By Helena Bogdanova

The digital age makes businesses face the choice: should they own an off-the-shelf application or opt for a team of professionals to build a solution from the ground up. To make the right decision, forward-looking managers have to consider a number of factors, such as a business development strategy, time-frame, the peculiarities of a workflow, and many other. And it’s often not as easy as it seems at first glance. How to decide what is better for your company: a canned solution or a custom one?

When you should bet on canned solutions

There are a lot of canned platforms which offer a wide range of tools, like payments, copywriting, multisiting, CMS, shopping carts, built-in analytics, personalization, and so on. Having these features gathered in one solution is surely convenient.

But not every company needs extended functionality. Your business can be likely to do without half of the opportunities offered by large e-commerce platforms. If this is your case, it’s possible to save money by customizing your web store or relying on custom software development. Creating an application from scratch allows you to get a solution tailored exactly to fit your business workflow. You also will be able to avoid wasting money on some features you don’t need.

In sum, an off-the-shelf solution is a perfect match for a company with complicated business processes. The more diverse your products and services are, the more it’s likely that a professional e-commerce platform is what you need.

Another advantage worth mentioning is time. This asset is crucial when it comes to business. Companies jump at every opportunity to earn on seconds. There are situations when a company can’t afford waiting till software engineers develop and launch an application. In this case, there is no better choice but canned software. You pay for the subscription, and a product is ready to use.

Advantages of canned solutions:

  • Expenses on solution’s support, updates, and security issues are minimal.
  • Canned solutions enable a number of tools for bringing various business strategies to fruition, e.g., large e-commerce platforms incorporate personalization, analytics, promotion, discounts, sales, etc.
  • There are off-the-shelf solutions for content, assets, and document management.
  • You get unlimited opportunities for business growth and expansion.

Disadvantages of canned solutions:

  • You should take into account the need for constant license renewal.
  • You still have to hire IT specialists for customization, setup, and integration of an application with other solutions.
  • You may need more time to train your staff on how to use a new technology platform.

When custom software development is your story

Not all business peculiarities can be “packed” into a universal canned solution. Some corporate processes are so highly specialized as you can’t incorporate them in an e-commerce platform designed for mass users. A custom application, as opposed to canned solutions, takes care of legislation issues, meets every specific need of a company, and addresses its corporate values.

Besides, a company with a well-developed IT infrastructure usually employs several electronic systems for accounting, corporate search, and document management. Sooner or later, a company’s management decides to unite them into a single corporate solution. To that end, they’d better turn to custom software development. And furthermore, if a company aims for creating a high-performance web application, the only choice, in this case, is developing a custom solution. This kind of software product can’t be canned.

Advantages of custom software:

  • Custom software solutions are tailored to the particular needs of a company.
  • A custom application allows doing routine operations much quicker and accelerates the productivity of the company’s staff. Software engineers create a solution which accurately fits in employees’ needs.
  • The finished software product becomes the intellectual property of your company.
  • Data accumulated by custom applications are more extensive than those collected by canned solutions. It’s crucial for decision-making.
  • Software developers who worked on your application are fully aware of all your solution’s peculiarities. These specialists can easily find and quickly fix any bugs.
  • A custom software solution is based on end-user requirements or, simply put, the expectations of employees who are going to utilize an app. That’s why the process of training your staff on how to use the system is quick.

Disadvantages of custom software:

  • The development of a custom software solution can be more expensive than you expect. High quality and full consistency with company’s needs justify the high cost. Besides, you don’t have to pay for an annual or monthly subscription.
  • Developing a custom solution requires time, but the result is worth the wait.

Does the size of your business influence the choice?

It’s more a question of budget and reasoning than of size. Small businesses, as a rule, don’t need all those features offered by canned solutions. They can rely on custom software development and get a simple application tackling a limited number of tasks. But they should take into account a possible time lag. For instance, a store selling bathing suits can’t wait for an app until September when the vacation season is over.

Larger companies have more opportunities. They can benefit from both using off-the-shelf software and an application tailored to their workflows. What they pick depends on the peculiarities of business processes. Professional business analysts can weigh all the pros and cons and help make the best choice.


Both variants have advantages and disadvantages. The choice depends on budget, time-frame, and a particular business strategy. There are many aspects to take into account before making a decision. For example, you can buy an off-the-shelf solution, train your employees on how to handle it and be content with the choice at the end. But what if the situation goes another way? After a while, you may realize that your company doesn’t really need all those features, and you are just throwing your money down the drain. To avoid such mistakes, don’t jump to a hasty conclusion. Analyze all the advantages and disadvantages of two software solution types and decide which one you can truly benefit from. If still in doubts, apply to business analysts to get their professional advice.

Helena Bogdanova is a Tech Journalist with OCSICO, a software development company headquartered in San Jose, California. Helena writes about IT technologies, mobile applications, e-commerce, video games and more. You can contact Helena via

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