Understanding the Hidden Risks and Costs of Off-the-Shelf Software

In our previous blogs, we have discussed the merits and pitfalls of choosing an off-the-shelf software solutions vs custom software development. In it, we defined what the options are and how to spot the tell-tale signs that off-the-shelf just won’t fit your business. Read the blog, here. 

In our new blog, we focus on two aspects of this framework that are often overlooked. These are understanding the true, and often hidden, costs and risks associated with off-the-shelf software solutions. 


As you progress through the steps of our framework for selecting off-the-shelf software, it’s essential to dig deeper into the costs involved. Relying solely on the initial price can be a costly mistake, as additional requirements may emerge after implementation. To make an informed decision, consider the following: 

Key Features and Paywalls: While off-the-shelf solutions provide a baseline of standard features at an affordable cost, it’s important to determine if the features you require are included or if they come with an additional cost. Evaluate the true cost of the product based on your specific must-have features. 

Integration Features: Integration capabilities are often hidden behind paywalls. Take into account the costs associated with accessing these essential features that ensure seamless operation with your existing systems. 

Future Considerations: Consider the market maturity of the product and the reputation of the vendor. Anticipate whether key features could potentially be moved behind paywalls in the future, impacting your ongoing costs. Unforeseen expenses arising from changes in the vendor’s business model can be a significant burden. 

Understanding the Risks Associated with Off-the-Shelf Software Solutions: 

Custom Software Development

Once you have assessed the true costs of an off-the-shelf solution, it’s crucial to evaluate the associated risks that may not be immediately apparent. Be mindful of the following: 

Business Agility: Business requirements evolve over time. If your organization needs to stay agile and adapt quickly, custom software development may offer greater flexibility compared to off-the-shelf solutions that may struggle to accommodate future changes. 

Scalability Challenges: Consider the scalability of the off-the-shelf solution. As your business grows, the solution may become cost-prohibitive due to increased team size or usage. Ensure the chosen software can effectively scale with your organization. 

Pricing Volatility: Off-the-shelf solutions are subject to pricing changes determined by the vendor. Be prepared for potential alterations in pricing structures or the introduction of new paywalls that can impact your budget and access to critical features. 

Limited Control and Differentiation: When opting for an off-the-shelf solution, your organization becomes one among many customers. This lack of influence over the product’s direction and differentiation from competitors can limit your ability to align the software with your unique business processes. 

Vendor Lock-In: Switching software solutions later can be challenging and costly. Factors such as training, migration, and up-front charges make reversing your decision difficult, even if you encounter significant difficulties with the product. Carefully consider the long-term implications of committing to a particular solution. 


How can we help?

There are many considerations in choosing between off-the-shelf solutions and custom software development. However, understanding the hidden costs and risks, is one of the biggest. If you are worried that you haven’t considered all eventualities, why not talk to one of our team?

ActionPoint’s team of software experts have vast experience in walking through the software decision-making process. We would be more than happy to answer any and all questions, and help you decide what options is best for your business.

Click here to talk to us about your next project.