Pros and cons of customised vs off-the-shelf software

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Pros and cons of customised vs off-the-shelf software

Off the shelf software

 

Pros

Cons

  • It can be free (open source) or cheap (it can also be expensive!)
  • It can be cost-effective
  • It could meet most of your needs out of the box
  • Contains many features
  • It’s fast to get up and running
  • Support is often included in cost, or it can be added with a maintenance contract
  • Upgrades may be provided free, or at a reduced cost
  • If it’s software-as-a-service (SaaS)1there is no hardware or software to install
  • Works well if there are lots of organisations using the same system (eg popular accounting packages)
  • Industry software development standards are typically used
  • Many offer flexible software licensing models
  • Training courses are more readily available
  • They will have ongoing costs (fees, licence costs and possibly upgrade costs)
  • Slow to adapt to change
  • Changes or enhancements will be made to the software to meet the developer’s timetable, not yours and not all changes will be relevant to your organisation’s needs
  • Your request for changes might be ignored if it doesn’t benefit a large customer base
  • If it’s a niche or boutique product (ie, there aren’t many organisations using it) it can be very risky.2
  • You might get tied into a system that is hard to customise, and hard to change from
  • The software can become obsolete
  • You might have to change your work processes to fit the software
  • You might have to pay high fees to get it customised
  • The software licensing may not offer the model you want

 

 

Customised software

 

Pros

Cons

  • You can start with the minimum necessary requirements and add on later
  • It can be tailored to your needs and processes
  • Changes can be made at the start
  • If developers are local you have local support
  • You can get changes or enhancements done quickly
  • It won’t become obsolete (as long as you maintain it)
  • You control your investment in updates and enhancements
  • A solution to your unique service needs can be a business advantage
  • Can be designed to work with your old systems
  • Very high set up cost
  • You will have to pay for all changes and features – generally that is costly
  • Training is expensive
  • If you have employed a local IT consultant there is the risk of losing the developer and all their knowledge base
  • Availability of the developer’s support may be limited, or seasonal
  • There are no economies of scale
  • The budget for software development and ongoing support will always compete with other organisational priorities
  • It may not be a long-term solution; the software may have difficulty working with future, as yet unknown, technology platforms.

 

 

  • 1. Software-as-a-service is software you can buy on a monthly or annual subscription basis. It is centrally hosted – on a remote data centre – and is provided across the internet. This approach is becoming more popular for many accounting and human resource management packages. Examples are Salesforce, QuickBook, GoToMeeting, Employee Spend Management and Workday.
  • 2. Beware! Developers may say they will customise a package for you but in fact they are altering the base product to implement the features you want. This is likely to result in expensive maintenance costs, delays in implementation and a high rate of bugs.