Custom Software VS Off-The-Shelf Development


“Build or buy?”

It’s a common question in business:

  • Do we build a new factory or office building, or buy an existing one?
  • Do we build a product or technology from scratch, or buy a startup company that’s already doing something similar?
  • Do we develop and promote senior leadership from within (build), or hire outsiders (buy)?

The same question comes up concerning enterprise code systems: will we build a custom code resolution from scratch, or will we purchase business off-the-peg (COTS) software? If the latter, will we customize it to fulfill our specific requirements?

It’s vital for a business to settle on the code path fastidiously. Code will represent a significant investment in time and cash. Creating the correct selection will mean the distinction between seeing a come back thereon investment and writing it off as a loss.

Today we have a tendency to compare the execs, cons, and risks related to every selection.


COTS package is intended and developed for distribution to several totally different customers. To form it engaging to the widest doable market, COTS development corporations try and embody as several options as they will. They attempt to avoid turning it into “bloatware” (loaded with sets of options solely slim segments of the market can truly use).

COTS developers have to be compelled to strike a balance. They need to embody enough options to tempt customers to shop for, however, as well as an excessive amount of could counsel customers. It will have too several options customers don’t want.

Many COTS corporations solve this perplexity by modularizing products: each client buys a “base” product that has the foundational technology and also the most ordinarily used options. They will then choose one or a lot of specialized modules to fulfill the wants of specific market segments.

In addition to those models, some COTS products have APIs (application programming interfaces) customers will license. These APIs alter customers or third-party developers to customize the COTS package to fulfill specific wants.

All clear on that? Good—here are the execs and cons of COTS:


  • Because many purchasers are shopping for a constant software system, the COTS Company’s prices are unfolded across many purchasers. This lowers your prices and should cut back start-up expenses.
  • Most COTS products are oversubscribed either on a subscription basis (The subscription value includes support and updates.) or with a maintenance possibility as AN add-on value. Either way, once one thing goes wrong there’s a frenzied technical support team you’ll deem to diagnose and fix the matter. The technical support team will draw on its in-depth experience; it’s rare a retardant comes up they haven’t seen before.
  • Startup prices for COTS may be extremely favorable once the merchandise meets all a customer’s wants while not the requirement for personalization. The complicated enterprise software system can possibly still want some setup and configuration, however, if no development is required, the implementation cycle may be a lot shorter.


  • A COTS product locks you into a relationship with a specific supplier. If that relationship turns bitter, your solely real possibility is to dump the merchandise and begin over with a distinct COTS product or a custom resolution.
  • Depending on the product’s complexes, setup and configuration are often long and pricey, nearly the maximum amount as a made-to-order resolution. If customization is required, the event work has to be planned, funded, and dead as a custom software development service.
  • Finding developers like an expert who product’s API is also tough. You would possibly find yourself hiring a developer and paying that person to attend coaching or pay many weeks learning the API.
  • For COTS merchandise with genus APIs, the merchandise typically isn’t architect-ed with customization. If a replacement version of the merchandise changes the API, any custom code might close up properly (or at all) once the underlying product is upgraded to the cover version. Well-architect COTS merchandise square measure designed to attenuate or eliminate this drawback.
  • Some COTS development firms “sunset” older versions of their code. When a particular date they’re going to now not offer support or updates for a particular version. This forces customers to upgrade to the most recent edition, which they could not have the time or budget. Projected with the older version comes with risks, particularly security vulnerabilities.

Some COTS merchandise doesn’t have genus APIs. This forces you to shop for one thing that doesn’t quite meet your desires, or another product that has} features you’ll ne’er use. this will be the case even for modularized code. (Another difference is to shop for one thing that’s almost what you wish, and develop a separate, custom resolution to fill the gap.)


Custom software is designed and built using your requirements and specifications. Some custom software is developed by in-house software teams. Some are developed by external consultants or contract software development experts.

Custom software has its own advantages and disadvantages:


  • Custom software system is designed with a future roadmap in mind for implementing the new and increased options you anticipate.
  • The custom software system will grow and evolve along with your business.
  • The custom software system is meant and engineered by a team that (ideally) understands your business model, what you’re making an attempt to attain, and therefore the issues you’re making an attempt to resolve.
  • You own the ASCII text file, therefore if your relationship with the first developer ends, a brand new one will take over.
  • You acquire and obtain solely what you would like.


  • A 100% custom software solution may not be cost-effective in cases where a comparable COTS product is available that meets most of your needs.
  • Because you are starting from scratch, a custom software project may take longer to implement than an equivalent off-the-shelf product.

Custom software typically does not come with any ongoing technical support beyond a “hypercar” period immediately after the initial launch. If technical support is provided, it is often available only during the provider’s business hours, which may not be the same as yours.


Ultimately, the selection to build or obtain comes right down to value. For any major software system investment, it pays to seem at each choice and to induce multiple proposals for each COTS and custom solutions. As a result of a COTS answer might have a custom element to that, this feature ought to be thought of moreover.

Some inquiries to raise once creating the ultimate call include:

For customizable COTS merchandise, will the merchandise design support version upgrades while not impacting the custom code?

What is every provider’s name for quality, service, and support? Honest, freelance feedback from actual customers is priceless here.

What is the time horizon for this solution? That, however long does one expect to be victimization it? A shorter-term implies a smaller investment is bonded.

What is the entire value of possession for every possibility, as well as licensing, setup and configuration, and in-progress maintenance and support?

Modern enterprises have confidence in their software system systems to run the business and create au courant choices. The selection to create or obtain a significant software package can’t be taken gently. It needs intense, careful analysis of the offered selections. Armed with smart data gained by elaborate due diligence, you’ll be able to create the proper alternative and find an answer that may serve your desires, currently and within the future.

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