Custom software development Vs COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf): Which one to choose?

Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Custom software development Vs COTS

We live in a world full of options. Option to buy, option to sell, option to collaborate and what not. Every corner we turn, there are innumerable options available for businesses to collaborate and leverage the service. In the wake of such competitive environments, every business is trying hard to win customers with their unique business offerings but not all businesses succeed. Speaking specifically of the Software development industry, the reason for lagging behind can be “Customization”. Not every business considers customization a priority. Some choose to cling to commercial off-the-shelf applications. Long years ago, Software development was considered as a method to improve the efficiency of business against their administrative employees putting long tedious hours in mundane tasks. Now that the times have changed but the agenda is the same. Software is still developed to improve the efficiency of the organization and both types of software development methods– Custom Application Development and Off-the-shelf Applications directly serve the purpose.

Every business has its unique business needs and not every commercial off-the-shelf application can fulfill these needs. On their way to boost productivity, businesses continuously innovate and improve their process by leveraging best-in-class technology solutions to develop customized business applications. At a point, every business is stuck to choose between Custom software and Commercial off-the-shelf applications. Hence with this blog, we will get deeper into the roots of Custom Software Development, how it is different from regular off-the-shelf Applications, with an elaboration on the pros and cons of custom software development.

Custom software development

Custom Software Development– as the name suggests is a bespoke software development method used to develop apps as per the tailored business needs. This type of software development process is aimed to serve a particular set of business requirements of a typical organization. At inception, it starts with the basic functionalities and later the additional features can be added which is not possible in COTS. The intent of creating such customized software is to enable businesses with specific needs developed by third parties or in-house-team which restricts the business from reselling it.

Custom software is not developed like generic apps or in bulks with broad offerings. The generic off-the-shelf applications can be frustrating at times because of lack of speed, lack of control over features and functionality and in addition doesn’t deliver impactful results on business deadlines and might hinder the overall business performance.

Custom applications are designed in a way that upgrades the current level of application performance and maximizes the output. Their implementation allows businesses to reap maximum rewards from the app developed with customization, offering minimal risks and beneficial outcomes. For organizations with unique or varying needs -Custom Software development is an ideal option and businesses can narrow down their request based on specific parameters such as cost comparisons, usability, need enhancements, feasibility, and security. Not ignoring the benefits that off-the-shelf apps offer, let’s explore why businesses opt for off-the-shelf apps and what benefits it is capable of offering.

COTS- commercial-off-the-shelf Application

In the software development industry- Change is indispensable. A growing forward-thinking company needs to become adaptive to change. Organizations in the IT sector embrace technology change because it keeps them ahead with a competitive advantage. Generally, businesses are more inclined to use off-the-shelf applications. For most of us who aren’t aware of what COTS is, here’s a simple explanation of what exactly COTS means. COTS also known as Ready-made applications or Packaged apps that are already available in the market for use. Examples of such off-the-shelf applications are Adobe, Microsoft applications, etc. These types of generalized applications are used for commercial use and sold for hundreds and millions of users. However, off-the-shelf applications are a conventional and simplistic way to fulfill business needs without any hassle.

Considering the best available examples are POS- Point of Sale system or ERP- Enterprise planning system. These are the most visible examples of off-the-shelf applications used by different industries. There are many benefits as mentioned:

  • COTS is relatively affordable in budget and economical for businesses where there are a large number of users. If COTS is a cloud-based software then it is not purchased with a hefty investment cost, instead, there are some monthly charges that are availed by the users.
  • COTS is highly preferred where users are higher in number which saves their ongoing development charges.
  • COTS has defined features with easy to access user facilities.
  • COTS offer app development support is easily available and there are experts who would guide you on usage or complications.

Pros and cons of custom software development

Dynamic businesses need to upgrade their software now and then, and the only options available are either through Custom software development or off-the-shelf applications. Both these types have their features and benefits to offer. To choose between the two, you must know all the sides of the applications- the good and the bad. The reason why we are discussing the pros and cons of custom software development and off-the-shelf applications is to provide a larger picture for businesses feeling ambiguous in choosing from the two. Here we have discussed both the capabilities and limitations of both types of applications.

