Bespoke software is employed widely across various industry segments. Ranging from real estate and financial services to telecoms. Essential uses of a custom solution include the following categories:
Complete control Time + experience is needed
Usability Initial start-up costs
Scalability All stakeholders need to agree
Efficiencies No product to trial
Competitive advantage and ROI Off the shelf advantages
Support & maintenance
Purchasing bespoke software means you decide how a solution will work and how it will look. A software development company has business analysts who will work to understand your business requirements and work with their in-house development team to ensure what you get matches precisely what you need.
The agile approach to working is a work method that encourages continuous dialogue between developer and client with workflows carried out in short bursts called sprints. It allows your ongoing feedback throughout the development process on areas such as functionality. If your requirements need to change, the developers will be able to adjust them.
As the solution owner, you have full control over further development, including functional priorities and integrations with other technologies via APIs. Unlike ready-made solutions, you will never risk the loss of a business-critical function or the installation of a feature that is not compatible with your firm’s data.
An advantage of bespoke software is it does not have unnecessary functions. By offering only the features needed and nothing else, it can improve the workflow of an enterprise. Off the shelf products tend to be overloaded with functionality which can reduce the system's speed, making it harder to use at the same time.
Fewer unnecessary functions will help speed up training for employees working with the software as it shortens learning time. Working closely with developers from the start will further ensure staff have few problems interacting with bespoke software as you progressively adapt it to work best for your business.
With a tailored offering, as mentioned, you only get the features that your business requires. It means you are paying just for these features, not for more and not for less. With ready-made, if there are too few features, you may need to pay to adapt a product to your business needs and objectives.
A further advantage of bespoke is the integration of existing systems. If your business was previously operating with multiple commercial applications, developers could look to integrate them into one custom solution without losing vital data.
As your business develops, tailored software can be adapted to ever-changing requirements and grow with your firm. It is a scalable solution. For example, if your firm expands into another market segment, bespoke software can be further upgraded to meet the challenge. Off-the-shelf solutions may not cope with business change, and you have little or no input in the way the system develops over time.
The beauty of bespoke is the ability to quickly 'scale-up' the number of users without slowing down your solution's speed. As part of the development work plan, your developer will test and ensure it can work just as rapidly with 10,000 users as it does with 1,000 users. In tandem with scaling up, a long-term benefit is a fact that there is no need to pay more for licence fees as would be the case with a ready-made offering,
You are the owner of the intellectual property, which means you do not need to seek permission to make changes in your application. You can have it upgraded and extended to include more features your firm may need while evolving. In the case of commercial products, there would be a need to buy another package.
Deciding to implement a bespoke solution for your business forces you to focus on what your firm needs and the direction it is going in. As you engage a developer, you may discover and eliminate further inefficiencies in your enterprise.
Bespoke not only offers efficiency, but thanks to an agile approach, it develops efficiently. The agile method with a continuous workflow between the developer, and the client, gives the flexibility to adjust any requirements during the development process or a solution upgrade following launch.
The use of custom software can improve the efficiency of how employees work. For example, the introduction of communication tools can encourage collaborative working, bringing staff closer and boosting their overall productivity.
By using off the shelf, both you and your competitors could be using the same product.
A tailored solution that fits the requirements and needs of your business means that you are the only one that can benefit from your developed software. It may allow you to differentiate yourself with enhanced and unique products and services that will help your clients.
Further competitive advantage may come from innovations in the product for internal use, including increased efficiency, and improved employee loyalty.
Even though development requires a significant upfront investment, the return can often occur straight away. As well as the competitive edge of having a better product than your competitors, the savings in staff time and resources from a well-aligned system can rapidly pay for themselves.
Your custom application also becomes an integral part of your corporation’s unique IP, further adding value to the firm. A professional brand identity with a few personalised features developed uniquely for your firm using the software can help win new customers. Details are essential in achieving success.
Off the shelf solutions have a significant security weakness which will mean you can never feel entirely secure. Hackers will be familiar with the source code of ready-made offerings and can take advantage of any security weakness.
Tailored software reduces the chance of a hacking attack. Your application may have additional security measures requiring more effort and time to breach it. Importantly though, there is less incentive to hack a bespoke application explicitly designed for one company. Off the shelf products that give access to the data of all businesses using the tool is much more attractive. If you can hack one, you can potentially access many more.
