our vast experience will aid you in making an informed business decision.

What is off-the-shelf software?

In simple terms, it's a pre-configured program intended for mass use. It normally requires no customization and is ready for use right upon installation. Among the most illustrative examples of this product type, there are Windows 10 Operating System, Oracle, SAP, Salesforce CRM, and so on.

Increasingly popular software as a service, or SaaS, also falls under the above category. It's a subscription-based online product that doesn't require installment.

Since ready-made programs are meant to be used mainly on the mass market, they're widely adopted in customer service, eCommerce, eLearning, travel and hospitality segment, gaming industry, etc. Among the most common tasks that this technology solves, there are document processing, ticket booking, online shopping, database management, accounting and bookkeeping, handling customer requests, and more.

As far as the pricing, the above solutions are, as a rule, subscription-based. The amount of payment often depends on multiple factors such as the period of use, your team size, the required feature set, etc.

Off-the-shelf software advantages

Pre-packaged programs are valued for a number of good points, namely for their affordable price, readiness to use straight out of the box, and certain predictability as for their feature set. The list below includes the most apparent off-the-shelf software advantages.

  • Relatively low cost. Since the cost is dispersed among multiple subscribers, you don't need to make any exorbitant initial investments. Nevertheless, it's worth carefully considering the long-term hidden costs of such apps when planning on your company's expansion.
  • Quick setup and readiness to use. If you can't afford a possible extended delay in launching your product, an out-of-the-box solution might be the right option. However, some major factors such as your domain complexity are worth considering.
  • Proven quality. Before you make your choice, it's highly recommended that you check out users' reviews and try the product out within the free trial period. These precautions will save you from buying a pig in a poke.

Off-the-shelf software disadvantages

Now let's consider off-the-shelf software disadvantages and the possible hindrances you might face when opting for it.

  • Lack of customization. Surely any product can be altered to a certain extent, which requires additional resources. However, the ultimate result can't always compete with the solutions devised exclusively for a particular domain.
  • Superfluous features. Unfortunately, the products in question often happen to have irrelevant features. This makes them hard to navigate and adds somewhat to their cost. And you'll probably agree that paying for superfluous features is tantamount to buying a premium cl