FAQ: What is the Hybrid Approach to Software Development?

If you’re looking to implement new software at your company, you have a lot of options to choose from. Today’s business software marketplace is saturated with products for almost every conceivable business need, from your run-of-the-mill customer relationship management (“CRM”) software to specialized systems for industry-specific operations. These commercial off-the-shelf (“COTS”) solutions range from Software as a Service (“SaaS”) products with a subscription model to hosted/on-premises software that your company can buy a license for and install onsite.

Despite the growing number of business applications that are on the market, there still might not be a system out there that checks all the boxes for your company. If you have unique needs that can’t be met by any existing systems, you have the option to pursue custom development. In this case, you would work with a development team or technology consultant (like Aciron!) to design a custom system tailored to your needs, with everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Take our quiz “Is Custom Development Right for You?” to see if building a custom application is the right fit for your company.

But what should you do if you can’t find a COTS system that meets 100% of your needs, and you’re also not ready to commit to building a custom application from scratch?

Build and buy aren’t your only options — there is a happy medium that we call the hybrid approach.

What is the hybrid approach to software development?

Hybrid isn’t just for electric vehicles! It’s also a best-of-both-worlds approach for software development.

Between the two extremes of buying COTS software and building custom software, your company can choose a hybrid approach in which you identify a COTS system that meets some (but not all) of your key requirements and customize that system to meet the rest of your needs.


One way to customize software is to integrate with other systems. Integration is a critical step when you need the COTS application to communicate seamlessly with a system that you are already using. By integrating the systems, information can flow from one system to the other, so that your users always have easy access to the latest updates.


Integration is also useful when a critical, complex piece of functionality is missing from your chosen COTS system. If there is another product available that provides the necessary features, integrating the two systems can be the most elegant solution for adding that functionality. Each system is a different piece of the puzzle that can seamlessly fit together to provide a full solution to your challenges.


As long as the system has a publicly available Application Programming Interface (“API”), your development team can use the API to automatically push or pull information from one system to the other.

Custom Code

The other method for adding functionality to an out-of-the-box COTS solution is to write custom code. Adding a layer of custom code allows you to leverage the base functionality of the COTS software, while also adding the unique elements that your organization needs. Whether you want to tweak the user interface or build out an entirely new module for the system, custom code can give you that extra flexibility you need.

Is the hybrid approach right for me?

The 80/20 Rule is a great rule of thumb for choosing the hybrid approach. If you can find a COTS solution that meets 80% of your needs, then you can use integrations and custom development to meet the remaining 20% of your requirements.

The advantage of the hybrid approach comes from leveraging the existing functionality of a system, while also being able to add the customizations that your company needs. If your business processes are part of your unique selling proposition or competitive advantage, you shouldn’t have to compromise those processes based on someone else’s software. Finding the sweet spot between commercial products and custom software helps you get the most bang for your buck — you’re not reinventing the wheel, just tweaking it.

If you think the hybrid approach may be right for you, but you’re not sure how to get started, schedule a free consultation with one of Aciron’s experts. During your consultation, we can advise you on the build vs. buy decision and help you develop a roadmap for how to select the right software for your unique needs.

Can’t decide between Buy, Build, and Hybrid?

Each approach to software selection/development has its pros and cons. The right choice for your company will depend on your specific needs. Take our quiz or talk to a consultant to figure out what’s best for you.

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