To meet the software needs of your business, there are two main paths:
- Buy software “off the shelf”
- Build custom software (in-house, or with a development firm)
In most cases, off-the-shelf makes the most sense, and it should be your default choice:
- Acquiring and deploying off-the-shelf software is usually faster than getting custom software developed. Even complex installation and configuration it typically faster than developing new software.
- Off-the-shelf software is generally cheaper than developing your own. The development cost of an off-the-shelf package is distributed among multiple firms, possibly many firms worldwide. These many customers more than offset the extra cost of mass production and distribution. Comparatively, with custom software your business alone bears most of the costs.
- Off-the-shelf software typically has years of testing and years of production use, as well as feedback and improvement, giving confidence that it actually works.
- Off-the-shelf software may include a money-back guarantee in case it does not meet your needs.
For all these reasons, the option of designing custom software bears the burden of proof in your decision-making process.
There are good reasons, though, to consider custom development, especially in mid-sized or large companies. Under the right circumstances, these advantages can make the decision to develop software the best choice.