Why Custom Software Development Isn’t Worth the Cost

SaaS Growth and Trends
Apr 4, 2023
Why Custom Software Development Isn’t Worth the Cost

Custom software development has been a popular practice for SaaS businesses. A solution built from scratch will perfectly fit their unique needs. But off-the-shelf software is quickly becoming the preferred, faster and cheaper alternative.

Is custom software development worth the cost? Below, we’ll highlight the difference between custom software development and off-the-shelf software. Find out which approach is best for your SaaS product!

What is Custom Software Development?

Custom software development is the process of creating software applications that are tailor-made to the specific needs of a business. Developers build an application or a feature from scratch, based on the company’s unique requirements. Engineering teams have complete control over the software. They can ensure it meets their needs and integrates with their existing systems.

What is Off-the-Shelf Software?

In contrast to custom software development, off-the-shelf software is a pre-built solution. SaaS products can use these tools without programming every functionality from scratch. These software solutions can be integrated into existing software applications. Typically, they address common SaaS product needs, such as:

  • payments processing, like Stripe
  • reporting and analytics, like Luzmo
  • onboarding flows, like Userpilot
  • chat and notifications, like Braze

Off-the-shelf software is a match made in heaven for SaaS companies. It provides a quick solution for features and functions their customers want, but aren’t the company’s main focus.

Custom Software Development vs Off-the-Shelf Software

Are you deciding between custom software development and off-the-shelf software? There are a lot of factors to think about.

  • Specific business needs
  • Budget
  • Timeline

Do you have very specific requirements? You can’t think of any software solution that could ever meet these needs? Then custom software development is a good option. However, building and maintaining custom software is time-consuming and expensive. And it requires a high level of expertise.

Off-the-shelf software is typically less expensive and faster to implement than custom software. Plus, it’s easier to maintain. You can rely on a third party software vendor, and their rooted expertise in the domain.

Pros and cons of custom software development

The main benefit of software customization is the option to cater to your company’s unique requirements. However, businesses need to take into account the risks.

  • Custom software development is time-consuming.
  • It’s expensive: the average US salary of a Senior Software Developer clocks out at a whopping 150k.
  • The learning curve for new development skills is steep if you lack internal know-how.
  • Maintaining and updating software constantly adds up to your engineering time and costs.

Pros and cons of off-the-shelf software

If you want to move faster at a lower cost, off-the-shelf software is a viable option for your business.

  • Native integration of another software is typically less expensive.
  • Using a plug-and-play software is faster than developing features from scratch.
  • It’s easier to maintain, because your software vendor maintains the main technology.
  • You’re not just buying software by working with a third party. Getting access to their deeply rooted expertise is a very nice bonus!

Finding an off-the-shelf software that meets your specific needs takes time. Be careful to assess whether it easily integrates with your existing systems. Some off-the-shelf software may not address all your needs out of the box. But with the right add-ons, integrations or customizations, you get the best of both worlds.

Pros and cons comparison between custom software development vs off-the-shelf software

How to Evaluate Off-the-Shelf Software

When evaluating off-the-shelf software, businesses must consider several factors.

  • What features and functionality does the software offer?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Do they offer the support and maintenance we need?
  • Is the software compatible with our existing tech stack?
  • Does this software get good user reviews?

Free trial periods are a great way to test off-the-shelf solutions. You can test the software for free and assess whether it meets your specific needs.

Characteristics of Off-the-Shelf Software

Off-the-shelf software will make life easier for your software engineers. This pre-built solution comes packed with powerful features and functionalities. It’s great to save time and money, without compromising on the quality of your platform.

You don’t need to be a tech genius to use off-the-shelf software. Plenty of tools today are low-code, or even no-code. Customer success, product managers or account managers will easily find their way around. It lets small, ambitious teams scale faster without burning out their engineers. Developers regain time to focus on what they do best: building more complex, core features.

Many SaaS businesses prefer to build features in-house to maintain control. However, off-the-shelf software offers plenty of options to customize. With well-documented APIs, a developer can add all the bells and whistles you could wish for. And they can do it in a few hours, instead of weeks of custom development.

It’s like having the best of both worlds. The convenience of pre-built software with all the flexibility you want.

Examples of off-the-shelf software

You may wonder: which use cases can I cover with off-the-shelf solutions? A customer dashboard is a great example.

Imagine you’ve built a project management AI tool. Your product’s core goal is to help businesses track and manage their projects and tasks. But to do so effectively, project managers using your product may want to analyze a few data points.

  • Which projects are the most lucrative?
  • On which type of projects do we fail to meet delivery deadlines?
  • Which team members worked on our most successful projects?

Great! But… your developers are trained to build project management features. They don’t have the expertise to build advanced interactive dashboards. And yet, your product users want these insights to make confident decisions.

So do you ignore their wishes?

With embedded analytics software, you no longer have to. This is a great example of the power of off-the-shelf software. It simply injects powerful dashboards into any software product. Developers can set up an integration in a week’s time. And customer success teams can whip up useful dashboards in just a few hours!

Embedded analytics as an example of off-the-shelf software for SaaS products.

Stepping away from custom software development

Smart and efficient SaaS companies are no longer wasting time and money on developing features that have been built by others countless times before. With powerful building blocks, SaaS companies now add new functionality to their products at a fraction of the cost and time.

Want to see it for yourself, and try out an off-the-shelf solution? Start a free 10-day trial with Luzmo, and build a good-looking dashboard for your product users in less than a day.

Build your first embedded dashboard in less than 15 min

Experience the power of Luzmo. Talk to our product experts for a guided demo  or get your hands dirty with a free 10-day trial.