It means that the software comes ready to be used by the organization without the need for customization.
Let me give you an example:
Say you owned a bank and you loan money to people based on their income, their age and their credit score. Say you buy a software system to automate your loan decision, however it needs to fit all the existing rules of your organization.
Becuase each Bank is different the software needs to be configured to match your bank’s specific needs. a team is set up to configure the system and tell it what credit score to approve, what income level to use and what age group to loan how much money to, etc... This software is not “off the shelf” becuase it needs to be specially configured to match the Bank’s needs.
- Cheaper. The development costs are spread across a large number of users, so you pay much less than it would cost to build the same software from scratch.
- Immediate availability. The development work has already been done, so all you need to do is set up the software and start using it.
- Lower training costs. If it is a commonly used package, users and I.T. staff may already be familiar with it, saving on learning time and training costs. Or, there may be pre-existing training materials and courses that you can leverage.
- Community support. If the software is popular, there may be books, articles, forums and online communities offering support and advice to help you learn or resolve any issues.
- More functionality. Off-the-shelf software often has more functionality, because the developers try to meet the requirements of as many users as possible. (There may even be functionality you didn’t realise you need!)
- Upgrades. The vendor will continue to develop the software, so you will likely get upgrades for free or at a reduced cost, whereas in bespoke software you don’t get anything new unless you pay for it to be built.