What Is The Difference Between Custom Software And Off-The-Shelf-Software?
Off-the-shelf software, as the name suggests, is software or applications that are made to fulfill the requirements of a broad range of customers. In general, this type of software is fit for immediate use and can cost-effectively streamline operations. However, because the software has to fulfill such broad needs, it might include a lot of features that are only used by some or lack very specific features that could be beneficial to certain businesses. Custom software is the opposite because it is specifically designed for the needs of a business. Typically it will require a more significant initial investment and might take longer to develop. Still, the payoff is that everything will be designed to the business's exact needs.
What Are The Most Common Custom Software Types For Business?
Custom software can be designed to fulfill almost any function, but there tend to be three different types in business environments. These are aimed at the following users:
Employees - Custom software designed for employees generally fulfills the task of automating time-consuming or labor-intensive processes. Everything from organizing and storing information to tracking projects fall under this banner. Examples of custom software aimed at employees include project management platforms and accounting software.
Customers - Custom software that is designed to be used by customers must offer an easy and convenient end-user experience. These can include e-commerce websites and mobile applications.
Partners - Custom software can also be used for use by partner companies that have to interact with the business in a professional capacity. Examples of these include invoicing and scheduling software, as well as order management systems.
The Advantages of Custom Software
One of the biggest advantages of using custom software is that, ideally, it would have all the features relevant and needed for your business and none of the bloat found in off-the-shelf solutions. This, in turn, would also decrease the risk of user errors that can creep in when trying to find workarounds in off-the-shelf software. In addition, employees can perform their tasks more efficiently as they will have access to everything they need. Again, this is in contrast to off-the-shelf products, where sometimes you have to adapt or change workflows to accommodate the software.
Anyone that has had to wait for off-the-shelf software to receive updates adding new content or features knows what a time-consuming process this can be. In most cases, off-the-shelf software is much harder to customize, and making drastic changes could violate the licensing agreement. With custom software, this is not an issue, and changes can be requested whenever needed.
Security is always an essential factor to consider regardless of who the software is aimed at. Since more people will have access to off-the-shelf software, there is also an increased risk of vulnerabilities being found and exploited by criminals. This risk is lower when using custom software that was developed as a closed-source project, especially if it is only used internally by staff at your business.
Since off-the-shelf software is targeted at a broad range of clients, there are usually continued updates to add or alter functionality. While this is a good thing, it can also mean that some updates could decrease performance or stability. Major changes or revisions to the software could also be pushed out unexpectedly, which can cause confusion or delays as employees have to re-familiarize themselves with the software. When using custom software, you are in charge of when and where updates or changes are made, so there's less chance of unwelcome or unreliable surprises.
Dependable Technical Support
Using off-the-shelf software can mean having to put up with limited or even no technical support if something goes wrong. Even worse, if the development of the software ceases or the developer goes out of business, it might mean having to scramble to find alternatives. Opting for custom software means not having to depend on third-party vendors, and you will have uninterrupted support.
The advantages listed above are just some of the reasons why using custom software can give your business an edge over competitors using off-the-shelf products. However, unless your company has an in-house development team to dedicate to writing the software, it is vital to make use of a reputable partner. Quality software requires good developers, so be sure to team up with a software development partner with the resources and qualifications to make your vision a reality. In many cases, off-the-shelf software will be sufficient for the needs of many businesses, but those who want to go the extra mile and invest in the company's future can benefit greatly from custom software.