There’s a rising popularity of bespoke software in the market — especially among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) — that’s knocked commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) out of the ring.
But What is Bespoke Software?
Bespoke software is software tailor-made for a specific business and its needs. Instead of being created for use by the general public or a wider audience, it’s a custom software development process that literally caters to just you – if you’re a business-owner.
You don’t need to have a hired bespoke software developer to create bespoke software for you. In fact, all sorts of third-party houses exist to provide software solutions to businesses in need of more customisable software.
With the power to have customisable software in your hands, why would you choose a generic software that may have features you’re not even going to use?
Well, that depends. Are you facing a deadline, or do you have enough time to dedicate to a software development cycle? Or can a COTS fulfil your business’s requirements, even if you’re getting more than what you bargained for?
In order to make the right decision, you should first analyse how useful bespoke software is for your company.
Bespoke software examples are plenty within the economy. It’s currently widely incorporated in industries such as recruitment, hospitality, manufacturing, healthcare, or any company that seeks to gain competitive advantage. Some companies are also paranoid about how their data could be used by other companies through COTS – bespoke software gives them a chance to keep all data in-house.
While in previous years, only companies as big as eBay and Amazon could afford to invest in bespoke software, custom software development has on the whole become a more accessible avenue for businesses. That’s why even small companies now opt for the bespoke software development cycle. Coupled with the mushrooming of bespoke software development houses in cities like Manchester, that trend is primed to continue for years on end.
In comparison to what bespoke software is, COTS software is a generic software package readily available in the market, purchased by the company, given that a company’s requirements already fit the software. Though this may seem less effective in meeting your needs, with a quicker time-to-market dynamic and a standardized implementation process, it’s likely that some employees may already have an idea about how to operate it.
But will it fulfill all the needs of your business?
Perhaps not as well as a software made especially for you. To choose between off-the-shelf and bespoke software, consider the following questions:
1) How much money are you willing to spend?
2) Is there an existing software product or service that can do the job?
3) How much time do you have?
4) Do you want the software to incorporate your brand identity?
Of course, one may add technical questions to the list, but they will vary from business to business, and industry to industry.
If you’re interested in getting a better sense of the advantages of bespoke software, Rezaid has some more material on why so many companies are investing in the custom software development process.
How much money are you willing to spend?
Budget constraints are one of the most critical factors involved in choosing between an existing solution and custom-made software.
Even though the cost of bespoke software depends on the scale of the project, the overall cost of development is usually more than off-the-shelf software.
Since it’s more expensive for a developer to invest in a software development cycle for just one customer, as opposed to a general market, the cost of bespoke software is also higher.
Regular updates tend to cost more for custom software as well. In comparison, most of the updates on COTS are either free or cost next-to-nothing.
So, develop your budget carefully. If you have enough to invest in a good bespoke software package which you think will reap more rewards than an existing solution, and give your business a competitive edge, definitely opt for one!
Is there an existing software product or service that can do the job?
Well, this is an obvious question to ask. If an existing solution can work for your business, why spend time and money on developing your own?
Acquiring ready-made software means the time that’s used up in developing entirely new software is saved. As COTS is widely available in the market, it’s likely that some employees may already be familiar with how to use it. Even if they aren’t, tools for learning the software are likely to be accessible, so one can be sure that implementing a COTS can take much lesser time.
If, however, existing packages are too limiting, the best option is to hire bespoke software development professionals to develop a custom solution that meets your requirements. A third option also exists. Instead of starting from scratch, you can have a hybrid of off-the-shelf and custom-made software. If you are in the fortunate position of being able to do this, you will in effect get a custom solution at a lesser cost.
How much time do you have?
Another fundamental question. Do you need the software to be installed and ready for use in two days or is it possible for you to invest a few weeks or months?
COTS has a quicker time-to-market compared to a tailor-made software.
A commercially available package will be far quicker to implement and employees can often find online tutorials on how to operate them. Adaptation is quicker. Some may already be familiar with it.
Bespoke software, on the other hand, will not only take time to develop but will also require the client’s involvement during planning, design, development, testing and roll-out. The level of involvement may depend upon the methodology followed by developers — Agile, Waterfall, etc.— but some degree of participation and communication is required regardless of the method.
So, your decision depends on costs, your time availability to regularly engage with the development team, and whether there’s an off-the-shelf customisable opportunity out there. If these boxes are a “tick”, then the obvious choice is bespoke software.
Do you want the software to incorporate your brand identity?
This is key in deciding between readily available software and developing your own.
If this software is supposed to be your unique selling proposition, a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive world, then you should opt for the bespoke path. The solution created will not only be yours, but you can also prevent others from using it, by acquiring patent rights.
If existing software can do the job, opt for that. However, if one of the purposes of acquiring software is to lure in more customers, then it’s best to go for bespoke software development. This unique selling proposition will differentiate your product from your rivals’ products and services.
Bespoke software is not only an effective way to attract customers but also a way to retain them as well.
Does your business need bespoke software?
With cutthroat competition, it’s always best to have a card up your sleeve – an advantage your competitors may not have.
Custom-made software truly has its own advantages and disadvantages. Having your own software may be time-consuming to develop, require an initial investment, and even be complex to implement and operate, but it’s likely to definitely pay off in the long-term, provided it’s developed and implemented well. Not only will you have a more attractive portfolio, but you’ll also have a software designed specifically for your current needs and future growth plans.
And what could be a more fascinating way to reap the advantages of software development than to have a software completely of your own?