The growth of any organisation brings with it increasingly complex data management needs. Some organisations choose to develop custom software in-house to handle their data management needs. Other organisations choose to employ ready-made or commercial off-the-shelf software instead. Ready-made software offers organisations several key advantages, which makes it an attractive alternative, but can also present severe disadvantages.
Ready-made software can provide a cost saving advantage. The software company already assumed the costs of the software development. This frees the purchasing organisation from the fiscal investment of software development, as well as the lost man-hours involved with custom application development. The man hours not spent on software development instead go toward other organizational goals.
In-house software development takes time. The program must go through a design phase to ensure that all the necessary features and functions make it into the final product before development, let alone implementation, even begins. Installation and implementation of ready-made software typically takes a fraction of the time involved with software development, as the software comes ready to install out of the box.
Software companies typically provide several types of support for ready-made software. The software provider handles development of security patches and updates to keep the software stable. Depending on the software and the company, software providers will often provide on-site training and technical support during implementation, as well as more limited on and off-site technical support after implementation.
One key advantage of ready-made software for many companies is the track record. Existing software implemented successfully at other organisations provides a level of assurance about the quality of the software. In some cases, software companies will put potentials customers in touch with existing customers. This allows an organisation to ask relevant questions about the functionality of the software from experienced users.
Some organisations settle for ready-made software that only partially meets their needs. They choose packages that may force them to alter their existing processes to accommodate the limits of the software. This often generates losses in efficiency and productivity. In some cases, an additional software purchase becomes necessary to fill the gap, limiting the cost savings of ready-made software.
Incompatibility with existing programs in an organisation's system can make ready-made software a complete waste of money. Even if a software company claims a given piece of software will work with specific other pieces of software, it often plays out differently in practice. This proves especially problematic when the ready-made software conflicts with legacy software that must remain in the system.
Some software companies phase out updates and support for old versions of software when they develop new versions. The development of new versions of ready-made software often forces organisations into a painful choice. The organisation must upgrade to the new version or deal with an unsupported, obsolete version of the software.
- Maryland Department of Information Technology: Build Versus Buy Decision
- Twin Cities Business; Build vs. Buy; Jamie Swedberg; 2006
- Autotestcon; Pros and Cons of Using COTS Products; John R. Blanchette Sr.; 2005