Custom Software Development vs. Off-the-Shelf Software

Software development

The question of whether to use off-the-shelf software or custom software development arises for anyone considering automating their work processes. Off-the-shelf software can be quickly deployed with lower costs, while building one from scratch allows for addressing all of the company’s specific needs. However, in real life, business situations rarely present straightforward scenarios with simple solutions. Therefore, the decision requires an analysis of circumstances and requirements.

Comparison of universal solutions and systems developed to meet individual requirements:

Standard software

Custom software


Designed for a wide user base.

Specifically designed for your specific organization.

Implementation time, change management

Very fast if no adjustment is needed. This often requires adapting internal processes.

Development time depends on your requirements, and there is no need to adjust any internal processes.


One-time or monthly costs, depending on the licensing model.

Development costs are driven by requirements, while ongoing maintenance and support costs are reduced.

Development opportunities

Low, since it has already been developed.

Higher thanks to custom development.


Limited customization options as it is designed for general purposes.

Highly adaptable to meet specific requirements.

Feature Set

Contains predefined features that may not meet all requirements.

Can include any desired feature and requirement.


Depends on the security measures of the software provider.

Can be tailored to your specific security requirements.

The choice between standard and custom software depends on several factors:

  • Availability of ready-made solutions
  • Budget
  • Time constraints
  • Business goals

When is it better to use off-the-shelf solutions?

  1. Standard task solutions: If the tasks that need to be automated are predominantly regulated and repetitive, using off-the-shelf software is more cost-effective and faster to implement.
  2. Budget constraints: Ready-made solutions are more affordable, making them advantageous for small or medium-sized businesses.
  3. Time limitations: If a business process needs to be automated promptly, it is better to use off-the-shelf software, which can be configured and implemented in the shortest time possible, whereas developing custom software requires time.
  4. Alignment with the majority of user requirements: sometimes a readymade solution can be ready to streamline all the processes you needed. In such cases, one simply doesn’t need custom development.

When should custom software be used?

Custom software development is the optimal solution when:

  1. Creating a long-term competitive advantage: If a company aims to outperform a competitor via unique processes or products, building software from scratch is necessary. For example, content recommendation systems in streaming services. Netflix uses unique recommendation algorithms to offer personalized movies and show them to users based on their preferences, enabling Netflix to maintain a leading position in the streaming content market.
  2. Optimizing specific processes: In cases when standard solutions cannot satisfy all your needs, you have a compelling reason to choose software development. The reason for this uniqueness may be related to specific processes within your business or existing IT infrastructure. For example, planning employee movements based on production volume growth or reduction. One of the largest food producers in Eastern Europe uses custom software to prevent labor resource shortages and employee downtime, thereby optimizing labor costs.
  3. Special integration: If your software needs integration with existing IT systems, and off-the-shelf software does not adequately support it. For example, interacting with different generations of cellular communication.
  4. Security requirements: If you have specific security needs that require individual security solutions.
  5. Long-term investments: If you plan for long-term perspectives and require custom software that can be continuously adapted to changing needs. By using custom software, you have direct control over its ongoing development. For example, developing an ERP system to help manage enterprise resources, incorporating new features to maximize alignment with the company’s needs.

It is best to answer these questions individually after conducting a requirements analysis and then evaluating the available solutions. The results of the requirements analysis will determine the parameters of the new software and the degree of alignment with off-the-shelf solutions.

Epol Soft specializes in custom software development for manufacturing companies, medical centers, telecommunications, and the Internet of Things (IoT) sector. More detailed information about projects can be found at the provided link.

Ask a question

Форма к проектам en