Custom Software vs Off-the-Shelf Solutions: Pros & Cons

Dmitry Pomohaibo

Dmitry Pomohaibo

Head of PMO at Andersen

Custom Software
Jul 18, 2022
6 minutes to read
  1. What is off-the-shelf software?
  2. Off-the-shelf software advantages
  3. Off-the-shelf software disadvantages
  4. What is custom software?
  5. Advantages of bespoke software
  6. Disadvantages of bespoke software
  7. Custom software vs off-the-shelf solutions
  8. Conclusion

An ever-increasing global trend towards digital transformation has made companies' need for efficient software solutions evident as never before. In this piece, we'll share our expertise on the difference between custom software and off-the-shelf software. Andersen's team hopes that our vast experience will aid you in making an informed business decision.

What is off-the-shelf software?

In simple terms, it's a pre-configured program intended for mass use. It normally requires no customization and is ready for use right upon installation. Among the most illustrative examples of this product type, there are Windows 10 Operating System, Oracle, SAP, Salesforce CRM, and so on.

Increasingly popular software as a service, or SaaS, also falls under the above category. It's a subscription-based online product that doesn't require installment.

Since ready-made programs are meant to be used mainly on the mass market, they're widely adopted in customer service, eCommerce, eLearning, travel and hospitality segment, gaming industry, etc. Among the most common tasks that this technology solves, there are document processing, ticket booking, online shopping, database management, accounting and bookkeeping, handling customer requests, and more.

As far as the pricing, the above solutions are, as a rule, subscription-based. The amount of payment often depends on multiple factors such as the period of use, your team size, the required feature set, etc.

Off-the-shelf software advantages

Pre-packaged programs are valued for a number of good points, namely for their affordable price, readiness to use straight out of the box, and certain predictability as for their feature set. The list below includes the most apparent off-the-shelf software advantages.

  • Relatively low cost. Since the cost is dispersed among multiple subscribers, you don't need to make any exorbitant initial investments. Nevertheless, it's worth carefully considering the long-term hidden costs of such apps when planning on your company's expansion.
  • Quick setup and readiness to use. If you can't afford a possible extended delay in launching your product, an out-of-the-box solution might be the right option. However, some major factors such as your domain complexity are worth considering.
  • Proven quality. Before you make your choice, it's highly recommended that you check out users' reviews and try the product out within the free trial period. These precautions will save you from buying a pig in a poke.

Off-the-shelf software disadvantages

Now let's consider off-the-shelf software disadvantages and the possible hindrances you might face when opting for it.

  • Lack of customization. Surely any product can be altered to a certain extent, which requires additional resources. However, the ultimate result can't always compete with the solutions devised exclusively for a particular domain.
  • Superfluous features. Unfortunately, the products in question often happen to have irrelevant features. This makes them hard to navigate and adds somewhat to their cost. And you'll probably agree that paying for superfluous features is tantamount to buying a premium class vehicle while all you need is a dependable family car. The converse is also true as the above solutions may appear to be insufficient for your project's success.
  • Compatibility issues. Using certain technology might turn into a challenge as it might not be compatible with your current systems. Thus, you might miss out on the chance to make the best out of technology-based innovation.
  • The ultimate cost. The above peculiarities of ready-made products lead to their increased ultimate cost. Not only do they imply continuous investment, but they might also lead to financial losses due to their lack of uniqueness and competitive edge.

What is custom software?

Briefly speaking, it's a unique made-to-measure solution with no analogs in the market. Among the world's recognized brands that employ it, there are Amazon, TikTok, and Uber. However, this doesn't mean medium-size businesses and startups can't benefit from using it. On the contrary, tailor-made apps mark true innovativeness and can set the stage for your project's skyrocketing.

According to a survey conducted by GoodFirms, bespoke software is in great demand among enterprise customers, those who require business process automation, provide eCommerce services, and carry out Big Data projects. Thanks to the high level of security of such solutions, they're indispensable for the development of effective data-driven fintech, healthcare, and logistics management apps.

In-Demand Software Development Projects

The pricing for conducting such projects depends on your domain, project implementation deadlines, size, and complexity, as well as on the required feature set.

Advantages of bespoke software

Among the compelling benefits of custom software development, we can name the following.

  • Thorough customization. The development is preceded by full-scale research of your business conducted by top-notch Business Analysts and System Analysts from a professional software development company. As a result, the experts elaborate a software requirement specification detailing the project scope, timing, and the desired outcome. System Architects then carefully plan the product's structure. As a result, you come into possession of a fully customized domain-specific solution.
  • Adaptability. Tailor-made software is yours once and for all. It's therefore perfectly aligned with your expansion plans and won't in the slightest hinder your company's ambitious growth.
  • Competitive gain. Among the most substantial custom software development advantages is its uniqueness which will support your most innovative and outstanding business ideas.
  • Enhanced security. There are no analogs to the solution you own, moreover, reliable software development companies comply with world-recognized security protocols. Thus, you can be sure that your product is effectively secured from hacking and data leakages.

Disadvantages of bespoke software

When planning on turning to a professional development team, you need to thoroughly weigh up the risks and consider the following disadvantages of bespoke software.

  • Long development time. TSoftware development from scratch involves detailed planning and attracting top-notch talents and resources. As a result, the duration of the development, including the discovery phase and the testing stage, may take from several months to over a year.
  • High upfront investment. The above solution is rather expensive due to its complexity and the vast expertise involved. However, all the expenses are calculated in advance and predefined in the software requirement specification. Thus, you won't encounter any hidden costs, and the initial investment will pay off over time.
  • Support and maintenance. An exclusive tailor-made solution requires dedicated support services. However, you may rely on the expertise of a software development partner that truly understands your product.

Custom software vs off-the-shelf solutions

Now, realizing the difference between custom software and off-the-shelf software, it will hopefully be somewhat easier for you to make an informed decision. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all option as it all depends on numerous factors such as your company's size, the project complexity, budget, milestones, and deadlines, as well as your domain. Whatever your decision is, just bear in mind that you can always switch to bespoke software as and when the need arises.

Custom software VS off the shelf software


In today's digital world, your business depends on a solid software solution, whether you need to streamline financial operations, track production workflow, manage a clinic, or operate a warehouse. Taking into account the far-reaching consequences of choosing the right approach, An