For almost as long as software as existed there has been a big debate between prepackaged software (also known as off-the-shelf software) and custom software. Which is better? Of course there are arguments in both directions. However, when one considers constantly changing business needs, overall value and overall costs, custom will come out on top.
As its name suggests, prepackaged software is software that has been developed and combined into a package that can easily find on the shelf of any tech store or website. In other words, it’s about presenting one package to multiple companies with the idea that all of those companies will be able to use the same package for their business needs. The problem is, there will probably be pieces that companies cannot use/won’t use. What do you do with those? They are part of the package so you have get them, but then they just wind up sitting around collecting dust.
On the other hand, custom software deals with individual companies/people. You, as the client, will usually contact a developer or a developer shop to create personalized software that is distinctly yours. None of the pieces have been coded before meeting with you. Thus the focus is on the you rather than the mass production of software packages. Now, there are those that would call custom software a luxury item that isn't needed in light of existing software. However, this might mean sacrificing essential requirements. Furthermore, there’s more flexibility in custom software given that you can incorporate practically any functionality that you want.
As one of the biggest factors in pursuing a project, cost plays a significant role in deciding between custom software and prepackaged software. It can make a difference in the means by which a project comes to fruition. At the same time, it’s important to think about all the pieces you’re getting in the process as well as overall costs.
Custom software might sound expensive given development time and any specifics. Yes, you will spend some money at the forefront and high ROI (Return on Investment) isn’t a guarantee, but think about it as an investment in capability and productivity. Moreover, you can think about what you could be doing rather than settle for what you can do with what already exists. If that doesn’t raise the possibility of a competitive edge, I don’t know what does.
So what do you get with custom software?
Development time: This goes without saying. If you are having something built from scratch, of course it’s going to need development time. The length of time will depend on the project and its complexity.
Developer expertise: Developers know what they’re doing and they know which languages, tools and resources are best suited for any project.
The specifics: As stated earlier, if you have a particular need prepackaged software probably won’t cut it. With custom software that need will be addressed.
Constant communication with you and assurance that the software is going to work precisely the way you want/need it to work: Communication is a key element of custom development both between developers (if they are multiple people working on it) and between you and the developer/s.
In contrast, prepackaged software features low initial costs and readily available software. Furthermore, as it's already accessible, configuration can be quick and implementation can begin immediately. That being said, are those factors truly enough of an incitement? Are they going to make up for other limitations? Consider the following.
What do you get with prepackaged software?
General use software. If you’re looking for any specifics, you won’t find them here.
Cost expenditures: While people see custom software as an expensive alternative, they don’t necessarily think about the “hidden” costs of prepackaged software. There are maintenance and upgrade fees as well as possible user and add-on fees that need to be considered.
Stagnant software: You can only do so much with prepackaged software because that’s all it’s been designed/programmed to do. Modification and alterations simply aren’t possible.
Possible vendor lock-in: If you use a particular brand of off-the-shelf software, it’s plausible that you could have to send a contract and be forced to only use said brand of software.
At Parthenon, your needs are at the center of what we do. We're all about determining the best way to create the necessary software. Moreover, if you can't use the software and its underlying pieces, there's no point in creating it in the first place. We strive to make things as easy to understand and operate as possible. Moreover, we believe that a good developer will ensure that you are able to work with and understand how to use their custom built software. Furthermore, the developer will stick around to maintain it and update it should the need arise.
How do you get started on a custom software track?
A good place to start is to contact us so we can get an idea of the kind of project you have in mind. From there, the process involves us getiting in touch with you to clarify any of your needs and get things started.
When off-the-shelf software first came on the scene people held onto the pretense that custom software was a thing of the past. However, as limitations were discovered it became apparent that custom software was still a much needed resource. Not only does custom software and its development continue to flourish, it makes up for the things prepackaged software lacks. Have a project in mind? Go custom.