Customized Web App vs Off-the-shelf - Web Imp

Customized Web App vs Off-the-shelf

Khairul Khairul • September 4, 2015
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Customized Web app or Off-the-shelf system? Many faced this problem and do not know how to solve.

Be it your Point-Of-Sale system, Customer relationship management (CRM) system or warehousing system, businesses nowadays are more and more reliant on technology to make sure each function gets work done more efficiently and effectively.

Hence, having a customized web app that suit your business needs to set a strong foundation for the company’s growth and most of the time, helps to differentiate you from your competitors in terms of process efficiency and cost savings.

When deciding on what kind of web app, the first and most common question asked is: To build or to buy?

To build would be to design a customized web app that fit and enhance your current work processes.

To buy would be to purchase a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution which has been designed to suit most organizations.

In order for you to decide which to go for, you would first have to consider the pros and cons of both options and determine what suits your organization’s need the most.

Why are customized web app is worth investing?

Tailored to suit your business needs

Depending on the size and workflow, every organization operates differently. Hence, it would be unlikely for an off-the-shelf solution to suit each and every organization in different industry.

Imagine what you would need for a CRM system in the business-to-business (B2C) context would be very different from a business-to-consumer (B2B) one.

If your company has specialized needs, customized web app would be a better option to meet them.

It would not be wise to change your workflow, especially if it is one that gives you an edge over your competitors, to suit the system.

As a bonus, well-tailored web app means quicker acceptance of the web app as it would be easier for employees to adapt as they are working on the workflow they are already familiar with.


Some businesses started off with COTS, considering the short-term benefits that it was fast to deploy and cheap.

Unfortunately, the rigidness of the system led to many manual adaptation and workarounds in their day-to-day operations which compromised complicated processes and resulted in frustration and inefficiency.

A customized web app would not only eliminate all these issues but also gives you the flexibility to scale and integrate between different functions.  Say you deployed a different web app for your Point-of-sale system and your CRM system.

You would probably face integration problems if the 2 software is not able to communicate effectively to one another.

Having a fully integrated and seamless system that supports your business needs is instrumental for business to scale up and grow.

Do not put yourself in a situation where you are forced to switch to tailored web app in order to scale effectively.

Cost savings

Many customized web app are modular and you have the option to start with the minimum necessary requirements and add-on additional features or functions when required.

This allows you to pay for what you need now and not any other redundant functions which you will not be using.

Increased productivity and shorter reaction time to market

A comprehensively customized web app enables you to yield major efficiency gains.

A well-tailored web app can enable teams in different departments to work smarter and faster. Redundancy can be eliminated and precious office hours can be used to achieve higher value tasks.

For example, data of items picked from the warehouse can be sent to accounts department for invoicing seamlessly, reducing the need to re-enter the data and eliminate human errors.

The high level of flexibility of a customized web app allows your company to change as the industry or market changes.

Being in the turbulent business environment with technology as the catalyst of change, constant evolvement is required for a company to stay competitive and close to the market.

With shorter reaction, your company would be less prone to danger of being obsolete in the market.

When to consider commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions?

Tight budget

As much as a business owner would like to have the system that suits perfectly to their business, he might be limited by his budget.

As the costs associated with having a tailored web app is generally greater than getting a COTS, it might make more sense for companies with a smaller budget to consider this option.

Suitable COTS is readily available

Assuming if you have a simple process that is common to the industry standards, there might be a chance where you are able to find a suitable COTS which can meet most of your requirements.

The development work has already been done and the solution has probably been tested by many companies.

Bugs have been removed and features have been enhanced. Unlike customized web app, COTS would not allow you to design your own user interface as they usually have prefixed standard designs.

Hence, you would have to carefully go through a list of vendors in order to find the most suitable system in terms of budget, features and user interface.

Lack of time

One of the key primary drawbacks to customized solutions is the longer development time to define and develop as compared to the one-size-fits-all COTS.

It requires constant and close attention from the end users to carefully define the user requirements. Companies which plan to take the market by speed or there is a tight deadline to meet might want to consider COTS as they are generally quick to deploy.

However, it is important to keep in mind that web app lies a key foundation for today’s business success and the choice of the web app should be based on long-term considerations rather than short-term needs.

To sum it up, one should understand the importance of a web app to a business’s growth.

Several points of consideration should always be kept in mind when making the decision of whether to build or buy: Budget, Mid to Long Term Plans, Compatibility.

Remember, IT system is meant to support the business and not the other way round.

Despite the higher initial costs, customized IT system are often deemed to be well worth of the resources spent in the long run in terms of efficiency, scalability and responsiveness to the market.

What should a web app have? Find out by watching our video here!

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