Disadvantages of off-the-shelf software

Off-the-shelf software is an option many businesses and companies choose. For reasons such as speed of implementation, initial cost-effectiveness, and the lack of need for technical expertise, off-the-shelf software can appear to be the best option for many people. 

However, there are quite a few disadvantages of off-the-shelf software that are important to discuss. Not so that we may dismiss the option entirely, there are, of course, advantages that remain and the option may be what works for certain businesses at certain times. To get a full picture and understand the full context behind off-the-shelf software before you make your own purchase, however, understanding both sides of the equation is important. 

Let’s discuss these disadvantages and potential pitfalls individually. But first…

What is off-the-shelf software?

Off-the-shelf software is any software that you can buy finished and ready to go. It is software that has been designed with many different users in mind and is available to a wide audience. The software intends to be accessible and useful for as many people as possible.

There are off-the-shelf options in every area of software, including CRMs, email services, operating systems, antivirus programmes, task managers, and so on. The biggest name in off-the-shelf software is probably Microsoft Office, with its pre-packaged options ready to be purchased, installed, and used by a diverse audience. 

Off-the-shelf software is in comparison to bespoke software, which is designed and created specifically by a software development company for a certain client and their users. 



To get an understanding of the reality of off-the-shelf software, it is critical to look at its disadvantages. To make the right business decision for your company, you need to be as informed as possible. 

The disadvantages of this software option are as follows:

Long-term costs

While pre-packaged software options may initially seem more cost-effective, they do in fact incur more costs as time progresses. Update costs, the cost of adding new user bases, and subscription models allow financial expenses to rack up over time. While the initial cost of a bespoke software experience can be higher than that of a “one-time” off-the-shelf purchase, the pre-packaged version can end up more expensive in the long run. This is something many buyers wouldn’t expect. 


Complex and unfocused to client 

As pre-packaged software options are designed in such a way as to serve a large audience, this means they can be complex and have far more features than we may need. Off-the-shelf options are unfocused to specific clients as they intend to serve the general public. Bespoke software services, on the other hand, are completely focused and tailored to specific clients and their customers. This provides a better quality service with high levels of user satisfaction. 


Impossible to tailor or change 

Out-of-the-box software packages typically cannot be changed or tailored by the purchaser. If they can, it is usually a difficult process. This means that with this software, you get what you get. There is no opportunity to make it your own, to add your own twist, or to get specific features you need. It is a much more general experience that won’t ever feel brand or company-specific. 


No scalability 

Companies scale, change and grow over time, as they should. Bespoke software developed and maintained by a software development company allows such scalability to be factored into the software. Off-the-shelf purchases do not. There is no scalability with packaged software and so you may need to purchase another option further down the line, again adding to long-term costs and complicating implementation. 

Difficult integration 

You might think that packaged software would be the easiest to integrate. While it may be quick to set up and launch, it can be difficult to integrate the software into your business and daily operations as you have no control over how it works or what it does; it’s like shoving a square peg in a round hole. Sometimes clients end up changing their operations to fit the software, rather than the other way around. 


Lack of support

With off-the-shelf software packages, there are some elements of customer support, depending on the product and the company behind it. You may have troubleshooting options, a helpline, and some general help and support available to all customers. However, often this support is withdrawn after time or is ineffective. This is in direct comparison to the support available from development teams in bespoke software creation. In this scenario, you can obtain personalised and consistent information from an expert team. That is quite the game-changer. 


Lack of control 

Potentially the biggest disadvantage of off-the-shelf software is that as a company you have a complete lack of control over the software. How it is built, what features it has, when it updates, how it updates, what security levels it has, what support you will get, how long it will be around, and so on and so forth. All of these things are completely out of your control. Which never feels good and isn’t conducive to the best business practice possible.

We want to be in control of our company’s software. We want software that grows with us and behaves how we want it to. We don’t want something everyone else has, we want something wonderfully tailored to our needs. That is why off-the-shelf software might not be the easy and efficient purchase you might think it to be. If these disadvantages speak to you and your situation, it might be time to explore bespoke software options. 

Connect with software experts


If you are fed up with off-the-shelf software options and want to opt for something specially tailored and curated instead, talk to us at 6B. 


We are an expert software development company with an extensive bespoke software development CV. We can create software that works exactly how you want it to, all the while supporting you throughout the process and after the job is done. 


We believe in special software experiences and transformative digital projects. 


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