Image Works LLC Blog

Custom Application Development Vs. Off the Shelf?

Posted by Jeffrey Cohen on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 @ 02:18 PM

Organizations and businesses who need to create an software solution to a business problem have two choices.  Purchase and "off the shelf" system that is readily available and can be implemented, or decide to have a custom software development solution built around the organizations specific needs. So how do we compare Custom Application Development Vs. Off the Shelf solutions?

Well, let's start with the obvious. The most superficial difference between our two options is price. Pre-made solutions are typically less expensive to integrate out of the gate, but custom solutions may be far less expensive long term. The initial price tag of having something created for you custom is going to typically substantially higher, but there are usually no per seat fees, monthly fees, license fees, membership fees, and most importantly, no update/upgrade and maintenance fees.

Custom Application Development

And now, let's talk value. Off the shelf software is created for the middle of the room. The General audience. Now if you can try out the software for free for a bit and make sure your business model and work flow work well with the selected solution, then you may be in luck. It's been my experience that in at least 50% of the cases that we've been involved with, that the software solution could not solve the problem, and in many cases the organization had to change it's business practices in order to actually make the software work for them, creating MORE work, not less.  Because each organization is unique, a Custom Application Development Solution can fulfill all the requirements of a particular organization. Custom solutions are built around the exact requirements of each individual company, making it completely compatible with their unique processes. because of this, employees who have to work on the new software platforms easily adapt to the usage, and incorporate the solution almost immediately. 

I'm not saying that all businesses should only consider Custom Solutions, because Off the Shelf options have their own advantages. Quick Implementation, user communities, tested solutions, and money back guarantees eliminate risk and keep initial startup costs under control.

Heres a list of Pros and Cons

Off the Shelf PROS:
• Lower up-front cost
• Feature rich
• User communities
• Quick to Deploy 
• If it's Web based, then there is no hardware or software to install

Off the Shelf CONS:
• Slow to adapt or change to industry needs
• Too many features. Most are annoying and get in the way 
• No one cares about your feature requests 
• May require you to change your process to fit the software
• Higher customization fees

Custom Software PROS: 
• You can scale. Start small and add on later
• Solution will be design to your exact business needs and processes
• Changes can be made quickly
• No ongoing fees
• Unlimited Options
• Complete ownership 

Custom Software CONS:
• Very high initial cost
• No user community
• Risk of hiring the wrong developer

So where does that leave you?

Choosing the right developer is essential. Someone that can demonstrate many successes and the ability to understand your business needs. Your solution should follow your business practices, not the other way around. Too many times we see companies trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, instead of implementing something that mirrors processes and systems you've worked so hard to develop. Finding a developer who offers and supports BOTH types of solutions is rare, and of great value. So if you know someone who is in a position to consult on the project and is platform agnostic, you might have yourself a winner.

Before beginning, it's important to identify the “must have” features and the features that are just “nice to have.” Involving the users within your organization at this point is extremely helpful. While the IT folks may have the technical experience to help with the decision, many times it is the business case that is driving the need of the project, so the actual business users have more at stake.

Next, a little bit of research goes a long way. Now that you know the business case, have defined what is needed, and are in a position to play a little, you can start your online research. You will find many solutions, and many pricing levels and models. Most of the online solutions will allow for 30 day free trials, so you can play around and make sure what you think you are getting is accurate.

I know it's a lot to digest, but a little due diligence up front will mean that you don't waste time or money, and that you can eliminate some of the risk making sure that whatever platform you choose, it will be the best option for your company.

Need more help defining your project? Click on the image below to download our Apllication Development Guide.

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Tags: Mobile Website Development, website development, App Development