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Off-the-shelf vs bespoke software… which is best?

The majority of users work with off-the-shelf or package software. This is designed to be useful for large numbers of customers with varying demands. Bespoke software, instead, is developed individually to meet the exact needs of a single organization. It is custom-built to work as necessary to meet your business requirements. However, both bespoke software and off-the-shelf solutions offer pros and cons.

Are there risks with using off-the-shelf software?

Benefits of off-the-shelf software packages include that it may offer a cheaper solution; since it is funded by a large number of customers using it. However this is not always the case as regular updates, maintenance and support can drive the costs higher over the long-term. This may not be true for less renowned packages, which can be as costly plus more difficult to maintain. It will generally have a huge number of features in order to cover the needs of multiple businesses, but development is limited, often without the ability to make changes to it. In fact, you’ll have to work around what the software offers.

 

With the same systems being used by your competitors, they will be expected to suffice for the basics needs. However will not provide you with a competitive advantage, and they can't facilitate your unique selling points, i.e. what defines you as a unique company, such as some elements of the way you run your business. Those unique aspects of your business are critical to your competitiveness, and yet they are often incompatible with off the shelf software products.

How does bespoke software compare?

The obvious benefit of custom software is that it is designed specifically to meet your unique requirements to complete all of your business operations. This means that it can be used for existing requirements, and adapt to meet new ones. This flexibility allows growth and gives scalability. Bespoke software can be tailored to meet current needs – whether these change or remain the same over time, to keep up with performance. Being able to develop your own features makes custom software ideal for staff to use to save time and become more productive.

 

Bespoke software can sometimes appear to be more expensive if you are not looking at the true cost of the alternative. With bespoke software you will save money as it grows with your business, reducing ongoing update costs long-term. Finding the best developers could prove tricky, but if you find reliable and skilled developers then your level of support from them should be high. It has been proven that bespoke software can produce a great return on investment through business efficiency gained.

What is better for your business?

It depends on what your business functions and requirements are. Most probably an off-the-shelf solution could meet the basic needs of your organization in the short term, but the flexibility and personalization of bespoke software make it the logical choice for businesses that are growing. Custom software offers another thing that packaged software solutions can’t, which is a competitive advantage. Being able to do more, and work more efficiently than the other businesses within your market, will keep you a step ahead.