Modification date: July 29, 2021

How an Upfront Investment in Custom Software Can Lead to Substantial Returns in the Long Run

How an Upfront Investment in Custom Software Can Lead to Substantial Returns in the Long Run

When many business owners hear the term “custom software,” their first instinct is that it’s an exorbitant expense and a complex undertaking with little reward. Most assume that an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all solution will do the trick and save some cash. But in reality, especially for large and rapidly growing businesses, that upfront investment in custom software will lead to a better ROI and enable more long-term growth than a DIY network of off-the-shelf solutions. Because in reality, one size doesn’t fit all.

We’re going to take a look at how an investment in custom software can ultimately be a huge money saver and growth driver and how to determine whether it’s the right choice for your organization. But first, let’s take a step back and be sure we’re all on the same page about what we’re talking about when we talk about “off-the-shelf” versus “custom” software.

Off-the-Shelf versus Custom Software: An Introduction

Every business today relies on software of some kind to run efficiently. This could include inventory trackers, customer relationship management systems, e-commerce platforms, mobile applications, and much more. But the question is, should businesses be buying or building these software platforms? And, even then, what’s the difference?

Off-the-shelf software is designed and built to be sold as a “plug-and-play” system that automates a discrete set of key business operations. The idea is that most businesses in a given industry will have the same business problems that can be solved with one particular piece of software. These applications are generally sold on a subscription basis. On the one hand, that means saving money in the short-term and the vendor will be responsible for maintenance, bug fixes and upgrades. On the other hand, there is usually little opportunity for customization, and it’s likely the software won’t quite meet all your needs.

Compare off-the-shelf software to renting a home: you’re saving money upfront by not forking over a down payment, and you’ve got a landlord to call when your roof springs a leak or you start finding bugs in your kitchen, but there’s a limit to how much you can really customize your rental home, and it may require some MacGyvering to really make it work for you and your family.

Additionally, with off-the-shelf software, as with renting, you’re not building equity, since ready-made solutions don’t belong to the companies using them. Owning your software systems can dramatically increase your business’s valuation.

Purchasing a home, on the other hand, requires more upfront investments in money and time — your down payments, closing costs, and any initial renovations, for a start — but the end result is a fully customized home that you own. It fits your needs perfectly, and ideally, you’re building equity even as you’re paying the mortgage.

So, Is Custom Software Right for Your Business?

All that said, though we’re clearly biased, custom software may not be the right choice for everyone. Let’s take a more detailed look at the pros and cons of custom software, and then we’ll work through a series of questions to help you determine whether custom software is the right choice for your business

Pros of Custom Software

  • When your software is tailor-made for your business, it will be much more effective at improving your operations and optimizing internal processes. These improvements will trickle out into external processes, improving your relationship with customers and your business’s reputation. While off-the-shelf software may meet 75 percent of your needs, custom solutions will address every nook and cranny.
  • Customized software is built with your future in mind. It meets your needs today, and it’s scalable, so it will grow with you, empowering every step of the way.
  • You have complete ownership over your custom platform, with none of the royalties, subscriptions, or hidden costs of off-the-shelf products. That means you can make any changes you want, whenever you want, or even, eventually, white label it as another revenue stream.
  • And most importantly, custom software is, completely customizable. It can be tailored to meet any internal or external needs and integrated seamlessly with other platforms your business uses. You can install the functionality, interfaces, and technology you want — and leave out anything you don’t. You can integrate specific functions, application program interfaces (APIs), third-party platforms, and technology that you want, while easily foregoing the ones you don’t need. This makes your software — and in turn, your business — more streamlined and efficient.

