application-iconApplication Services

Custom software vs commercial software: The business choice

Author —Aakarsh Prakash8 mins read28 Nov 2022

In today’s digital era, enterprises struggle to run their operations smoothly without adopting some of the latest technology, one way or another. Technology has now become an integral part of business, no matter the scale of operations. A simple website, spreadsheet, or even an email for communication purposes marks the presence of some form of technology in their operations.

According to Forbes, over 90% of small businesses have digitized at least a part of their business processes.

Businesses have two approaches to acquiring the software required to manage their operations: they either opt for a custom-built software solution, or purchase/subscribe to commercial software. 

Here’s how these approaches work.

Buying a software

Buying or subscribing to software off the shelf is the most popular approach businesses take to fulfill their IT needs. In this model, a company generally subscribes/purchases a license from a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendor. Since these applications are hosted on the cloud, businesses can instantly access them from a web browser.

Buying software has really picked up in recent times since it offers a ready-to-go model, relieving businesses from the headache of setting up infrastructure or maintenance.

Easier to install and use

Perhaps the biggest benefit of purchasing or subscribing to off-the-shelf software is that you are relieved from all sorts of installation headaches. If you are someone who is looking to get started with a quick-deploying solution, it makes more sense to buy your software. By subscribing or purchasing the software, you get access to it right away. No need to worry about any installation, since most software works straight off the browser. They are designed to address key issues most businesses face, out of the box. On the flip side, it might be difficult to integrate it with existing software, hampering any speed advantages.

Lesser upfront cost

The initial investment for off-the-shelf software is significantly lower when compared to custom-developed software. The reason for this lower price is that they cater to a large volume of buyers/subscribers, who help disperse its development costs equally.

Additionally, ready-made software offers users an accurate estimate of the expenses incurred during its use cycle.

To put it simply, if you are looking to spend less on software, opt for buying or subscribing to pre-built software.

Great support from the community

Be it any software, programming language, or technology,  support from its user community comes in handy in the long run. As most off-the-shelf software have a widespread user base, one can find product reviews, experiences, comments, and more, to help discern before purchasing the right software. In addition, you can easily access user guides, helping you understand how to use the application better.

Building a software

Getting software custom-built to meet an organization’s needs is another popular approach. When building software, you design, build, test, deploy, and maintain all dimensions of the software to meet your, or your customers’, specific needs. Custom software is often developed either by an in-house team or by third-party development companies. While SaaS products follow the one-size-fits-all philosophy, custom software development provides a tailor-made tool & unique to meet your business needs. Hence, you don’t need to mix and match a plethora of apps to serve all functionalities that you require.

The main reason businesses opt to build software is that it provides substantial flexibility. You can deploy your one-of-a-kind software anywhere and have more integration, features, and independence in design. This flexibility is handy for businesses, especially when they are on the verge of scaling up.

Satisfies all your business requirements

The biggest advantage to building your own software is that it meets all your business needs. You can have all the integrations and functionalities in the solution that you need to operate your business, exactly how you intend to operate it. By building a solution, you can have complete control over your business model and challenges.

Enables detailed customization

Another advantage to building your own software is that it makes way for deep customization toward your goals. While buying software offers restricted customization, building software lets you customize your solution at a deeper level. You can have the software designed according to your taste and needs, having a greater say in its performance, functionalities, design, and more.

Easy to scale the software

Custom-built software is easily scalable when compared to those you get off the shelf. At any point, you can request new features, upgrades, or functionalities, helping you run the application like a well-oiled machine.

You begin with a prototype, decide on the features needed, and grow the software as you go. With constant feedback from users, you get a clearer picture of what’s needed for a smoother workflow.

Synchronizes well with the existing system

By building custom software, you can guarantee that it will synchronize seamlessly with your existing systems, without taking a toll on any of its core procedures. While off-the-shelf software may face difficulties working along with your existing systems, a custom solution seamlessly integrates with any existing piece of software, its tools, and the many processes in the play.

Own the software

You are the sole owner when you get a  custom-built software solution. While software that you buy off-the-shelf enforces various usage restrictions on you, a custom solution gives you full control over every aspect of the piece of software. You will have full authority over user options, security measures, and system updates.

 Competitive advantage

A great custom software solution gives you a competitive edge. How so? Because your competitors do not have the same software with the exact functionality and productivity as you do. As the solution is unique to your business, you can leverage its distinctive features and properties to maximize your productivity and smoothen your workflow.

Get great software support

Since custom applications are unique to an organization, they are ensured enhanced software support throughout its life cycle. Building your own software guarantees timely support and fixes for any issues, at any time.

Stronger security

The security angle of any software – be it purchased or custom-built –  is always a top priority to every organization. Custom software solutions provide greater security than what you get from stuff off the shelf. Since custom software is unique to a business, the odds of intruder attacks are lesser than with off-the-shelf solutions, which are distributed in huge numbers.

Pay only for your requirements

When you build custom software solutions according to your needs, you develop it to meet & address the very same specific solutions. This means that you are paying only for what you need. On the other hand, off-the-shelf solutions might have some unwanted features that you may never use in your operations.

A good investment

While the initial cost of an off-the-shelf SaaS solution might be lower, the total cost might be a lot higher due to licensing fees, subscriptions, and other hidden charges. Meanwhile, a custom software solution has a higher upfront cost but lower operating expenses. In the long run, building software proves to be the more economical solution.

What to consider when opting for a solution

Knowing the advantages of each process, choosing between ‘build’ and ‘buy’ can be confusing. It helps to consider the following factors when deciding which software approach to follow.


Define your requirements

Before opting for build or buy, it’s vital to understand your business requirements and goals. Have a clear picture of your objectives. Comprehending your demands and objectives saves you money in the long run. Identify your current business problems, such as having too many complex processes or tools, fragmented data sources, etc. Opt for buying software for compact business pain point solutions. If your business has a complex process, and uses a variety of tools, among other vital issues, opt to build a custom software solution.

Plot your workflow

Once you have understood your goals, it’s vital to understand and map out your current workflow. Consider your daily practices, and list down your activities, and all the data you use. Evaluate all the issues of your organization and connect them to the workflow. Now, you will have a clearer picture of what needs to be corrected or what tools you need.

Define your future goals

The software you opt for satisfies more than just your current goals, but the ones in the future too. Once you analyze your business problems and understand your workflow, it’s time to pen down your objectives for the future. Keep in mind the additional requirements, starting from the customization of the tool, to the UI.

Plan your budget accordingly

Once you set your objectives and needs, it’s time to set the budget for your software. Consider how much you are willing to spend to solve all the problems and what benefits you’ll receive. While subscribing to an off-the-shelf app has lower costs, it’s not an ideal choice in the long run for custom objectives or vast goals.

Concluding thoughts

When deciding to buy or build software, it is essential to consider the total impact of the software you employ in your business in the long run. Have doubts about choosing the approach that suits your business? Just say hi to take a leap towards a future-ready solution..

PiServe — Revolutionizing the versatility of technology in the corporate world

Curated Technologies. Design at Heart. Rapid business Transformation

How can we help you?

Get in touch and let’s find out how we can curate our offerings to match your organization’s needs.

Get in touch


Thanks for subscribing to PiServe Insights.

Please fill in the details.


Thanks for subscribing to PiServe Insights.

Please fill in the details.