When You Stumble Upon a Fork

Should you choose custom software, or off-the-shelf?

Many times over I’ve seen how software can simplify tough jobs and make work more productive for our customers. A well-crafted bit of coding can finish highly-complicated tasks in seconds. But not just any software will meet your needs. You need solutions that work the way you do. Does this mean you should automatically opt for custom software? Or will a commercial off-the-shelf solution be good enough?

When weighing all the pros and cons, custom software might seem more expensive than what you can buy off-the shelf. But this isn’t always true:

  • Commercial software comes with its own set of costs. Most commercial licenses have built-in expiration dates. Over time, the cost for licensing and re-licensing the same software every year can exceed the cost of a custom solution.
  • Often, commercial software must still be customized so it’ll work in your setting. The resulting cost and delays may outpace the cost of developing a custom solution from scratch.
  • Even after you’ve settled on a commercial solution, realize that big software companies typically revamp their software every few years. You may not want to upgrade, but probably won’t have a choice. (Case in point: every year or so, the accounting software we use refuses to load until we upgrade to the next version.) Just when your people have adapted to the previous version, they’ll likely need to learn a ‘new and improved’ way of doing things.
  • When your company doesn’t own the software, you will have very limited input into any changes made to the product—for better or for worse.

With custom software, you own the source code, so you’re in the driver’s seat. You control the functionality. And you control the pace of enhancements. While the cost may (or may not) be higher upfront, the long-term benefits often far outweigh the expense.

Wondering which factors to consider when weighing your unique situation? Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.