The choice between custom software development versus an off-the-shelf product is an ongoing debate for start-up's, SMME's, and big corporates.
The conversation heats up when scaling comes into the frame and scope requirements become broader. Add to that an increasing user base, the ability to innovate, the need to adapt business offerings as the company grows, then the decision becomes even more complex.
Look at successful businesses. Firstly, what distinguish whether the business is successful? Is it one with an innovative and agile approach, or one with revolutionary products? What is the driving force behind this? Perhaps the software they use?
Customers have no knowledge on how a company’s software operates, or if it is an off-the-shelf or custom development solution. The important thing is that the user experience is great, and the solution meets your needs and requirements as a business.
So how then, does a business decide whether they should be investing in a customized software solution or an off-the-shelf product?
5 factors to consider when deciding if a bespoke solution is right for you:
1. Determine an accurate comparison for the cost. You need to look beyond the purchase price, but the whole-life costs (WLC).
2. Some benefits, such as competitive advantage, are worth spending the time to get right. Although time to market is important, the pace of change determined by the market may mean you need to change and redirect your software development needs. Bespoke software takes longer to develop and structure than off-the-shelf products, but it aligns to your business needs. Designing the software correctly, enables agility and quicker turn-around time as the software grows and evolves.
3. Bespoke seems riskier. While a solution built for 1000’s of companies apparently presents less risk in terms of the functionality, the risk presents itself in application. Each company will use the package differently. Therefore, how relevant it is for your business will determine the risk in the long-run, especially if the pre-determined features cannot adapt to your business needs.
4. There are so many software products out there, why go custom? Software products built for the masses are done so with the intent to spend the minimum development cost on changes needed. If the product covers 85% of the business needs out there it's good enough to be used in the market. 85% is the basic features that keep your business running. But, this means you’re competing with the same tools. The innovation required that elevates you ahead of your competitors will be a custom build.
5. The resources that a bespoke developer can spend on meeting my objectives are orders of magnitude lower than off-the-shelf products.
If you have analyzed each question, and are still not sure why bespoke software is better for your business, then you need to consider some aspects that may affect the future of your business more closely.
5 reasons customized solutions will help you to future-proof your organization:
1. With customized solutions, you only pay for what you need. Whereas, off-the-shelf software solutions cater for various needs of many businesses, meaning there are features and functions that you will never use.
2. Using a tailored solution means you can satisfy your own business model, rather than that of a product. There will be times when you have to adjust features based on your business needs, or as your business grows. This results in you being at the mercy of the vendor to satisfy your needs.
3. To meet your current and future business needs, customized solutions enable you to align the software to your own brand and specifically, it’s market positioning.
4. Applying a solution that is specific to your processes and people is central to your business structure and growth strategy.
5. Customized solutions, for all the reasons above, enable your business to innovate from within and not be dependent on the product to slowly evolve.
In the last 5-10 years, much has changed in terms of software packages, open source and custom services that specialize in a single service only. Most of these are free or come at a low price. It integrates well into your software and simplifies the work for you.
Take Authentication for example: AuthO is a single sign on & Token based authentication as a service. That means your authentication for your system or application is handled, managed and taken care of. There is no need to build your own. This allows you to focus on your business needs and build out the solution which fits your business.
Which option is right for your needs?
You should think carefully about your individual business requirements before making a choice, because you will need software that helps you achieve maximum results in line with your business strategy.
Bespoke applications can offer huge commercial and business benefits, giving you a competitive advantage.
If you find a professional with best practice standards who can develop the software,
and meet your growing business needs by providing regular software updates, then a bespoke solution could be much more cost efficient in the long run.