Off the Shelf or Custom Developed: Which Type of Software is the Right Fit for Your Business?

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No two businesses are exactly the same. However, many in the same industry can have similar software needs. As business owners are constantly looking for the right technological development or software solution to streamline their business practices and maximize productivity, many faces the dilemma of whether to adopt custom developed software solutions or buy an existing product off the shelf.

Both custom-built solutions and off the shelf products have their own pros and cons. The needs of your individual business will dictate whether you explore custom software solutions or opt for a one-size-fits-all approach.


For most businesses, the budget is a major factor in their decision. Custom software solutions require a higher initial outlay. The product has to be designed, created, tested, then implemented. There is also the added cost of updating the software periodically and future functionality enhancements.

Off the shelf products, on the other hand, will be much more modestly priced. The cost of development, design, and testing is shared among the buyers, drastically reducing the initial cost. However, these products may not be as functional for your business as a custom-built solution. It is possible to get an off the shelf product customized to your business needs. The customization fees are often very high though. The developers often charge an inflated rate. It may be more cost-effective to develop a custom solution of your own.

Business Practices Drive Software

One of the best places to start is by looking at the existing software on the market. Do your business practices lend themselves to available solutions? If so, then you can implement an off the shelf product with minimal disruption or change to practices.

If, however, your business practices do not lend themselves to existing products, it may be worth exploring a custom-built solution. Instead of bending and altering your business practices, you can develop software that works around them. There is no feature that “would be nice to have”, you can decide what features and functions are included, and what is omitted.

A Quick Fix?

Timing is also a factor that should be considered. If your business needs to implement software immediately, it may have to go with an existing off the shelf product. Custom-built software will take time to build and test. There are no quick fixes with custom software solutions.

If you are looking for a solution around which you can build your IT solutions for years to come, then custom-building your own software might be the right move. You can update and add new features as your business expands and the time lost in waiting for the product to be developed will soon be recuperated in the increased efficiency of the software once implemented.

Ultimately, as the business owner, you will have to compare your business’s specific needs with the products widely available on the market. While factors like budget and time may force your hand, if your business could benefit from a custom software solution, it may be worth factoring it into your expansion plan.

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