5 Signs It's Time to Swap Off-the-Shelf Tech for Custom-Built Software

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Cynthia  Gandarilla

Marketing Manager

Cynthia Gandarilla

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions can be an inexpensive way for companies to create applications that make it easier to do business. By automating routine business tasks with intuitive coding, organizations can improve productivity, reporting, marketing, and operational areas at a low price.

COTS applications can also be a cost-effective, quick-to-market way to launch your MVP. But when it’s it is time to scale with your flagship product , you’ll need a robust, custom application that reflects your business goals and delivers to customers’ changing needs.

But how can you know when a COTS solution will meet your needs or if it’s time to invest in custom tech? Here are five clues to look for when deciding if it is the right time for customization:

1. You Need More Functionality

COTS applications were designed to meet the needs of the many. As a result, the version you purchase may have fewer features than you currently need, but upgrading to a package that includes what you need also means paying for features you don’t want or must constantly work around.

Don’t expect your vendor to customize their software to your specific requirements. They get feedback from all of their customers and must choose which features they should add based on the most requested improvements.

Like many firms, your vendor has limited talent and financial resources and cannot fulfill every request. As a customer, this translates to less—or no—individual time addressing your needs for your flagship platform.

Once you have gone beyond your vendor’s ability to offer your most critical features, it’s time to look for a custom solution.

2. Your Vendor’s Solution is Getting Too Expensive

COTS software might have originally been an inexpensive solution for you, but now you have additional fees for new features, additional licenses, reporting, and other expenses. You chose the solution because it was a low-cost, predictable expense that your company could afford. But as you grow, so does the price of the software.

Companies believe that COTS software is less expensive than a custom-built application. But it pays to look at the numbers. COTS solutions frequently have a monthly subscription fee, but add-on costs increase over time.

Alternatively, custom development costs are typically incurred upfront, making it appear to be a more expensive option. But custom development pays off in the long run, providing you with a solution that meets your business objectives and customer needs without scraping by on too few or working around too many features.

Remember, the most expensive development cost is for a product that no one will ever use. Custom-built products address your specific needs while just getting by on generic features can miss the mark.

3. Your Product Isn’t Performing

Your principal platform needs to work right when your customers use it. Unfortunately, in today’s competitive market, few customers will give your company the benefit of the doubt before they turn to a competitor’s product.

Or you are ready for your product launch, and everything must go flawlessly. But what if your vendor’s solution is indicating problems before launch? You may be stuck with performance issues that you cannot correct because of the limitations of COTS software.

Relying on an out-of-the-box solution means depending on a product that may not perform to your standards. This problem can manifest in many ways, including web and mobile site downtime, loss of productivity due to vendor maintenance schedules, or lack of integration with existing applications, especially with security applications. Slow response times can also creep up if the underlying architecture was designed for no code/low code applications, creating performance issues and frustrating slow response times for users.

Custom-built software applications perform to your desired performance level, allowing you to rigorously test performance issues before your flagship product hits the market. Custom-built products help scaling companies achieve confidence that their products will perform flawlessly.

4. Your Product Doesn’t Reflect Your Unique Brand

You’ve invested in your brand to make sure it stands out from your competitors. So why use a generic product that gives you the same look, feel, and experience as every other company that uses the COTS application? It is common for companies to have the same visual look and feel as other COTS product users, making it hard to differentiate your company from the competition.

Branding is critical for attracting users to your site and keeping them there. Your brand offers a unique experience for users that keeps them coming back. Visuals, including logos, layout, and website functionality are all intricate features that support your brand, keeping you memorable in the minds of users.

With custom-built software, you can design what is best for your customers and differentiate your company from your competitors. For instance, most website themes will require you to have a fixed placement for all social media icons, requiring a workaround for other web and mobile social media links or applications you have in place.

In short, you end up with a visual theme that closely resembles all the other companies relying on the same COTS solution, making it harder to integrate with other marketing and social media apps you have in place. Instead of having a difficult-to-manage, generic theme, you can choose a style that creates an exceptional customer experience and leaves your platform users wanting more.

5. You Need to Grow Your Team’s Expertise

As you scale your company, your team needs to grow as well. Easy-to-use COTS software was suitable for your MVP because just about anyone in your company could use it. But when you want to make a market impact with your principal product, you will need additional expertise. Whether you build your custom product or engage a third party, you will need consistent product strategy and technical knowledge to make sure your offerings are sustainable for the long term.

At some point, you might realize that you don’t have the talent you need to deploy your product strategy and grow your business. You know that you need a custom application, but you need to engage a trusted third party to help you. Scaling companies understand that there may come a time when it’s more beneficial to bring in a third party to accelerate growth than it is to keep trying to do everything alone.

Making the Switch

Your product strategy defines what you need from your software. If your COTS solution cannot support your product strategy goals, it’s time to switch to a custom-built solution.

Custom software doesn’t have to break the bank, take forever to deploy, or bring your operations to a halt. Instead, engaging a trusted third party can help define how to get your product strategy on track and serve your customers better with a custom-built flagship platform.

If you’re ready to scale, but don’t have your custom-built technology in place yet, DockYard can help. For years, we’ve helped organizations meet their user and business goals with creative solutions. Get in touch today to find out how we can help accelerate your success.


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