This case study conclusion has been drawn from our experiences with real client issues.
In this example, we will export the pros and cons of both bespoke and off the shelf products to help you choose the right path for your business needs.
Flexibility and Customisability
Whatever task you want to complete, there’s software to tackle it. However, with off-the-shelf software you make compromises. It has been built for a much wider audience so you end up shoehorning to your requirements. That’s not to say that the software won’t do broadly what you want, but there are likely to be features that you don’t need but still end up paying for.
You have total control of the features in a bespoke application. It’s designed to your requirements. As your company grows and changes, so can your bespoke software.
We implement Agile project management, which means you see the software development throughout the project. This level of transparency allows for valuable feedback, meaning the project is flexible throughout its development, and beyond.
Off-the-shelf software is suitable for a mass market, so has typically undergone vast testing – from focus groups to beta testers. You receive a product with carefully considered functionality and it is designed to suit the majority and not necessarily the individual.
It is likely that it has been created by numerous developers. However, there’s no guarantee it won’t be overly complicated for what you need it to do, or not quite do what you want it to.
The functionality represents what works best for you. It’s built alongside your current processes. It’s previewed and tested by you, so if there is any aspect of the functionality that you don’t like, you can simply request it to be changed.
Because the functionality is built in consultation with you, it allows for a free exchange of ideas, where you can shape exactly what the product delivers.
Help and Support
Off-the-shelf software is used by a larger number of people; there is likely support and help function online, and even forums and online communities that may have asked and answered many of your questions.
If there isn’t an answer to your question, you can be left frustrated and stuck without a solution to your problem based on the limitations of the application.
You have direct communication with the people who developed your bespoke software solution, this allows you to communicate directly to those who understand your business and how the software application works for you. This means response and support can be more personal, tailored, and effective.
If the software is popular, you may not need to train your team on how to use it. They may already know. There could even be training courses conducted by a specialist. Alternatively, you may find the software is so complex that it requires extensive training or your team does not engage with its full functionality and chooses to only use it sparingly. You risk having an expensive tool that no one likes and no one uses.
With the software being engineered for your business, no one will have prior experience, so training is inevitable. However, because it’s bespoke to you, it’s built to work in line with your processes.
As part of the close working relationship with your development team, you gain hands-on experience alongside the software’s creator. If anything is too complex, it can be changed. It also means the workflow can be matched to your business, making it easy for your team to adopt and use.
Integration into your current processes
If you introduce an off-the-shelf package into your current processes, you may find that you need to adapt to accommodate it. This could lead to resistance from team members.
It’s also worth considering what will happen when your company grows and how the software is going to work for your business in the future. Do you lose your data if you ‘turn off’ your subscription?
With bespoke software, integration with processes and other systems is one of the key considerations. Bespoke software can be designed to seamlessly integrate with existing data, systems, and processes to enhance operational efficiency and not hinder it. And if your company grows, the software can be customised and adapt to you.
The production costs for off-the-shelf software are spread across thousands of users, so it has a lower buy-in. However, you typically need to pay for additional users. So, as you grow, you’re faced with growing fees. And if you require specific modifications and integrations then these are additional costs.
Bespoke software will generally cost more initially, simply because it’s built to your unique specifications. However, your software will be designed to scale alongside your company’s growth meaning further enhancements will come at a minimal cost. Furthermore, bespoke software is designed to do exactly what you need it to, which means it should deliver greater levels of operational efficiency and lead to increased productivity.