Cons of Custom Software

  • Like a down payment versus rent, customized software has higher upfront costs than ready-made solutions. So, if you’re a small company or a bootstrapped startup with fairly simple technology needs, the lower barrier of entry may make off-the-shelf software more accessible. Just remember that you’ll be paying those third-party subscription fees as long as you’re using the platform, and if you use it long enough those fees will eventually outstrip the upfront costs of a custom solution. Be sure you’re ready to make the long-term investment when the time is right.
  • While off-the-shelf software can be implemented fairly quickly, custom software can take up to a year to develop and launch. Businesses that invest in custom software will also need to dedicate significant time to working with their software development partners to ideate and iterate on the product. Of course, this time-to-launch can be mitigated with proper planning, and like the monetary investment, the investment in time will pay off in the end.
  • It’s not always easy to choose the right vendor for custom software development. There are countless vendors out there competing for your business, and you have to sift through them to find a partner who is willing to understand your business and its needs — and work with you to create the right solution for your organization. You and your vendor will both need to be dedicated to managing the project efficiently and continuously assessing progress versus goals. Only by partnering with the right vendor for your business can you avoid becoming one of too many failed software development projects. (Of course, there’s always the option to build your software in-house, but the benefits of outsourcing will almost always outweigh the attraction of DIY.)
  • Finally, it’s not always easy to determine the cost of a custom software project on the outset. There may be surprises that lead to increased costs and protracted timelines. Careful planning and dedication to a minimum viable product can mitigate these risks, but there will always be some level of uncertainty.

4 Questions to Determine Whether Custom Software Is Right for Your Organization

Now that you understand the pros and cons, ask yourself these four questions to determine whether custom software is right for you:

  1. Does our budget allow for a sizeable investment in digital transformation?
  2. How will this investment help my business? What would happen if we didn’t implement a custom solution, this year or five years from now?
  3. Is there an off-the-shelf platform that can meet my business’s needs?
  4. Will a custom solution be more successful and/or cost-effective in the long-run? A vendor works toward a specific scope, but with no commitment to a specific budget.

Custom software may truly be a waste of time and resources if you’re simply reinventing the wheel. For some of your business processes, there may be a perfectly suited off-the-shelf solution. Take QuickBooks, for example. To recreate QuickBooks would take a decade and millions of dollars if not hundreds of millions. But for generic tasks like accounting — even complex accounting — QuickBooks is a perfect solution. So why invest in recreating something that already meets your needs?

That said, there may be other business operations that QuickBooks can’t handle — such as complex billing needs. In cases like this, it may be practical to build a custom solution that integrates with QuickBooks to fill in the gaps.

Ultimately, your decision will come down to the results of your cost/benefit analysis. Will your investment pay off in a reasonable amount of time? And what (if any) consequences would you incur by skipping this investment? After all, in some cases, failing to invest in new technologies may actually shorten the life of your business.

If the economy of scale just isn’t there, or if your company is fairly small and planning to stay that way, a big upfront investment may not be feasible, making an off-the-shelf solution the right choice.

But if carefully considering these four questions leads you to the conclusion that custom software is a smart choice for your business, you can rest assured the investment will pay off exponentially in the long run.

Publication date: January 6, 2020

Explore More Resources:

What our customers say about us

Syberry has provided satisfactory services thus far, and they are very responsive to any issues that arise. The team also possesses strong communication skills. They delivered a functional piece of software at a reasonable price, and they've managed the project very well.

Richard Harkness


Elk Grove, CA

How we help ADEPT Driver Company

We developed a web-based driving simulator for teens and another for adults. The products run on Chromebooks, and the team added features that enable them to measure a driver's ability to avoid a crash.

Technologies used

I don't think you could find a better company to manage and build your project. I get so many compliments on my application, and it has a lot of unique and complex development.

Todd Surber


Charleston, South Carolina

How we help PIXRIT Company

A photographer approached us to build a web-based software platform that combines the fastest social media manager with state-of-the-art galleries and provides the ultimate tool for photographers to upload, store, back up, and share their photos and manage their SMM activities.

Technologies used

The user-friendly software hasn’t encountered any issues or bugs in more than three years. It’s high quality has helped grow the clientele. Straightforward and consistent in communication, Syberry met every deadline and ensured a hassle-free development process.

Vince Hughes

Owner, Steel Estimating Solutions

Knoxville, TN

How we help Steel Estimating Solutions Company

Our client was inspired to create a product that helps steel erection companies perform faster, more efficient estimations and bids. We developed original proprietary software from the initial concept.

