The Advantages & Disadvantages of Readymade Software

By Carol Finch

If you are considering implementing new software, you may have the option of buying a readymade product instead of developing your own program. It may seem logical to choose an immediate off-the-shelf solution, but this comes with advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before making a decision.

Economy of Scale Cost Benefits

Buying readymade software typically works out cheaper than paying for bespoke development. The software company spreads its costs by selling its programs to many different users, giving customers economy of scale benefits. If you outsource development to a third-party company or use internal developers to create a program, your business has to bear all the costs.

Immediate Implementation and Proven Technology

Readymade programs should be good to go as soon as you pay for them and load them onto your system. They use proven technology and will have a track record with other users, unless they are newly launched. They will have gone through research and development procedures and prelaunch testing, so you shouldn't have to waste any time dealing with bugs. If a program perfectly meets one or more of your needs, there may be little point investing time and money in developing a version of something that already exists.

Access to Support and Upgrades

You can usually check out levels of support before you buy readymade software. Many companies offer user training materials along with online help and troubleshooting services as a marketing tool during the sales process, so they have a vested interest in providing a good service. If they want to continue developing their products, they'll offer upgrades. If you use a third-party developer to create a bespoke system, they may not offer ongoing support or upgrades -- or may charge more for these services.

Lack of Focus on Requirements

Readymade software offers a general solution to all its users, even if it targets a niche market or specific function. However, there is no guarantee that it will be an exact match for your particular requirements. In some cases, a program may lack some features or incorporate ones you'll never use, and you might have integration issues with your existing systems. Bespoke development allows you to create a program that is an exact fit for your requirements and your system.

Ownership and Lack of Control

The developer retains ownership of readymade software, typically selling usage rights under license. Although a company may listen to its users and update programs to meet their needs, it does not have to do this, so you have no control over customization. This may not be an issue initially, but if your company grows or your systems change, the program may not be able to keep pace. The owner of the software can decide not to support or develop the product at any point, leaving you with a program that becomes increasingly obsolescent. This may also be an issue if the company closes down or if it is taken over. If it removes functionality that are key to your requirements, the software may no longer be fit for your purpose.

Long-term Cost Implications

Although readymade software may be cheaper to buy initially, its costs may grow over time. Licenses tend to be time-limited, so you’ll have to reinvest whenever they run out. This becomes more expensive if your company grows and you have to add more licenses for new employees. If a program doesn't meet all of your requirements, you may have to buy others to fill gaps, adding to your overall costs. Using different programs to complete a workflow process can also lead to time and productivity costs.