05 Jun 2024
6 min read

Why invest in custom digital product development?



Marketing Manager

No matter what industry you’re in, there are often at least a handful of software and digital product solutions out there tailored to you and your requirements. But the changing expectations of your customer and the specific needs of your organisation will often necessitate custom solutions.

In this blog post, we’ll look at:

  • How custom digital product development works vs purchasing an “off-the-shelf” solution
  • The main benefits of investing in custom digital product development
  • Some key considerations around custom digital product development
  • The best way to go about investing in custom digital product development

Custom vs off-the-shelf digital products

Digital products encompass everything across native apps, web apps and software platforms. They’re most commonly developed and designed to meet a specific business need, streamlining or automating a particular process whether that’s customer-facing or internal. Examples include customer portals, reporting dashboards, or booking platforms.

Obviously, as we’ve already mentioned, all of those sorts of functions usually have ready-made solutions that are sold “out-of-the-box” or “off-the-shelf” for a monthly or annual licensing fee. One of the advantages here being that you have a solution ready to go and be deployed which may address many of your challenges.

With custom digital product development, you’ll engage with an expert partner (like Adaptable) to unpick the specific requirements of your organisation and your users, and get a tailor-made solution that’s unique to you. This brings with it a whole host of benefits – so let’s get into them.

Completely tailored to your organisation

Just because you face a lot of the same challenges as other organisations in your sector, it doesn’t mean you don’t have unique ones. The way your organisation is set up, preferred ways of working, and other software and platforms you rely on, will be unique to you. Not every off-the-shelf solution is going to work perfectly for you, and will likely require some adjusting of internal processes to make it work seamlessly. With custom development, you can tailor the digital product specifically to you and your processes (within the limits of what’s possible of course). Through the process of discovery, a digital product studio like Adaptable will uncover the specific needs of your organisation and be able to shape the solution around your requirements.

Scalability and flexibility

With an off-the-shelf solution, you’re beholden to that particular platform’s development roadmap. New features you’d like to see may or may not be included in that roadmap, and even if they are, you’ll likely have to wait an indefinite amount of time before they’re released. With a custom solution, you can develop and release new features whenever you like – prioritising development around key functionality and working to a much more frequent release schedule, particularly if you’re utilising the agile methodology.

Easier integrations

Equally, whereas with an off-the-shelf solution you’ll often be locked into their ecosystem and possibly therefore limited in terms of whichever platforms you can integrate with. Custom digital products can be built specifically with those key integrations in mind, ensuring their ready to plug in and go from the offset rather than having to “retrofit”. We should mention that we can and often do develop custom APIs to integrate with existing solutions – but with a custom product overall you maintain more flexibility over those integration, as you have control over how the data flows in both directions.

Competitive advantage and differentiation

One drawback of organisations in an industry drawing from the same pool of out-of-the-box digital product solutions is that there ends up being little differentiation. If you invest in a custom solution that provides specific benefits that your competitors can’t then this could be a real point of differentiation for your organisation. With a custom digital product you could offer more streamlined processes, better user experience and unique features and functionality. That’s to mention as well that the longer-term savings you make by not paying licensing costs for software (which we’ll get to shortly) could be passed on to your customers with more competitive pricing. A Capgemini study found that 87% of organisations felt that digital transformation would offer a key competitive advantage.

How Tiviti stand out in an outdated industry

Tiviti is a provider of connectivity-as-a-service – offering end-to-end networking solutions for enterprises in one neat monthly subscription. The IT industry is full of network management platforms that haven’t progressed much since the ‘90s – all quite clunky to use and not able to offer a central point of truth. The custom portal we developed for Tiviti helped them to bring a customer’s network admin and management into one place with an incredibly user-friendly interface catering to all users – whether they’re technical or not. This unique user experience helps to elevate Tiviti above other solutions in the industry.

Enhanced security and data protection

Using a third-party platform means that you are relying on them to manage data security and data protection. With a custom product, you have full control and visibility over the security of the system, and can more easily put in place whichever measures you need to in order to protect sensitive business and customer data, such as more stringent access controls and more regular updates and maintenance. From a GDPR perspective, you also have full control over any data stored in the system and can again more easily put in place any measures that will make processing more efficient to manage.

Long-term savings

Custom digital product development typically offers a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than an off-the-shelf solution. There’ll be development costs, and likely ongoing costs around hosting and support for the product, but you’re not required to pay licensing fees. Particularly at enterprise level, off-the-shelf software can come with hefty annual costs. You’ll also likely save money by not having to develop other custom integrations or solutions in order to better fit the product to your ways of working – you’ll have something completely custom you can adapt as and when you need to with less investment of time and money.

A few things to consider around custom digital product development

The initial investment around development is one point to consider. Obviously with a ready-made solution you sign up, pay a monthly or annual subscription and you’re good to go. There may be some additional upfront costs around installation if your application of it is particularly complex or your a larger organisation. But as we’ve already touched on, with a custom solution you’ll often find over a longer period of time, you save more money by not having to pay those licensing fees and having the flexibility to develop new features at your own pace.

Similarly, the upfront investment in a custom digital product in terms of time is another consideration. But again as we’ve mentioned, working with an agile methodology can help you to prioritise the development of features and work on a more frequent release schedule while adapting to testing and feedback from actual users.


Got a specific challenge or business problem you’re looking to solve? Book a free, 30-min call and find out whether custom digital product development could help.