Custom written software is created for your business - it’s built to meet your unique requirements. Off-the-shelf software is software that has already been built as a product with generic requirements in mind. Whilst these two broad categories can be applied to all pieces of software, in reality a lot of software fits somewhere between the two. A lot of custom written software includes elements that are pre-built and sometimes a piece of off-the-shelf software will need a lot of customisation to make it work for you.
There is a common preconception that custom written software is the expensive option, but this very much depends on your business and your requirements. For example, the price of a piece of software that already exists may look very attractive, but you may find that once you apply their licensing costs to all the users that will need it over the next three years it looks quite different. In addition to this you may find that you only actually need about 40% of the functionality on offer, so you’re effectively paying for development of a lot of features that you’ll never use. In these cases it’s worth considering custom written software for a true price comparison.
There are many reasons why it can be helpful not to have any additional functionality, to have a lean system that only does what you need. It’s difficult for users to see lots of elements in the interface that don’t apply to them, it can make for a poor user experience and a lack of efficiency in getting tasks done. Custom written software would help you avoid this issue because the features that you want will be the only thing there for your users. With custom software you are also the only person who decides on the development roadmap for new features, so you get to define the priorities for any new areas that are built or changes that are made. With off-the-shelf you run the risk of needing changes to be made that your business now needs but if those things aren’t a priority for other users of that software, the development company has no reason to add them.
In this respect, if you want full control of the software in your business and you are growing in size and complexity then custom could work for you. Many companies have a blend because there are some pieces of off-the-shelf software that are more cost-effective for them to use and work very well for them, but above a certain size most companies find that they need to add some custom software too in order to meet their requirements as they grow.
Helastel is a tight-knit team building bespoke business software in Bristol. Some of us are experienced in the technical side of things, the actual work of designing and building software. Many of us are more focused on customer service or business consultancy, although we all need a degree of technical know-how in order to understand and guide the projects we work on.