Buy or Build? Is “off the shelf” software cheaper than bespoke?
Buy or Build? Is “off the shelf” software cheaper than bespoke?
by RUTH THOMAS - May 19,2014

The choice between bespoke or “off the shelf” products involves a number of factors, regardless of whether you are applying them to an industry such as fashion, interiors or technology. At the heart of any product, cost is likely to define how attractive it is to a buyer and – at least on the face of it – the “off the shelf” product may appear to be a cheaper solution.

Is “off the shelf” software cheaper than bespoke software?

This is a common assumption. Many people presume that bespoke software is always more expensive to acquire than off the shelf. But it's not necessarily the case. Whilst the initial setup cost of bespoke software might in some cases be higher, the fact that it is specifically tailored to be a perfect match for needs of a single business will result in significant cost savings in the medium to long term. Also development technologies and processes have moved on a lot in recent years and bespoke applications don't cost nearly as much as what they did before. If you work with a good bespoke software company then they will work on a return-on-investment model where the business benefits achieved from using the software effectively fund the development costs within the first few months of its use, and after that it's pure profit.


What other factors should you consider when deciding to buy or build?

If you’re currently trying to make the decision between whether to buy or build then here are a few other factors to consider.



When you buy an “off the shelf” package there is very little flexibility – you are buying pre-existing software that is designed to meet certain generic needs. It might be possible to tweak this slightly after purchase, but by-definition, it the product will never become a perfect match to your specific requirements.



When using “off the shelf” software you don’t need to pay for the development costs as that has already been absorbed by someone else. But on the negative side what you end up with likely be cumbersome to use and not function exactly how you desire. This means your and your team's time (read "resources") will be wasted to some degree on an ongoing basis, every time you use that software. Also as soon as you want to change and evolve as a business, you’ll have to spend further resources to make the system work. With bespoke software you’ll get exactly what you require and as you own it, you can tweak it to always remain fit-for-purpose.



Where issues arise with “off the shelf” software, there is usually customer service support by the vendor to deal with them. However, that support will only cover standard issues that are non-specific to your business, whereas a bespoke software developer will work alongside you to adapt the software as and when changes need to be made. Having an integrated software partner can help your business grow and remove the problems associated with technology and adoption.



When migrating to a new “off the shelf” package, the transition process can hardly ever happen flawlessly. In most cases this will result in teething troubles here, and it can also be a complete disaster. With bespoke software this is rarely an issue as the entire process is tailored to the specific business and the transfer is managed by the software developer.


Outgrowing your systems

“Off the shelf” is by definition considerably more limiting than versatile bespoke software when your requirements change. Ongoing migration and upgrades can be very expensive and limiting if feasible at all. The time spent on making any changes can be draining. But bespoke software inherently very easy to tweak in any desired areas, as well as offering the chance to continuously adapt and grow the software alongside changing needs of the business as a whole.

If you have questions about what software your business requires then be sure to give our friendly team a call for some free, impartial advice.

About Geeks Ltd

Based in south London, we are one of the fastest growing software development companies in the UK. 

Our passion is business efficiency enhancement for our clients via smart application of automation techniques.We are winners of international awards for our innovations in business productivity. 

We have attained Gold Certified Microsoft Partnership level which represents our highest level of competence and expertise with Microsoft technologies as well as our close working relationship with Microsoft.At this level we have been granted access to exclusive Microsoft resources and support, access to the Partner Knowledge Base, and many other advantages which contribute to our capacity to meet our clients needs.