Sergej is the CEO of Amasty, one of the leading Magento extension vendors building their products and services around customers’ needs.
Before e-commerce platforms, technology like this was only affordable for large-scale companies with deep budgets for IT. Now, every store with a budget of a few thousand dollars can successfully open a fully functional online store. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Yes, until you have the challenge of growing the platform’s functionality and developing it in response to increasing business needs. So, one day you are faced with a choice: purchasing an off-the-shelf solution or outsourcing the development. I tend to believe that the answer to this question is always on a case-to-case basis.
What To Consider When Making Your Choice
Any choice is a risk. In a previous article, I shared some widely used practices for approaching risk management. The risks that arise from choosing software relate to the concept of complexity, which refers to events that you can predict but are hard to manage because of the large number of interactions. The best way to deal with complexity, as clichéd as it might sound, is to simplify.
So, let’s simplify things down to the pros and cons of each of the options—this is key for assessing risk.
There are advantages to purchasing software that’s already built. They include:
• Rapid implementation: Good quality software, delivered quickly and reliably.
• No additional equipment: Installation is done on the platform, and you can configure the settings to your liking.
• Comparatively low price with reduced upfront costs: You can start using the product immediately after purchasing, without spending more money.
• Flexible partnership conditions: Many software come with special offers and support services.
As for the cons:
• Limitations of product layout: Customization options are very limited, and none or very little variety is possible.
• Costly support and maintenance: There are additional fees for regular maintenance and technical assistance.
• Long-term relationship unlikely: Long-term relationships with a vendor are hard to establish and are more of an exception than a rule.
Custom Software Development
Here are the pros of outsourcing custom software.
• Thoughtful process: The project is designed based on your unique business requirements.
• Customized layouts: There are no limitations on customization options, so a lot of variety is possible.
• Complete control: As a stakeholder of the project, you always have the last word.
• Support costs included: Necessary support is provided at all stages of the project.
• Long-term relationship likely: This is because project delivery lasts over a much longer period and includes post-production support.
• Real-time modification and flexibility: Development conditions are flexible enough to meet all your requirements regarding the final result.
However, there are also cons to this approach.
• Costly: Developing custom software from scratch is much more expensive than buying an off-the-shelf one.
• Time-consuming: The time-to-market will take much longer than buying a ready-made solution.
• Additional resources: You’ll need the additional investment of time to finalize the project.
A Hybrid Solution
If you can’t find a ready-made option that meets all your business’ requirements and are not willing to pay a large sum for outsourced development, consider at least two approaches.
• Software-based: Say you have and use off-the-shelf software, but it doesn’t fully meet your growing business’ needs. To make it fully comply with the new requirements, you can outsource its customization. When comparing this approach to developing the software from scratch, you tend to spend a lot less time and money, especially if you bought this solution from the same vendor that provides customization services.
• Company-based: If you have no ready-made solution, to save money on custom software development, you can contact a company that offers both off-the-shelf solutions and custom development. With a wide variety of extensions available, they can build a complete solution from ready-made and modified pieces of code while saving you time and money.
Keeping in mind that your business is unique, take into account that you will inevitably have to solve the dilemma of functionality or speed.
Functionality: For special features, it may be worth outsourcing rather than creating your own team with non-core expertise for your company. But be prepared to spend more time and money than originally anticipated.
Speed: You can buy ready-made products, but be prepared for limitations. This can be a good reason to figure out exactly what you’re looking for first and establish a clear vision. Then, consider whether a hybrid solution can give you the best of both worlds.