A quick note to the reader: We’ve included a useful tool at the end of this blog that will help you compare notes with other business leaders, and understand if you’re in “SaaS Hell

The trap of "off the shelf" and putting the software before the solution.

The time has come to design the software for your business. The first thing that might come to your mind is to go for an “off-the-shelf” solution from a SaaS subscription. It’s relatively quick and more often than not, affordable. 

Choosing a SaaS subscription might not be the best move for you and your business, however. A one-size-fits-all solution could end up costing more time, money, and energy than having custom built software.

 Imagine you’re shopping for a new suit. You’re choices are an off-the-rack suit or going to a shop and getting fitted for a bespoke suit. With an off-the-rack option, while it’s not as expensive, there’s no guarantee that the suit will fit properly, or be flattering. However, we’re guessing you have an off the shelf jacket that fits reasonably, and works for most things. What if there were a specific use for this jacket? Let’s say, you have to run in it, it has to take some abuse, but still look flattering at the end of the day. This is a very specific, but it’s a specific because its use in this way makes a meaningful impact on job performance. At least, to the members of the United States Secret Service it matters. The bespoke suit, in this particular use, is guaranteed to fit and work perfectly, and give you a sense of confidence and agility. The same is equally true with software, especially as your business begins to understand its unique uses and approaches. The Secret Service understands why agents on the frontline don’t wear off the shelf suits, and business leaders understand why their business can benefit from having a different choice than “off the shelf”.

Choosing a custom software over an SaaS is choosing the “bespoke solution” to your business needs, instead of a solution that might fit in some areas but not in others.

 We’ve put together five honest and practical reasons why your business should consider custom software as opposed to off the shelf SaaS offerings. See if you agree:

1. Degree of Customization

It’s not uncommon for a business to pick an off the shelf option just to realize six months down the road that it doesn’t actually fit their needs. Unlike the one-size-fits-all solution of a SaaS subscription, a custom built software is made for your business, and yours alone. 

Choosing a tailored option also helps avoid technical debt, because your business won’t have to backtrack to fix software that didn’t meet your needs.

2. Overall Costs

While an off-the-shelf option may be less expensive upfront, licensing that software may have hidden costs if it’s necessary to purchase additional software in order for it to work efficiently. 

With a custom software, the development supports your business, and current capabilities are taken into consideration at the beginning, which helps save time and money. It is built to work for your company, as opposed to the other way around. 

Additionally, having a custom software provides an added asset to the company. SaaS license fees appear as additional costs or operational expenses. Custom software, however, adds value to the business in the event that a business wishes to sell its assets.

3. Easier to Scale

Your needs grow as your business grows, and so should your software. Purchasing an off-the-shelf solution may not be able to grow and evolve as your business needs change. Small businesses may find the off-the-shelf solution perfect for them during the startup phase of their business cycle.

While a custom software will require more time for development and investment at the start, ultimately it will save time and money down the road by avoiding costly upgrades as your business grows.

Custom software provides a seamless customer experience. Oftentimes, with an SaaS solution, software is patchworked together to cover all the needs of a business. This can lead to a disconnect with the brand voice, and a less-than-desirable customer experience. 

5. Integration with Existing Company Software

If your business already has existing software, the last thing you want (or need) is to have a new software be incompatible with your own. With a custom software solution, it’s easier to integrate. With an off-the-shelf solution, however,  it’s unlikely that it will integrate without error. Which, in turn, causes more time and money to be spent on the software. Choosing a custom software solution avoids the headache of integration issues. 

Future Value: Independence from a Developer

Imagine your business chose the off-the-shelf solution. A year later, that software company goes under or stops any updates, and you’re left with an outdated software that no longer fits your needs. Suddenly you’re out thousands of dollars, and have to start over again in a short period of time. 

Now, that may be an “out there” scenario, but it’s a possibility. With a custom software, you have it for as long as you like and use it the way you need. This does come with maintenance costs, but by and large, it provides the benefits that outweigh the cost. 

Custom software is entirely tailor-made, flexible and scalable to your business. They provide you with needed security, fulfill unique requirements, and enable existing integrations. They are pricey, though, so businesses need to budget for future upgrades concerning resource costs and investment of time.

Want to see where you stand with your SaaS offerings?

We've created a quick survey to help you understand the weight of your SaaS products