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Why Custom Software when Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) Product are available?

Published By: Chintan Shah

Software
software

COTS are ready to use software which is developed for any specific industry or business process keeping standards and general norms as the perspective. Your next question will be, then why should I require custom software for my business process requirement? Here are two main compelling reasons for why should you invest in a custom software development:

  • No COTS software available in the market does exactly what you need- every business has its own need and style of functioning.
  • The Ownership and Control of the software / application that is going to run your business is prime requirement or essential as a strategic asset.

Either one or both of the above reason may apply to your situation, and within these main reasons there are additional factors which we can consider. Let’s discuss at both of these reasons in a bit more detail.

Nothing Fits Perfect:

If you buy COTS Software, it is possible that you may have to make changes in your business process to accommodate with the Product Model you are purchasing. Readymade Product may have features and functionalities similar to your requirements, but nothing in the world provides 100% exact solution for all of your vital and important functions. At the end you will find yourself paying most of the product cost for the features that you don’t require or you are never going to use it. The time efforts and cost of modifying / customizing readymade (COTS) products could be much more than the cost of the product itself. In some of the cases, modification / customization in the readymade software / product can also exceed the total cost of custom built software.

You basically have below two choices while selecting readymade product which is not 100% perfect match:

  • Alter your current business processes to accommodate the product.
  • Customize the product to suit your business requirements and processes.

If you look at the first option, you will find it attractive; and it may also help you to improve your business. In the case where your business process is very close to the readymade software, it could be very sensible decision to accommodate the readymade software by doing minor changes into your business process. But, where there is a major gap between your business process and the readymade software; changes will be extraordinary, unrealistic and might affect your business badly. In such cases implement changes in your business process to accommodate the readymade software would be great troublesome.

In other hand, second option is most of the time not feasible because nearly all the readymade software is customizable. If still we try to customize it; then the results we get could be dissatisfactory and costly.
Here are the top 5 points to be considered when there is a possibility of customization:

  • Feasibility: Is there any possibilities to mould the readymade software to fulfill your necessity?
  • Gap: Difference between the working of the readymade software and how it should work as per your business process?
  • Friction: How much your software supplier is willing to or capable to incorporate your business requirements?
  • Cost: How much efforts in terms of time as well as money are required to adjust the readymade software to your requirements?
  • Future: What would be the support cost and man power required to keep the customization intact in case of new versions of the product are released?

COTS Software would win over custom developed software where readymade software is closely matching with your business process and customization cost is under acceptable level.
You can also take into consideration below if your industry is very much generalized such as Insurance, Banking or Pharmaceutical. In such case, it would be the perfect option to select readymade software without any customization. Here you will get all the latest updates from the software vendor accommodating regular changes in general laws or government policies; as you using readymade software without any customization.

From other side of this story:

Custom built software solution will be the best suitable option, if readymade software is not compatible with your business process and there is no appropriate readymade software available in the market and above all you want your business process must work as per the way it is meant to.

Customized Software / Application as a Strategic Asset:

In most of the cases where the software is specifically developed as per your business process requirement provides very smooth operation and you can get significant advantages for your operations. It also increases your efficiency in terms of operation and gives long term advantage to your business. Here are some examples:

  • Everything is under your control and you can get more faster response on the changes and get positive effect on your business.
  • New processes can be added easily.
  • Most of the time to get reasonable advantage, custom software can be modified as per your business requirement compared to using readymade software which cannot be altered easily.
  • As source code is with you, it is also easy to alter it with your own software development team (if you have any) or it can also be done by your preferred software development company.
  • Custom software understands your requirement in a better way as it is developed as per your business requirement. Due to this implement process will also become fast and smooth.
  • You will also get less resistance from your staff as they don’t have to change their current working process a lot.

Summary

Taking decision of whether to go with readymade software or to develop custom software would be very crucial for your current and future business. Following factors need to be considered and evaluated against your business requirements:

Ready-made software:

  • You may require making changes in your business process according to the software.
  • The offering will cost less, but customization in the same (if at all possible) may add significant amount to your budget.
  • Resistance from vendor for making changes is also to be considered.
  • If vendor stops support or upgrading the software, you will need to start searching for replacement.

Custom software:

  • No need to change your business process.
  • Initial development cost for customized software could be higher, but in long run it will be much lesser than support, customization and business tailoring you will do on the readymade software.
  • You will get what you wanted compared to readymade software where you sometime get unwanted features which you may never use.
  • You can upgrade and make it compatible with your business as your business grows.