Technologies used

The new platform received positive feedback and performs better than its predecessor. Syberry communicated the project’s progress to their partners well by breaking down their steps and utilizing a management system. Most importantly, they delivered world-class service for a cost-efficient price.

Bill Fahy

Owner, FDI Creative Services

Houston, TX

How we help FDI Creative Services Company

Following strict regulations and requirements, we used AWS to develop a custom e-commerce web app that includes shipping integration. Since the site’s launch, the team has continued to make updates.

Technologies used

The application was delivered on time and within budget. Syberry explained their process thoroughly and accommodated to scope changes effortlessly. Their stellar project management, highly responsive communication, and proactive attitude set them apart.

Ricardo Casas

CEO, Fahrenheit Marketing

Austin, TX

How we help Fahrenheit Marketing Company

We developed a large, complex .NET application with various third-party integrations. The team built the software from scratch based on existing wireframes.

Technologies used

The end solution exceeded the client’s expectations. Syberry delivered high-quality products on time and at outstanding value. They provided frequent updates and repeatedly sought feedback at each stage. Customers can expect a highly experienced team that easily translates concepts into solutions.

Rudy Milkovic

Executive Director, Velicom

Austin, TX

How we help Velicom Company

Our team built video streaming software as a web and desktop app for a third-party client. We completed end-to-end development—from scoping to feedback cycles to QA—using PHP and Wowza Streaming Engine.

Technologies used

Syberry has successfully improved the frontend performance of the platform and continues to make thoughtful suggestions for enhancements. They have proven to be communicative and reliable, mitigating the common concerns of outsourced teams. Syberry remains mindful of business goals and client needs.

Cory Kowal

VP of Products, THG Energy Solutions

Tulsa, OK

How we help THG Energy Solutions Company

Taking over for another vendor, we served as the ongoing software engineering partner for an energy company’s cloud-based platform. The company provided scoping, development, testing, and deployment services.

Technologies used

The added team members sufficiently fulfilled the needs of the project. The product was successfully launched and has received positive feedback. Syberry continues to be a supportive partner in development. They provide an impressive team and their expertise fosters a smooth collaboration.

Chris Cox

CTO, MyMelo

Louisville, Kentucky

How we help MyMelo Company

We provided staff augmentation resources for a development project. The team contributed engineers to follow an established roadmap to perform updates and add features.

Technologies used

Syberry delivered a solid website that has become a database of close to 40 organizations. The team worked quickly and efficiently to get the website up and running, and they continue to invest their time into the project. Additionally, they have been a communicative partner.

David Snyder

Product Director, Covid Resource Network

West Orange, New Jersey

How we help Covid Resource Network Company

The company developed a website that serves as a database where organizations can find and donate to other organizations. Currently, the team is working on enhancing the website and fixing bugs.

Technologies used

When the system is up and running, it will save time for the internal team. Syberry was a patient partner, and they performed well throughout the collaboration.

Joyce Cubio

VP of Operations, Ernie's Mobile Home Transport

Yuba, California

How we help Ernie's Mobile Home Transport Company

The team built an information hub for a mobile home transport and permit service. After discussing the existing system and processes, we delivered a new structure for forms and data.

Technologies used

All deliverables have exceeded expectations and function properly once launched. The Syberry team is skilled in juggling multiple projects, and provide strong expertise in software development. Their dedication to the project has fostered continual success in the engagement.

John Fox

Executive VP, Fox Business Automation Solutions

Lakeland, Florida

How we help Fox Business Automation Solutions Company

Brought on as a third party, we supplied ongoing development services. The team work on multiple projects and deliver according to predetermined design specifications.

Technologies used

Contact us to learn more about how Syberry can help your business achieve its every goal!

0 / 2500

Sign a mutual NDA before a conversation.

When to sign an NDA?

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legal contract between parties, such as the software developer (or a software development firm) and yourself, outlining information to be shared and requiring that information be kept confidential.
Submit loading...

Was this page helpful?