The question of building software or buying off the shelf is rarely a straightforward answer – in most cases the answer is “it depends.” As an organization that builds custom solutions, you might expect us to try to guide you down the build route. However, what we’re most interested in is finding the right solution for your business. Sometimes that will be an off-the-shelf (OTS) solution. In any case, it is our job to help you make the best decision.
“Off the Shelf” Software Can Fall Short
While it's true that buying off-the-shelf (OTS) software is often cheaper and faster to implement than the custom-designed alternative, it can be rigid and may have numerous features you'll never use. There may also be some features you’d like to have that aren’t there. Customizing OTS software can be expensive. If you decide to abandon it later to develop a custom program, it can be costly, complicated, and messy to export your existing data.
However, in some cases it just makes sense to buy. For example, there is a lot of OTS accounting software available. It probably doesn’t make sense to build your own from scratch. In contrast, if you are in a unique line of business, it is possible there isn’t something OTS that will support your business.
The biggest advantage of custom software is the ability to build it to suit your specific organization and processes
While custom-designed enterprise software is not cheap to develop and requires more time to implement than the out-of-the-box alternative, the eventual cost, time, and labor savings it delivers can make up for these factors.
In addition, as technology changes, it is becoming easier to customize small “chunks” or processes in your business. The addition of automated functions and workflows can have a very positive impact on your business without taking on the risk of a full-blown software implementation. Many of these building tools are part of tools you’re already using like Azure Functions, or PowerApps and Power Automation, which work with Microsoft Teams.
It’s important to understand that regardless of whether you choose OTS or a custom solution, it cannot remain static
Just because a project has been “completed” does not mean that it doesn’t need to be maintained and/or upgraded. For a custom solution, that may mean you need to keep team members on staff to maintain the software. At the very least, it means you will need to plan the time and resources for ongoing updates to the software your organization uses.
You’ll Need a Partner, not a Vendor
Custom-built, quality software can give your business a distinctive competitive advantage and boost its overall value. Of course, this is only if it does what you need it to do.
Regardless of whether you choose an OTS solution or a custom solution, the chances of a good outcome are directly tied to the organization you work with on the project. We’re proud of what we’ve done in the past for our clients and feel confident we can add value to your organization.
Our goal is to become a trusted solution provider in the role of partner, not just as a vendor. The relationships we build allow us to work collaboratively to develop the right solutions. Trust and open communications are key ingredients to successful custom development, and though the process cannot be expected to be totally stress-free or easy, it should be mutually beneficial to all involved.