Software: buy or build. Advantages and disadvantages of off-the-shelf software

Many companies face the challenge of building vs buying the software. Sometimes, building software seems like an easy choice. However in ProcessMate, we advocate to carefully weigh all advantages and pitfalls, that we outline below, before investing.


Simply put, off-the-shelf software allows to reuse the software developed by other people and hence, share development and maintenance costs with other clients.

  • Off-the-shelf software is there and one does not have to wait until it’s developed. You can buy it and use it, in most cases, immediately.
  • Somebody has done the effort of developing it, testing it, etc, so clients should not worry about finding developers, testers, etc. More so, there typically is a roadmap of functions that customers can make use of (as part of the paid upgrade or automated one included into the license)
  • There is typically a support contract attached or it is included into license costs, hence, customers should not worry about finding IT support personnel. When, otherwise, the software is built in-house, the developers become irreplaceable employees, so the flexibility is lost.
  • Off-the-shelf software is typically well-documented, is certified towards industry standards and privacy regulations
  • ProcessMate is a customer portal and business process management cloud software that offers a simple and yet powerful customer portals that can be branded and configured to accept specific types of requests and trouble tickets, check on status and receive notifications by you and your customers. View more at


    It is also worth mentioning disadvantages, too:

  • Customers are locked into a particular software, and cannot in many cases get features specific to their business. Customization sometimes is an option but it comes with its own disadvantages (cost and lost of standard maintenance/upgradability in some cases)
  • The relations with another company should be established, hence there are solvency risks (i.e. what if suppliers goes bankrupt or stops supporting the system?)
  • Support/maintenance or license can become a financial drain
  • Cloud or hosted software

    Additionally, we suggest to look at the Cloud (hosted) software first, as it relieves companies from having to take care of the infrastructure, such as servers, operational systems, application servers and databases. Cloud software typically have a simple per user per month subscription which scales up and down well with the size of your business. There is also typically no commitment in terms of initial license and infrastructure costs.

    Develop in-house or outsource

    If you chose to develop software instead of using off-the-shelf products, the next decision is to whether develop it in-house or outsource the development. The answer is not straightforward and depends on a number of factors, such as whether you thinks you will be OK in loosing the support once the freelancers leave (who will fix bugs, develop it further or simply make sure it’s up and running?). Another important question to ask yourself is whether you can commit to have developers in your staff, which comes both to the question of funding as well as managing those people, as software development process is notoriously unpredictable and is not very transparent.


    All in all, unless you run a software company, off-the-shelf product typically wins. We suggest to look at what’s there in the market and try to use it with minimal customization. The software becomes more and more powerful, flexible and user-friendlier and nowadays it is easier than ever to find software to your needs.

    However, should you be looking for very specific set of functions, and are happy to commit and invest sufficient funds, then you should definitely look at the option of developing the software in house.

    Looking for a process management and/or customer portal solution?

    If you look for a process management solution for your staff to track your recurring on frequent processes and tasks – ProcessMate can help. We run and build a hosted (cloud) software that is easy to configure and use.

    ProcessMate also has the customer portal module which allows your customers to submit their orders or requests and support tickets, while driving your staff to implement the necessary steps of the process to fulfill this customer request. What previously companies had to invest significant time and budget to build, is now available immediately to you and is a cost-efficient powerful customer ordering and self-care solution.

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