6 Areas Off-the-Shelf Software Falls Short

Submitted by Candace Saunde… on 03/18/2019 - 10:30:am

Most every business starts out by using solely off-the-shelf software. In fact, for most new businesses, it’s the logical choice. Not only is it significantly cheaper than custom software, but it’s easier to acquire: You can download it online or take it off the shelf of your local tech store.

While some businesses may manage to get by with off-the-shelf software for many years, others may require something more. If you think that your mass-produced software could be holding you back, it may be time to consider where custom software could step in to fill the gaps.

Here are 6 areas where your off-the-shelf software might not be cutting it.

1. Doesn’t offer the features you need.

Most off-the-shelf solutions are pre-packaged with an abundance of features. However, because ‘mass-produced software’ is designed to meet the needs of the many, that doesn’t mean it’s designed to meet your needs.

In this way, while you may have a wide variety of features at your fingertips, they may not necessarily be the features you were looking for. As a result, you may end up using multiple off-the-shelf programs to get the job done.

In this case, you could build a custom CMS (content management system) or CRM (customer relationship management), depending on your needs, to house your favorite tools within one system. That way, you can continue using your favorite off-the-shelf programs, but without the inefficiencies of jumping from one program to another to complete a given task.

2. Difficult to customize or implement new features.

When your off-the-shelf software doesn’t have one of the features you need, you might consider integrating those features into it. But that’s often easier said than done: Integrating new features into mass-produced software is often difficult, costly, or not even possible.

To address this issue, first, try using the program’s existing customization features. If that’s not enough, you can often pay to upgrade the software and acquire additional features. In the case that upgrading doesn’t suffice, try hiring a software developer to tweak the program to meet your needs.

In most cases, much beyond a tweak isn’t possible or worth the investment. That being said, if your business has a very unique need, it may be better to build a custom software application to fulfill that specific need.

3. Slow to adapt to industry needs.

While off-the-shelf software does change with time, it may not happen as quickly as you might like it to. Especially your business is in an industry that changes constantly, such software may not have the capacity to keep up.

Most off-the-shelf software is limited to the mass updates rolled out to all users. So, before you can upgrade your software yourself, you’ll have to wait until those updates are made available to everyone else as well.

If it’s crucial that you stay one step ahead of the curve, your needs may require a customized solution. For example, for an ecommerce site that needs to stay up-to-date with the latest trends, you could build a custom Drupal CMS as your foundation. From there, you can integrate off-the-shelf plug-ins to save some money or go entirely custom if necessary.

4. High licensing fees.

As noted, off-the-shelf software is often fairly inexpensive. However, they are often subscription or license-based, which means you are essentially ‘renting’ your software for however long you plan to use it. As a result, the money you pour into your off-the-shelf software doesn’t really go anywhere.

When the software you are using is slowing you down and costing you money because of that, it may be a good time to start investing that money elsewhere. In many cases, businesses that reach enterprise levels, or that have very unique needs, find that cost of using mass-produced software outweighs the money they are saving by using it.

If your business falls into one of these categories, consider weighing the potential benefits of custom software against the costs to determine if the investment is would be worth it.  

5. Difficult to train employees to use.

Because off-the-shelf software is more common, you may think it would be easy to train your employees to use. But with an oversupply of features and the roundabout methods you may need to complete certain tasks, your software may present a higher learning curve than you initially thought.

There are several ways that custom software can be used to subvert such issues. For example, as mentioned above, you can build a custom CRM or CMS to house all of your go-to programs, which could help to simplify the completion of tasks and employee training all at once.

6. No competitive advantage.

There’s no question that the business world is built on competition. But since off-the-shelf software is available for anyone to use, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that your competitors are using it as well. And if you’re using the same tools as the competition, you may also find it more difficult to set your business apart from the rest.

In some cases, you may be able to gain a competitive advantage without going completely custom. For instance, you may build a custom WordPress CMS that you supplement with various cookie cutter plug-ins, like WooCommerce or QuickBooks. With this, you could offer your customers a more custom user experience, while cutting development costs.

Off-the-Shelf Software = Compromise

Since off-the-shelf software is for the general public, it can’t be designed to accommodate every business’s needs. Because of this, your software may come with limitations that call for you to alter your existing practices.

If you find yourself doing more to accommodate your software than your software will do to accommodate you, it might be time to bring custom software into the mix. To start building software custom to your business, you’ll need to hire a software development team.

To find out how to select the best team for the job, download our eBook.

Still Have Questions?

ClikFocus has over 10 years of experience in custom software development. By taking your organization’s mission, values, and budget into consideration, we will work with you to develop the ideal custom software solution for you.

To start discussing how you can go custom today, contact us.