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As the name suggests, customised software refers to software programs and applications that are built from scratch for an individual or business. This type of software is designed to perform a specific task and solve a specific problem. Although more expensive than standard off-the-shelf software, by making use of custom software, businesses can have tailor made programs that do exactly what they need them to do rather than just most of what they need them to do. 

But is customised software worth it? In this blog, we explore how this type of software differs from off-the-shelf alternatives and the pros and cons of each, before looking at some successful applications of customised software

The difference between customised software and off-the-shelf software

There comes a time in the growth of many modern businesses when they face a choice of either continuing with generic off-the-shelf software to ensure their day-to-day operations run smoothly or to invest in bespoke software programs. This is a tough choice and comes down to a number of different factors such as the nature of your business, its size, the budget you have available and how much operations rely on specialised software. However, in order to decide, it is first important to understand the differences between custom and off-the-shelf software. Below are the pros and cons of each type of software.

Custom software

Pros

  • By definition, custom software is purpose built to solve a specific problem your business is trying to solve. This means, if developed and implemented properly, customised software can provide an almost perfect solution to your unique problem. 
  • Unlike generic, off-the-shelf software, customised options can be modified to suit your ever-changing needs. By working with your chosen software developer, bespoke programs can be improved and updated over time in order to keep-in-step with the changing nature of your industry and your operational needs. 
  • Bespoke software can provide a competitive advantage over similar businesses in your industry. By its very nature, your own customised software is a tool your competitors cannot make use of. This means, as long as it is well-designed and implemented, tailored software can put you ahead of the competition. 

Cons

  • Custom software can be expensive and typically requires a large upfront investment, before functionality and usefulness can even be guaranteed. While well-designed and implemented bespoke solutions will usually repay your investment in the shape of future efficiencies created, off-the-shelf alternatives are usually paid for via more affordable monthly subscription charges, meaning there is no need for upfront investment. 
  • While generic software can be bought and installed almost instantly, custom software takes time to develop and perfect, meaning these types of programs may not be appropriate if you are looking for a quick fix. Of course, it is worth mentioning that off-the-shelf software may not be able to provide a quick solution to a problem as it may be limited by generic, unspecific features. 
  • Using customised software could leave you at the mercy of your chosen software provider. For example, if the developer that builds your bespoke program goes bust in the future, you could be left without the ongoing support you need. However, if you choose your developer wisely, and secure specific guarantees about future support and maintenance before signing up, this may not be an issue.  

Off-the-shelf software

Pros

  • Off-the-shelf software can be purchased and installed almost instantly. This means, especially for new businesses, you can get up and running quickly. However, as mentioned above, just because these programs are easily available doesn’t mean they will sufficiently meet all your business’ software requirements. 
  • As well as being quick and easy to install, off-the-shelf software also tends to be much cheaper than bespoke solutions. However, as already discussed, despite lower up-front costs, over time this type of software may cost you more due to inefficiencies. 
  • As generic software will be used by a wide range of businesses already, there will likely be a lot of information, reviews, feedback and support available online. This can help you make an informed decision before purchasing one of these packages. On the other hand, until the final product has been fully developed, you can never be 100% sure how a customised software may turn out. 

Cons

  • The biggest concern when purchasing off-the-shelf software is simply that it does not meet all of your business requirements. If you purchase a cheaper, generic software package rather than paying a little more for a customised program, the savings you make may represent a false economy if the off-the-shelf software you opt for is not as capable or efficient as the bespoke alternative. For this reason, considering the hidden costs of modifying your daily operations to fit around generic software, rather than investing in a software that has been custom made to fit all aspects of your business, is essential. 
  • Most off-the-shelf business software is not flexible and cannot be significantly modified to accommodate industry change, business growth or altering internal processes. This means it could become obsolete or simply not fit for your business over a period of time. Similarly, unlike bespoke software, off-the-shelf options tend not to be compatible with any existing operating systems and other software your organisation already uses.
  • Off-the-shelf software is also available to all of your business competitors. This means processes and procedures you put in place can also be replicated by rival businesses with ease.

Two examples of customised software

As we explored above, the beauty of custom software is that no matter what challenge your industry faces, problems your business encounters, or operational roadblocks your staff find themselves attempting to navigate, bespoke solutions are available to help. Here are two examples of industries/business areas in which custom software can be implemented incredibly successfully. 

E-commerce software

Growing an online retail business can be challenging. No two e-commerce organisations are the same and, as such, have vastly different needs when it comes to automated sales software. This makes this industry ideal for customised software solutions. Specialist software developers, such as Intelastel, can build bespoke solutions that can provide e-commerce business owners with complete peace of mind, giving them a competitive edge in the process. Depending on needs, e-commerce custom software can do everything from introducing fully automated sales tracking systems to simplifying packaging and dispatch procedures and more, all configured inside one integrated system.

HR software 

Every business has different human resource requirements, and as such a one-size-fits-all approach to HR software sometimes just simply won’t work for your business. Once again, specialist developers, such as Intelastel, can develop and implement custom HR software for your business that ticks all the boxes. Build a program that allows you to manage, store and access employee information with ease, while also ensuring every HR task related to your specific industry/business is completed compliantly and efficiently.

No matter what industry you operate in or what your business does, if you’re keen to make use of custom software in your business, get in touch with Intelastel today. Our experts are on hand to discuss your business needs and create a custom software solution that is the right fit for you.

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