For companies handling the data of European citizens, privacy by design has become a central pillar of GDPR. Under GDPR, it is preferable if an enterprise can ensure that security is a priority at the design stage of its development project rather than a later addition. If your enterprise handles sensitive data and you can incorporate the latest security as the default for your solution, it is an advantage.
As the owner of the software, the intellectual property belongs to you. As you are the legal owner, you are not a slave to a specific supplier who may change their terms and conditions.
If you are not satisfied with the service level of the developer of your software project, there is nothing to stop you finding another company to look after your product. As you own the software code, you can carry out upgrades and fixes with the developer of your choice.
Product ownership enables you to save money. With ready-made products, there is a licence fee to be paid for each user. As more users access a solution, this may become expensive. With a custom-built solution, you can decide how many staff members access the software.
A key advantage of bespoke is the maintenance package. Your software developer undertakes to fix any glitch and monitor it once it deploys, ensuring that it will continue to work well. With commercial offerings, your firm is one of many using the application, and unfortunately, there is one team of developers who can fix the glitch.
A development company is legally required to provide support for your software for as long as needed. It protects beyond that available to the user of a ready-made product. If the provider of an off the shelf product goes bankrupt or no longer wants to maintain the product, there will be unexpected costs to pay.
Bespoke software disadvantages include development time. Depending on the complexity of the product, it can take many months or even more than a year. As custom software is built from the ground up, there are no shortcuts like an off the shelf offering. You will need to wait for your developers to create it. If replacing your existing system is time-urgent, then implementing a custom solution will not fulfil this need.
Benefiting from a bespoke system that aligns to business requirements, it is essential to know your operations intimately and communicate any analysis to the developer. For those unaware of the needs of their business or unwilling to undertake research, customised solutions may not be appropriate. Off-the-shelf, in many cases, is preferable. Versatile functionality is kinder to mistakes as all you do is purchase it and keep working.
High up-front costs are the main downside associated with a custom build. Deciding and rolling out the scope, design and development can be expensive. The return on investment is likely to be only seen in the medium to long term unless there are immediately obvious benefits.
For a business, the cheaper cost of purchasing a commercial product and user licenses needs to weigh up carefully, and in many cases may be a better option.
To get stakeholders to agree on a custom tool can be challenging. They may have their specific ideas of what they expect from a product. The significant up-front financial commitment and time to research specific requirements may be problematic. It all may lead to a decision to proceed with an off the shelf decision.
A custom software solution is created from scratch. There is no way to trial it, and there are no product reviews as it is yet to be in existence.
All you can do is trust your developer’s ability to construct well-designed, robust, and stable software. It is crucial to research a prospective company through reviews and if possible, recommendations. If feasible, consider testing other applications that the company has developed.
A ready-made offering is for the mass market. It could be the case that the application has all the features and specifications you need and additional functionalities you had not considered that could help your employees. Smaller companies mainly may find the needs of the firm are met with the advantages of off the shelf software.
We have outlined 13 essential advantages and disadvantages associated with bespoke software.
Cost, time, and features are crucial influences on deciding whether bespoke or off the shelf is best for you. As a takeaway, consider the following:
Finally, if you feel a tailored approach is for you but want to test before committing to a full-blown application, you can also request a prototype or develop a minimum viable product (MVP). A prototype is your idea as a functional and visual model to test. Prototyping and MVPs allow trialling and user feedback without a huge upfront financial commitment.
Bespoke or 'custom' software is dedicated to a single client and aims to solve a specific set of needs for their business. It will tailor to the client's workflow and allow the client to maximise their brand identity and USP. The client will typically have full control over the product and own the IP.
Bespoke software development requires the services of a developer to implement. From creating a prototype of your idea to a fully developed, ready to launch product takes time. Every stage of development has an associated cost relating to the number of hours to complete. These can quickly add up.
Ready-made software has a lower price. You do not pay to build anything but instead, need a license fee to use it.
Bespoke means ‘made to measure’ rather than a ‘standard’ option. In the IT industry, it describes custom-built or tailor-made software designed for a specific need. It differs to off the shelf software, which is ‘one size fits all’ available to any business in return for a license fee.
Unlike ready-made for the masses, bespoke programs involve developer hand-coding for a specific client for a particular business purpose. During development, a custom approach takes account of a customer's business processes, selects the best tools and metrics and leaves open the possibility to implement future changes
In Information Technology, bespoke software is a product that has been custom-built for a specific requirement. Examples of a system include web portals, client relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning systems (ERP).