I recently had a potential client ask for an estimate of some work they wanted done.  They already had a price in mind which I was pretty sure I couldn’t come close to.  The reason for this is because they were comparing off the shelf, commodity type development to the custom development that it would require for my team to do the work.  So does this mean that custom development can’t be the right answer if a subject area has commoditized?  Not in the least.

In many cases (but not all) these quick solutions are built without regard for business logic reuse.  This is not as important for one off apps but if they are part of a group of related apps this can be more of an overriding factor.  Look for clients that need a system built instead of an application that sits on its own island.

Another possible issue with cookie cutter solutions is that they may be stood up using developers with a very low skill set to keep costs down.  This means that if you need features beyond what has already been built into the offered suite you will either get low quality add-on features or they will be very expensive.  Show clients how you can reduce overall cost by being able to build any solution at a reliable rate with reliable estimates.

From the perspective of a company offering custom development services it means you need to focus on where you can add value instead of competing in a space that you are going to lose money.  Advise the client on their approach to building and maintaining their application portfolio.  Show them how to build the best possible, most maintainable applications.  During the projects you do sell look for ways to package what you have learned to bring your costs down and accelerate development.

In the end you need to focus on your competitive advantage which is the intelligence of you staff.  Not everything can be commoditized.  Put your efforts into solving these problems and you will succeed.