Custom Software vs Off-the-shelf Products

by Rod Morris - Date: 2007-01-02 - Word Count: 535 Share This!

There are two broad categories of software. One is the off-the-shelf product which is ready to roll the minute you slide the installation CD in the drive and the other is software which is built to your specification. There is a world of difference between the two and the usability of the two types is also considerably different. A quick look at the core differences between the two can help you decide which one is for you:

Price: One of the biggest differences is the price. An off-the-shelf product is usually reasonably priced whereas a customized product can be relatively expensive to build. The logic is quite simple - the cost of development of the off-the-shelf product is distributed over a number of buyers and thus the pricing is spread over the number of licenses that will be sold. The customized software product on the other hand is made just for one buyer and thus the entire cost of development has to be borne by one customer. One might think that if the option of an off-the-shelf software product is available, why would one go for a customized development?

Generic build: The answer to the above question is again quite simple. An off-the-shelf product is made for a wide range of audience. Thus the development team has to provide a set design as well as a pre-defined framework. Since the product is ready to use, it may not cater to the exact requirement of all organizations. Usually there are some adjustments that an existing organization will need to make in order to implement an off-the-shelf product. This disadvantage is the biggest advantage in the case of customized software. Customized software picks up current processes and builds an electronic framework to automate them. There is no requirement to change any processes and people can usually get used to the software within a few days. Customized software provides flexibility as well for the organization to tinker around with the software and fine tune it for better performance.

Updates: Off-the-shelf products have off-the-shelf updates. Each time there is a revision in software purchased off-the-shelf, you will need to shell out an update fee. On the other hand, some off-the-shelf products may not have any updates for a long time, thus making you use obsolete software which might have negative repercussions on your business. Updates in customized software are done based on the requirements and budget of the company.

However, off-the-shelf software purchasing decisions are not always a matter of cost and flexibility. There are many benefits which accrue when using an off-the-shelf product as well. Firstly it allows you to get automated in a jiffy. The product has been suitably tested before being sold and you are saved a lot of pain and hassle which you might have with customized software. Many off-the-shelf products offer a money back guarantee if the software does not serve your purpose. This makes the investment in the software safe. The same cannot be said for all customized software!

The choice of using either type of software is up to you. However, consideration of the above points will help you in making an educated decision and also ensure that your organization gets the most benefit at the best price.

Related Tags: software outsourcing, custom software development, outsourcing software, custom software programming

Rod Morris is the founder of Business Mobile - - a leading business travel and technology website.

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