Off the Shelf vs. Custom Software (Pros & Cons)

Many companies these days are relying on some sort of specialized software to manage their business operations.

However, the last thing any business owner or manager wants to worry about is the software in the company. Your focus should rightly be on expanding your business.

In any case, with the current market inundated with technology solutions for practically every business need, the issue is less about availability of a solution and more about finding which solution is right for your company.

Given the choice, is it better to buy an out of the box software or have custom software built that is specific to your company needs?

Let’s run down the pros and cons of each option and and then dive into which solution may be the best option for your business.

Buying An Out of the Box Software:


-More affordable and can be bought and implemented when you need it.

-Shorter learning curve and is usually ready to operate directly out of the box.

-Regular security updates & fewer bugs

-Vendor support


-Lack of customization in off the shelf solutions can lead to inefficient processes

-If there is a certain feature that is not available trying to bolt on additional features will cost more in the long term. Also, you may need to invest in different software.

-The different software you buy for different purposes may not be compatible or integrate easily.

Building a Solution:


-More customized to your team leading to more productivity (data is all integrated and do not have to switch between multiple platforms/websites/vendors)

-Can more quickly adapt technology to the changing circumstances in the business as your needs evolve over time

-Complete control over development process

-You will own the software


-Custom built solutions can be more expensive – and it might not be ready immediately

-Building a solution in-house can be a significant investment of time & labor

-Improper builds and lack of clarity on needs can result in system bugs

-Staying up to date

When should I build a solution?

You should consider building a solution if you can identify clearly the problems in your workflow that your current software doesn’t address.

Custom builds aren’t specific to a particular industry but they do address problems in your business that isn’t being tackled by other software.

If you have a great technology partner or a strong in-house development team AND you can identify your limitations, building a custom software solution can offer you a competitive advantage.

As you scale the business, you can also spread the cost and the return on investment is attractive in the long term.

When should I buy a solution?

You should buy a solution if you have a company that is growing extremely quickly and needs an immediate solution. Out-of-box software is ideal for companies that understand that their staff or processes today will not be the same processes tomorrow.

In the long term as the company gets established the lack of customization may result in redundant processes or bloated software but the sacrifice is efficiency for expediency.

Whichever route you choose to take, if you are a small or medium sized businesses looking to scale – having a long term technology support partner is important.

With the right software powering your operations and a strong support network to back it up, you can spend more time on the elements in your business that truly matter.

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