Custom or Packaged Software: How Do You choose?

When it is time to choose a new software solution for your business, there are two choices: Packaged or Custom Software.

Most business applications are ‘off the shelf’ packaged software, like Intuit QuickBooks or Microsoft Office.  Packaged software is designed to serve the needs of thousands of users.  By contrast, custom software is specifically created for your company and is developed to match your business needs exactly.

Which is the right choice for your company? 

The best choice will be driven by your business needs, budget and future plans.  With these in mind, you can select the best choice. Companies are often surprised at the cost effectiveness and high level of functionality available in custom software.

Packaged Software Benefits

  • Development costs can be spread over a larger install base
  • Can be very sophisticated and full-featured
  • Fast integration
  • May be training classes or books available

Packaged Software Drawbacks

  • May include functionality that is not used. (The average Microsoft Word user employs about 10% of the functionality)
  • Large feature set can add complexity and increase training time
  • You must change to meet how the software has been designed
  • Popular applications will be used by competitors, forgoing any advantage
  • Difficult to make change requests

Advantages of Custom Software

  • Most flexible and can be modified as your requirements and business practices change.
  • Integrates with existing software to create a end-to-end solution
  • Requires less training since only the functionality wanted is present
  • Matches your current processes
  • Direct say in the development and feature set
  • Professionally developed custom software can provide an edge over your competition.

Drawbacks of Custom Software

  • You are responsible for maintaining source code and documentation. Otherwise you are wholly dependent on your developers continuing existence and good will. Choosing a developer with a solid reputation and keeping local copies will resolve this.
  • Substandard code may be unstable, unreliable and full of bugs (This is also true with packaged software!).
  • Longer development time

Which costs more?

Cost is completely dependent on the solution.  For utility programs (accounting, anti-virus and email) packaged software will likely be less expensive.  For line-of-business and data management solutions, it is certainly a good idea to do some research.  The internet and open-source software, have lowered development costs for custom software.  In addition, compare recurring license fees.

Choosing a Custom Developer

If you decide to investigate a custom solution, your software developer will be critical to the success of your project.  Choose a developer that you can easily communicate with and who understands your business needs. The best company for you will be able to explain the options in a way that you understand.

Software is an integral part of your business infrastructure.  Make the best choice by focusing on your business needs and weighing all the available option.  Then you will clearly know whether packaged software or a custom solution will be the right fit for your company.

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