Off-the-shelf software has its place. It can be less expensive than bespoke software and takes less time to implement. However, much of what comes pre-packaged is never used. Also, there is a finite limit to canned software capabilities that can impede production and business growth. The lack of customisable options also inhibits the scalability in the long term.
By comparison, while custom software is usually more expensive than off-the-shelf products, it is bespoke and can grow with the business. That's something off-the-shelf products can't claim. Your business can also gain an advantage over your competition because you will have a solution not available to them, and you will be more productive and efficient than you would be using an off-the-shelf software package.
Regardless of the size or type of business you own, there are many workflow processes which you often repeat using the same scheme. Canned software can handle some of the basics, but for more responsive, tailored options, bespoke software can't be beat. For example:
The fact that these tasks are redundant and universal across many industries may leave you believing that there is no need to invest in bespoke software. After all, pre-packaged software takes those routine tasks into consideration. Unfortunately though, as your business grows, those same tasks become more involved and complex. As evidenced by the above examples, there will be an increasing demand for more functionality from your canned software, and eventually it won't be able to keep up with the workflow processes of your business.
Most businesses don't have a team with the technical skills required to create bespoke software, so they turn to outside vendors to create it for them. As with anything else, not all custom software developers are alike, and even the quotes can vary wildly. That's because custom software is generally billed in man hours, and the quote you receive will take into consideration the complexity of the bespoke software and the experience level of the developers, among other variables. Here are three essential ingredients you need to evaluate prospective software developers.
Aside from experience, reputation and portfolio samples, you'll obviously consider the price point. Don't let that steer you in the wrong direction though. Cheaper isn't always better, but paying more doesn't always mean higher quality results either. Local, nearshore and offshore outsourcing prices can vary considerably for the same services, in the same way that cost of living can vary wildly between regions. So, consider the location of the developer when comparing costs.
If you own a startup, you may find that off-the-shelf software programs suit your needs just fine. As your business grows, however, your pre-packaged software will present you with challenges that will eventually prevent your business from evolving. Rather than dealing with the hassle of wasting resources down the road, consider switching to custom software before you even begin to experience growing pains. The bespoke software will evolve with your business, instead of working against it.