What’s Better for Your Company: Off the Shelf or Custom Software?

The performance of the business is largely dependent on the software it selects. Once a business decides to automate some process or opt for complete digital transformation, the very first question is whether to select ready-made software solutions or develop a customized software from scratch?

Written by TAFF Inc 12 Sep 2022

Though both types of software have their own set of pros and cons, the recent trend indicates a gradual shift toward custom software development instead of choosing Commercial Off the Shelf softwares. This trend is more prevalent in bigger companies compared to small companies. Startups and small-scale businesses tend to opt for Off the Shelf softwares since they are readily available and the payment can be made on subscription model. 

Custom Software v/s Off-the-Shelf : Factors to Consider

Build Purpose

The primary objective of building a custom software is to address specific requirements of a single business. The software will be of the highest quality, innovative and highly suitable to solve the problems of one particular business.

Off the Shelf softwares is developed using a standard set of framework and protocol to address the needs of one particular requirement like invoice management, CRM, etc. Off the Shelf software is built to serve a large set of audience who will have a similar set of requirements and this is not suitable for individual sets of requirements.


Custom software is developed for a specific individual or a single business entity and will serve one primary purpose. Developing a custom software requires a larger capital and longer time duration but it will be easy to install and integrate since it is developed for one specific company.

Off the Shelf softwares is primarily developed to be used by multiple individuals or companies. They are readily available and anyone can start using it within a short period of time. Since it’s a generic software, it is not possible for adding extra functionality as and when required.


Since custom software is going to be used by a single business, the cost of development is relatively higher compared to off-the Shelf software. This is one reason why large organizations tend to opt for custom software since they know its value for money. Once the software is developed and deployed for usage, it is easy to add more functionality and offers rich flexibility and scalability. In the long run, the business will generate better ROI with a custom-made software that will increase the efficiency of the business.

On the contrary, off-the-shelf software is economical to purchase since the development cost is leveraged across multiple buyers. Though the initial cost is lower, it is expensive to maintain or you will be spending continuously on the subscription cost every month.


Since the business has exclusive rights on the custom software, they can edit or add new functionalities as and when required without any external support. This is one of the biggest pros of custom software over ready-made softwares.

It is not possible to modify or extremely difficult to modify off-the-shelf softwares since the business doesn’t own the software. Whenever the business grows exponentially or adds a new vertical, it is impossible for them to modify the software and they will be forced to develop a custom software. 

Community Support

It is always a good practice to select only high quality and latest technology while developing your custom software. If you need to get guidance from a community on any particular issue, then it should not be a problem since most of the latest technologies are very well supported by active communities like Stackexchange, etc. 

For any kind of support on the custom software, you need to contact their customer support team or check with their own community. You are likely to get responses from other users like you who could have faced a similar problem.

Time to Develop and Deploy

Custom software development takes a longer duration and is based on the requirement and it will undergo multiple iterations. In other words, we can also say that it will be a continuous process which will consistently enhance the business operations.

There is no development time in custom software, all a business has to do is to install the software and get used to its interface.

Competitive advantage

Custom software offers a highly competitive advantage for the business owner as no one else in the industry has a similar solution.

Off-the-Shelf software is publicly available and it is highly likely that your competitor might also use the same software thus depriving you of any competitive advantage.

Compatibility Issues

Since the custom software is developed based on the specific requirements of the business, the developer will take into account all the existing IT infrastructure and software platforms used by the business. This will enable seamless integration with existing platforms and there won’t be any compatibility issues.

While selecting the Off-the shelf software, one needs to consider all their existing platforms and need to pick a software that offers the highest level of compatibility. Even then, it is quite common to develop compatibility issues going forward.

Dependency on Software Provider

Since custom softwares undergoes a comprehensive development approach, they are completely tested for all scenarios and bugs. There is no need for the business to rely heavily on the software provider. They can hire a dedicated set of developers to manage the software since they have complete control and documentation.

Off-the shelf software is developed and managed by the software provider. You are solely dependent on them for business continuity. 

When to choose Custom Software

1. If the business has a complex specific requirement.

2. If the requirement is dynamic in nature, the software will need constant modification after deployment.

3. If the business is looking for a competitive advantage and they want to outsmart their competitors.

When to choose Off-the-shelf Software

1. When the requirement is easily solved by a readily available software

2. If the business needs a software solution on a high priority basis. Then off-the-shelf is the quick remedy whereas custom software development takes longer.

3. If the business is just starting up and they don’t have the budget or infrastructure for custom development.

Final Thoughts

You can opt for tailor-made software if you have the budget, a great deal of time, and expanding business needs. The ready-made software, on the other hand, is the best option for you if your budget is limited, and you cannot afford to expend time and resources.

In the end, only you can decide what’s right for your business. Take time to think and evaluate:

  • Do you need a solution right now, or can you wait a few months?
  • Are there things your current software can’t do that you wish it could?
  • Is there a ready-made software out there that genuinely meets your needs?
  • How will your business grow and change in the upcoming years, and how will that affect your software?
  • Will custom-made software give you an edge over your competitors?

When deciding between ready-made software and custom software, consider all of its possible factors. Check your business’ requirements and the long-term implications of both choices. Each type of business automation has its own benefits and drawbacks. 

If you are still not sure about which one to choose, feel free to contact us for technical help. TAFF has been in the forefront of developing successful custom solutions over the years for our clients. 

Written by TAFF Inc TAFF Inc is a global leader and the fastest growing next-generation IT services provider. We create customized digital solutions that help brands in transforming their vision into innovative digital experiences. With complete customer satisfaction in mind, we are extremely dedicated to developing apps that strictly meet the business requirements and catering a wide spectrum of projects.