Pros & Cons of Buying Off-the-Shelf Software vs Building Your Own Custom Systems

To build or to buy? 

In the business and technology world today, software development is crucial for a business looking to gain good efficiency. 

Good software systems can help you automate back office processes — from customer relationship management to billing to reporting. This allows businesses to leverage technology and free up their finite labor resources for other high-order work.

However, how do you know what is best for you? Should it be of the rack or custom built to you? It can sometimes be difficult to decide whether to choose the flexibility of building your own software or the speed of buying a tried-and-tested third-party option off the shelf. 

Many businesses today face this dilemma, and it’s not just a question of cost. It’s also important to consider a solution’s efficiency, effectiveness and fit with your company’s long-term goals.

Things to consider when deciding whether you should build or buy: 

  1. What are the issues you’re trying to solve with software, and how unique are they?

If, for example, you need a straightforward customer management system with basic functionality, there are many off-the-shelf solutions you could choose from. But if you’re looking for complex functionality or you’re solving a problem specific to your company or industry, you may have trouble finding a workable solution on the market and will need to explore a custom built solution. 

  1. Do you have the funds you need to see this project through to completion?

Building custom software costs more upfront than purchasing pre-built software. You will need to explore this option carefully and make a decision depending on the size and profitability of your business. 

  1. What are the time constraints for implementing a software solution?

Launching a fully-loaded custom software solution takes time, which the business may or may not have. How much time and resources you have is something to look at in hindsight. 

Asking yourself these questions will help you make a more informed decision. It’s important to consider the implications of each approach before pulling the trigger.

Build vs. Buy: Pros and Cons

Pros of Building:

  • Customization and Scale: One of the biggest pros of building your own custom software solution is that it will be tailored to suit your specific needs and requirements. Since it will be as per your requirements – it will help you combat unique business challenges. Furthermore, you will have total control over the development and you can add any new features when needed so that your business can continue to run like a well-oiled machine. 
  • Greater control: Complete ownership of the software gives  you the option to market the product, itself. As the owner of the solution, you will have full control over user options, security measures, and system updates. 
  • Competitive edge: You can outsource your software solution to be built by vendors with the latest technological development tools. This will help you stay on top of your game with respect to creating a product that runs smoothly and is up to date and compatible with the latest technology and devices. 
  • Guaranteed integration: By building your own solution you can ensure seamless integration with any existing software, tools and processes already in use.

Cons of Building

  • Significant upfront cost: Anything that is customized is bound to cost more than an off-the-shelf product. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the off-the-shelf solution may not always be the most economically feasible route in the long run. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that –  on the longer run, the use of pre-built software can create a loss of revenue due to the lack of scalability or critically essential functionality.  When software is built to specifically meet your custom needs, it can push productivity and profitability faster for your business.
  • Time to build: As a business, you have to be prepared to spend time gathering necessary information so that a custom solution will be appropriate and powerful for your business. Information gathering can be time consuming and it also sometimes takes time to identify your organization’s workflow processes and develop the software that optimizes them. 

Pros of Buying

  • Lower upfront cost: If you are just starting out and have a budget, cost can be a major concern. Being a new company, you may have limited resources to launch. In a situation like this – a pre-built software may be your best option as it is typically cheaper to buy and implement.
  • Rapid deployment: A off-the shelf, ready-made programs are generally good to go as soon as you pay for them and load them onto your system. If an existing off the rack solution meets your needs, you need to consider that there may be little point in investing time and money in developing a version of something that is already out there.
  • Updates, new features and ongoing maintenance: Third-party providers want to stay competitive and build products that start-ups can buy and implement as easily. They keep up with maintenance and will often have regular updates with new features and functionality.

Reasons to Build a Custom Salesforce App Over Buying a Ready to Use Plugin

Cons of Buying

  • Less customization: Third-party software solutions enable some customization and have a bundle of features, but at the end of the day – the solution won’t be custom built for you and may create some loopholes for your business. 
  • Less control: All the key decisions on the software’s features and future are out of your hands. You are not the owner of your software.The vendor controls the solution’s updates, volume capacity and functionalities, so you will have to wait till there is an update or feature to be introduced. 
  • Compatibility and connectivity issues: A good software has to be compatible. A Pre-built software may not be compatible with other programs, devices, or products that you are using today — or with solutions you may need to implement in the future.
  • Long-term Cost: On the shorter run, ready-made softwares may be cheaper to buy initially. However, costs may grow over time. They are generally subscription based models and have licenses that tend to be time-limited. You will have to reinvest whenever they run out. 

Final Word

The above pros and cons are just a few of the factors one must consider when deciding to buy off-the shelf or consider investing in a custom solution that will be tailor made to suit specific needs of your business. 

In conclusion, we would recommend you take the time to weigh the different vendors and solutions available when considering a third-party system. If you choose to build a custom software platform – identify the time, effort, and costs it will incur, along with the long-term benefits. 

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