Build or Buy? The Million Dollar Question.

October 31, 2021

Anupriya Karmakar

As the head of a business, taking important decisions about the urgent requirements with its long-term growth is important yet challenging. There are plenty options available for organizations that you can leverage to make processes more efficient.

One of the most common and important question a leader is faced with is whether to build a customized software, get an off the shelf solution or even opt for a hybrid software.

Every business is different with its unique software requirements and that’s why while analyzing the choice between an off the shelf solution, a customized software or a hybrid one, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration before you make the decision.


Off the Shelf: If you’re on a tight budget, it is better to look around to see what other options are available. What would be fair to say is that off the shelf software tends to be cost-effective upfront. It’s true that when you consider the initial expense, one of the benefits of an off the shelf solution is that it’s likely to cost you much less than getting something built from scratch. This is because the actual cost of building and running the software is being shared by other users, hence, the owner of the software charges a lower installation fee.

Custom Solution: Agreed, opting for a custom solution could mean a large investment upfront but you own a software that is tailor-made to perfectly match your needs.

Ease of operation  

Off the shelf: An off the shelf software is a ready-to-use solution that pack in several features to help you streamline operations of your business. As these applications are designed for several different users with varied technical level making them easy to use and install.

Whether you are looking for an off the shelf product for your industry or a particular task for your business, you have the option to choose from a wide range of SaaS products in the market that are a great alternative to any custom solution. These platforms are great for those looking to build enterprise-level applications without having to code. If it helps, have a look at our President, Mark Arteaga’s blog post where he has listed some great no-code/low-code tools to get started.

One thing that you need to keep in mind that once you opt for an off-the-shelf solution, you might need your processes to adapt the way the solution works. You may also not be able to make modifications to the software.

Custom Solution: Custom software can be easily modified and expanded as per your business requirements and growth over the years. You are the owner of the software and have full control of what you want to do with it.

Time to build

Off the Shelf: If your requirement is urgent and your business processes cannot wait, an off the shelf solution is your best bet. The fact that the off the shelf solution is already developed, tested and implemented, makes it easier for you to buy and install it. You save considerable amount of time and can eventually focus on building your own software around the foundation.

Custom Solution: Building your own custom solution is a long-term commitment and we agree, it takes time to build one, however, it’s tailor-made to your precise requirements and specifications.. A custom solution allows you to leverage cutting-edge technology that further helps you stay ahead of the game in the industry and stand out from the competitors.  


Off the shelf: Most times, an off the shelf solution would not even allow customization. This would mean you are stuck with what you have and are unable to reap the benefits of the latest technology. In the event it allows customization, it would require you to get custom code written which further means you need to shell out more dollars.

Custom Solution: When you opt for a custom software solution, you have the freedom to make whatever changes you want, whenever you want. Whether it is an upgrade or changes you need to make to include new features, you can get them done by your developers at any time.

Hybrid solutions: The Middle Path

It’s common to go through the frustration of having to rebuild what you already have instead of building new features that will grow your business. That’s when a hybrid solution – one that leverages off the shelf solution and what you currently have, could help speed this up. As Hazel van der Werken, our Head of Operations and Customer Success rightly puts it, “Your software does not need to be an all singing and dancing solution but if you have something that covers the foundation of what you need, you can then build the other features as custom code.”

It boils down to your requirements

Choosing between an off the shelf platform, a custom solution or a hybrid software is a business decision that requires a careful assessment of your needs of today as well as tomorrow. A custom solution is best for you if you have the budget, time, and a business with a rapidly growing need. An off the shelf is ideal when you have a limited budget and time. A hybrid solution offers best of both worlds, where you can leverage from the foundation of an off the shelf solution and gradually customize your own software based on your future needs.

With a range of options available out there, make sure you spend enough time to define what you need and weigh all the pros and cons before deciding which software solution you want to go with.

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