Custom CRM vs Off-the-shelf CRM

The pros and cons

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A lot of businesses, especially small to medium-sized companies, are initially put off by CRM systems. They usually require monthly payments set by the top industry players like Oracle and SalesForce.

However, keeping all of your business data in spreadsheets isn’t a viable long-term strategy for growth.

At a certain point, you’ll face the decision of building your own CRM software versus opting for the pre-made solutions.

This guide will help you make the right decision and accurately calculate the costs of each option.

Custom CRM vs off-the-shelf


Before deciding whether to go custom or off-the-shelf, you need to work out what your business really needs from a CRM system. Ideally, this should involve a brainstorming session with all relevant stakeholders including sales, marketing, and customer support. If you work with us at Switchplane, we can make a lot of recommendations too.

Once you have your definitive list, you should rank all the requirements on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of importance. With the final version, you are ready to approach and assess various existing solutions, alongside the cost of having something developed from scratch to fit your precise needs.

Consider the time factor

One of the great things about custom building your own CRM system is that the end product will meet all your exact requirements and slot in seamlessly with your unique business processes.

However, it's important to bear in mind that certain requirements may be difficult or costly to implement in the alpha product version. You therefore need to be realistic about the length of time you will need to invest in its development and have the absolute finished product with all your feature requirements in your hands.

Off-the-shelf packages on the other hand arrive pre-built and ready to go. The time to roll out the software however can be more lengthy than for a custom platform - you will be less familiar with all its features (having not been part of its build), and there are likely to be a number of unwanted features creating extra noise and complication for your staff to navigate around.

Company size matters

The majority of existing CRM systems and cloud services are usually priced per user. This means that the larger your team grows, the more you’ll be forced to pay on a monthly basis.

Your sales team will obviously use the product on a daily basis. Yet your marketing team, or the management, may only use it on an occasional basis. You will be required to pay for monthly users regardless of how often they actually use it. With this in mind, you may be forced to restrict access, yet this means that the overall company efficiency and productivity may suffer.

In general, if an existing solution meets your requirements by less than 60% and you have a team of 20+ users we recommend you should invest in a custom solution for your business.

Now, let’s move on to the topic of cost, and examine whether hiring developers to work on a project will actually cost you much more than purchasing an existing product.

How much does CRM software cost to develop?

The initial costs for CRM development usually start from £5000 and onward based on your requirements.

CRM systems are usually developed continuously. A benefit from creating a custom CRM is that if you stop paying for it, you can continue to use the service. With an off the shelf CRM, the moment you stop paying, all your data is lost and you lose access.

Now, let’s take a look at the service pricing of one of the most popular CRM platforms. Their enterprise-sized package is priced at £120 per user per month. Some quick maths here:

25 users x £120 = £3000 per month = £36,000 per year = £180,000 for 5 years.

For the same amount of money your company could have already built a powerful, custom CRM system unique to your business processes which would require far less investment in terms of maintenance and possible tech support.

While CRM development may initially seem like a costly and unnecessary investment, the costs are typically justified when you review the longer term opportunities. Avoid paying for features that you may not need or a product that does not meet all your requirements by investing in a custom CRM system with Switchplane.

We have built custom CRM for a number of different clients in varying industries and have in-depth development experience within our in-house team.


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