Custom Software vs Off-the-Shelf: Nothing worth having comes quickly

4 min readAug 19, 2023
Photo by Hack Capital on Unsplash

There’s a question we get asked all the time: “Should we buy an off-the-shelf software or invest in a custom-made solution?”

And — as an agency renowned for developing custom software — you may be surprised we don’t always have one go-to answer. Why? Because the answer is not always straightforward and the journey to get to the answer is as unique as the business asking for it. It boils down to specific business needs, scale and the longer-term vision.

That being said, the benefits of custom vs the compromises of off-the-shelf are what we’ll focus on today. The reality is that you’re likely to already have off-the-shelf tools within your business that a custom solution could easily integrate with to fill the gaps. (See the “Integration” section for more on this.)

Scalability 📈

Custom Software

One of the advantages of custom software is its inherent ability to scale with your business. As you grow, expand or evolve over time — so does your custom software. With the right partner by your side, it can adapt seamlessly to address new requirements. Custom software has to be developed with a foresight for business growth, to ensure that new features or adjustments can be made without the need for complete overhauls.


Generic software by contrast, while immediately available and sometimes more cost-effective initially, can struggle to grow as gracefully with your company. As your business evolves, it might find itself outgrowing these solutions or that your needs don’t match that of your software provider, leading to costly switches or workarounds in the future.

Integration 🔌

Custom Software:

Custom software can be designed to integrate flawlessly with existing systems, applications or digital platforms you’re already using. And if briefed in, can do that from day dot. Whether it’s linking with legacy systems or newer cloud solutions, custom software can ensure a cohesive tech environment.


Whilst many pre-built software offer dozens of integrations for mainstream platforms serving other purposes, they won’t offer integrations for everything — and it’s guaranteed that includes something you’re using. As a result, integration issues can arise, leading to incompatibilities, inefficiencies, or the need for third-party middleware solutions. (Some of which we’ve had to write for customers).

Customisation 🧑‍🎨

Custom Software:

Tailored to the unique requirements of your business and brief, custom software ensures that every feature, function and interface you require is included within the scope to deliver what your company truly needs. There’s no excess baggage, missing elements or compromise. Every module, function and tool is crafted to serve a specific purpose, allowing for optimal efficiency and productivity.


With generic solutions, what you see is what you get and they are built to cater to a broad audience. Why’s that a problem, there’s safety in numbers right? Not always: those off-the-shelf solutions might not always have the niche functionalities your business requires. This can lead to workarounds or unused features that clutter the software experience.

Think “square-peg-round-hole”.

The Bottom Line 👩‍⚖️

Off-the-shelf software offers one thing custom cannot: immediacy. You’ll find though that speed compromises by catering to general needs. At Ascend, we work and build relationships with businesses aiming for long-term growth, seamless integrations and precise solutions that tick every box you come to us with.

Yes. Custom software by contrast is an investment, no doubt about it. In our minds though, it’s one that pays dividends in operational efficiency, adaptability and alignment with your goals and needs.

When contemplating between custom and generic, we recommend you thoroughly evaluate your current needs against future aspirations. In an age where agility and personalisation reign supreme, tailored software solutions on balance often emerge as the frontrunners in the race towards digital excellence.

Time to Ascend 🚀

Making the right software choice is pivotal for the success of any modern business. Should you find yourself leaning towards custom solutions, or struggling to decide whether it’s right for you, the team at Ascend is here to assist. As proven architects of custom digital solutions, we are dedicated to helping businesses rise to their highest potential and seeing the benefit.

Reach out to Ascend today and let’s create a digital roadmap tailored exclusively for your business needs. Elevate your operations and Ascend to greatness.

Rise to it.




We're Ascend - a digital transformation agency - and in just a few short years we have defied expectations and are emerging as a true leader in our sector.