Computer Accounting Software: Off-the-Shelf vs. Custom Software

One of the fundamental software choices you’ll have to make as a business owner choosing accounting software is between off-the-shelf vs. custom software.


Simply put, off-the-shelf software is any software that’s already developed and distributed commercially. Custom software is when you hire a software developer to write a software program specifically for your company’s accounting needs.


The good news here is that, for most business owners out there, the sensible choice is off-the-shelf software.


Even if you have a nephew who does nothing but write code, most business owners recognize the inherent danger of having to rely on any single individual to troubleshoot issues. Nevertheless, for larger and more complex businesses with convoluted accounting needs, custom software solutions may make more sense.


“Custom software” and “customized software” can be misleading terms depending on the context in which they’re used. Often times, these are marketing phrases used to sell off-the-shelf software with the understanding that it’s not actually a custom software program written for an individual customer.


It IS a fair point that today’s software systems have greater versatility built into their platforms and applications so that there’s a huge amount of personalization that can be done when setting up your off-the-shelf software.


At the same time, there is an emerging space for hybrid custom software in which a company buys off-the-shelf platform software that is then truly customized by a lead accountant with software programming skills.


You can find more information about the proliferation of “customizable software” in our write-up for Computer Accounting Software: Products vs. Services.


Again, there’s no expert wisdom or insider information here. We’re just trying to help introduce business owners to various terms and concepts that they’ll likely run into.


Because that’s what we do here at Best Computer Accounting.