Pros of Custom software development

  • As the name suggests, custom software is developed considering specific business challenges in mind and will thrive through all the critical business scenarios with profits. It is designed to solve the problems and will serve the purpose.
  • Custom software can be modified at any given instance as per evolving business changes.
  • The partner custom software development company is always available to support in custom software development.
  • Custom software offers Superior User experience.
  • Integration is possible and feasible for all custom-developed applications.
  • Other than just developing once, this customized application can be enhanced during the evaluation phase and for more feasibility of the application, you can add features to the existing application.
  • As mentioned, it can be easily modified as per the need. If there is some technology advancements or software upgrades, then it can be easily incorporated in custom software apps.
  • Custom software simplifies your regular processes and offers a competitive advantage over peer firms. 
  • Custom software development can be termed as a one-time investment with no per-user cost and no extra license fees.

Cons of Custom Application Development

  • Cost of investment in Custom application development is higher than COTS.
  • Innovation takes time and so sometimes it may cost you higher than estimated time and cost.
  • Thorough testing is required to check bugs after each added feature.
  • The biggest roadblocks one can face in custom software development depends on the kind of business or third-party company you choose to outsource. If the chosen custom software development company has less expertise, then the developed app will be inefficient and unproductive.
  • If you want a quick fix to a specific business problem, then developing a customized app is not an efficient option. Many small or large complexities should be addressed through custom app development or else it would turn to be a costly investment.
  • Developing a custom application from a third-party will make businesses dependent on them.
  • There wouldn’t be any ownership rights, even if there is a minute issue, it needs to be taken to the third-party app developer to resolve. 
  • Higher time invested and delayed the process. There can be situations where the technology partners support you 24*7 and with their conceptual understanding, you may resolve issues faster and easier. It’s how you choose your development partner.

Pros and cons of Off-the-shelf application available

The packaged software solution is also known as off-the-shelf applications is a preferred choice by most of the individuals as well as organizations of varied sizes and domains. This is a quick fix for all business problems and is adopted because of the benefits it offers to the Software development Industry.

Pros of off-the-shelf applications

  • COTS is produced in mass, so it is comparatively cheap and easy to run. Depending on the user and their use with the application,  sometimes the application may cost higher maintenance charges.
  • COTS is relatively inexpensive and affordable to buy and implement.
  • Simpler to use, sophisticated and secure.
  • Minimum training Cost and approachable community support.
  • Saves time, money and resources on product development & testing.
  • User manuals are easily available online.
  • COTS is universally accepted and so in case of any glitches or barriers, there are industry experts readily available to help.
  • COTS does not require resources to spend time on training as it comes with a manual easy to understand and decode.
  • Trusted packed products are used and implemented by many online and you can also check for more options of similar types of products, their rates, and reviews online.

Cons of off-the-shelf applications

  • Packaged off-the-shelf applications are risky to use because of the hidden costs involved. Initially, you may feel it is a one-time investment which it is not. It comes with a recurring cost that involves modification cost, up-gradation costs, etc.
  • Not all off-the-shelf apps come with modification options and hence it hinders the growth of the organization and it will become technically laggard.
  • For instance, if the application is upgradable and is upgraded too with new features and functionalities but now if it isn’t compatible with the existing browsers or Operating systems then the up-gradation will demand some extra costs for advancing the systems.
  • Off-the-shelf is the same system used by the competitors and so it is equally challenging to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Since COTS is developed keeping a mass audience in mind so most of the functionalities of COTS will not be useful for specific users. 
  • Very less scope of innovation in Software development.
  • In case of requiring support, the response time may vary for each individual depending on the community approached for help.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right process for software development is a daunting task for businesses and often they end up choosing incompetent ones. Small or large-scale companies face the same confusion. Custom Software companies have experience in the software development business and hold technical prowess in developing custom software applications. We would be happy to assist businesses with what best fits them in terms of their business requirements. Feel free to get in touch.