Businesses today have multiple options of buying off-the-shelf software that is quite popular with start-ups and in-demand for companies not looking to invest in specially designed software solutions. Should your company buy a solution to meet basic needs or build a solution that serves your exact needs? Should you resize your business practices around a readymade software or get a bespoke solution that integrates with your current business workflows? Let’s dig in to find out.

Difference between custom and generic software

Generic software is an off-the-shelf product designed for many consumers and can meet many clients’ general requirements. Custom software is a bespoke design developed to meet one client’s specific needs, based on the budget and requirements predefined by them. It’s meant to be operated by one user or a group of users and meets the needs not fulfilled by off-the-shelf software.

An example of generic software is a word or spreadsheet document. An example of custom software is B2B accounting software or a student portal for a university.

Each of these types has its own pros and cons. Below listed are the main factors that will help you decide what’s better.

Unique features

Since generic software is made for a wide range of users, it has plenty of features, all of which may not be useful or needed for a particular organization. GS features may be simple or complex depending on their functionality, but a range of similar GS serving similar use cases will have common features. 

On the other hand, custom software will have highly unique and specific features, only limited to the particular client it’s made for. Each CS serving a common purpose for different clients will still have distinctly designed functions and features that share no commonality.

Software architecture

GS is super agile and designed to accommodate large-scale future scalability and adaptation as per the growth and pivots in markets and technological advancements.

Custom software may be designed for a specific purpose, considering who is going to use it based on the current business scenario. Still, it may have to incorporate some amount of scalability for the future.

Cost

Generic software is usually not expensive, in that users across demographics can afford it, be they small to medium firms or individual business owners and entrepreneurs. CS is designed to keep in mind the huge strata of the business ecosystem and derives profits from quantity sold and provide decent quality.

Custom software can be expensive since it’s developed just for one client. However, if a company invests in custom software to enhance its productivity, efficiency, and customer service and engagement, the returns on software investment are sky-high. 

Quality

For generic software producers, creating good quality software is important but not extremely paramount. If a company makes mass consumable software while tinkering with it endlessly until it’s perfect beyond comparison, it will lose market share to competitors and fail to make enough profits. 

As opposed to generic software, custom-made software is focused on quality as the developers have to ensure that the end result surpasses the client’s expectations in terms of performance and useability. Custom software has to offer quality solutions to the client to increase revenues, improve customer service, or even streamline internal business processes. These are precisely the reasons why quality cannot be compromised.

Ownership/control

The software company developing generic software is in control of inception, design, architecture, functions, QA and testing stages of the product. Users can own the software after acquiring the licence to use it. 

Custom software is produced and owned fully by the client. The development agency can guide, strategize, and execute on the client’s behalf, but the client’s final authority and control belong.

Which is better?

There’s no better or worse option. It really depends on your requirements and budget.

After the initial investment in customised software, there are lower costs and it pays for itself over time, integrating smoothly with your current set-ups. 

If your business has a traditional hierarchical structure, involves record-keeping, personalised communication, inter-departmental updates, and data entry, raising tickets to coordinate with off-site teams, massive marketing campaigns with measurable goals, extensive accounting, you’d be better off with a custom software catering to exact specifications per department and workflows. Custom software also integrates with other software your company is already using.

Readymade software is also prone to hacking whereas custom software can be built to avert hacking and malware. Bespoke software is harder to infiltrate.

Other than that, custom software doesn’t have to be a lifetime tool. You can maintain it and utilize it as long as it serves your purpose. 

The software development agency that built your software offers technical support and assistance as well. So in case of glitches or breakdown, help is readily available. 

On the other hand, readymade software does come with its own set of advantages. You save a lot of initial time and money if you decide to invest in generic software to meet general needs. Over time, with a few workarounds, generic software can keep you in a type of momentum, especially if your business doesn’t really depend on excessive note-keeping, data sharing, or constant customer communication. 

Another reason to continue using generic software is the time and energy needed in finding the right and trustworthy software development agency to whom you can entrust building your customised software. If you choose a mediocre agency based on lower development quotes and don’t do enough due diligence checking out the entirety of their portfolio and do not spend enough time chalking out your complete requirements from the software, the whole project can be delayed, and the result may end up being unsatisfactory. Custom software is meant to solve a specific problem in-house. If your business doesn’t need problem-solving software, then generic software could fit you better.