Bespoke software development company explains 6 steps of a bespoke software development

Bespoke software development, differing in wait time and costs from commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) and software as a service (SaaS) solutions, involves a detailed, quality-focused process, comprising requirement gathering, analysis, design, development, testing, and maintenance.

Buying commercial off-the-shelf software and developing bespoke solutions from scratch differ in many aspects. The two most important ones are the delivery time and the costs, which are vital factors for many companies. Organisations prefer to use a commercial product because they can start using it right away; however, there is a reason why bespoke software solution development takes both time and money, and produces a better outcome.

Before we start, let’s just get familiar with the differences between bespoke vs commercial off the shelf (COTS) vs software as a service (SaaS):

Aspect Bespoke Software Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Software Software as a Service (SaaS)
Definition Custom-built software tailored to a specific organisation’s needs Pre-packaged software designed for mass market Cloud-based software hosted by a third-party provider
Customisation Highly customisable to meet unique requirements Limited customisation options, if any Some customisation possible, but within predefined boundaries
Ownership The client owns the software and intellectual property rights The client purchases a license to use the software The client subscribes to the service, but does not own the software
Hosting Can be hosted on-premises or in the cloud, depending on client preference Typically installed on-premises, though some may offer cloud hosting Hosted and managed by the SaaS provider in the cloud
Maintenance The client is responsible for maintaining and updating the software, either in-house or by engaging the development company The client is responsible for installing updates and patches provided by the vendor The SaaS provider handles all maintenance, updates, and security
Cost Structure Higher upfront development costs, but lower long-term costs due to ownership and customisation Lower upfront costs for licensing, but potential long-term costs for customisation, maintenance, and support Recurring subscription fees, which may increase over time based on usage or additional features
Scalability Can be designed to scale with the organisation’s growth and changing needs May have limitations in scaling due to its pre-packaged nature Can usually scale easily, as the SaaS provider manages the infrastructure and resources
Integration Can be integrated with other systems and software used by the organisation May have pre-built integrations, but custom integrations can be challenging or costly Often offers APIs and pre-built integrations with common business tools and platforms

While commercial off-the-shelf and SaaS solutions can be suitable for organisations with standard requirements and limited budgets, bespoke software development offers unparalleled customisation, scalability, and long-term value for businesses with unique needs and processes.

Let’s expand the 6 primary phases of the bespoke software development process, usually described as the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).

What is the Software Development Life Cycle

By definition, SDLC is a process practised in software development companies, which helps them to improve their workflow and thus develop solutions of the highest quality. The methodology works by removing the typical pitfalls and guiding the development team, which results in lowering the production costs while shortening the development time.

To ensure the quality of the software, a company starts with gathering requirements, which are analysed in the next phase to build a foundation for the product. Software is then created through the stages of design, development and testing, and after that, the product can be released. Maintenance is the last phase, during which the software development company ensures its solution works flawlessly.

Steps of bespoke software development process There are many software development models, with the Waterfall, Spiral, and Agile models being the most popular ones. Each process model follows a particular approach to ensure the product is delivered successfully. The approaches differ; however, there are certain phases all of the models include. The basic steps which help software development companies to achieve success are:

1. Initial requirements gathering

This is the very first phase when you ask a bespoke software development company for a consultation. During this initial stage, the development company will hold several meetings to gather your requirements. This is a chance for the specialists to learn your specifications, the goals you plan to achieve with the software, who will use it, why, and how you want the product to work. That way, you and the software development company can see if you can be a good match.

By discovering your expectations, a software development company can choose the right approach to help them successfully implement the project with minimum risks. This is also when the initial costs and time can be estimated.

2. Requirements analysis and planning

After the requirements are gathered, the development company can start analysing them to build a strong foundation for the product. The second stage is probably the most critical phase of the entire process. A careful analysis is necessary for the development company to meet your needs. The organisation translates your goals into their plan so that the two visions can be met.

Before going to the next step, all of your demands need to be documented and approved by both sides. This is done through a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document, on which the product development will be based. That way, you can be sure there will be no misunderstandings.

3. Technical design

Once the development company knows what they are about to create, they must decide how to do it. Each software solution demands a different approach; this is why the third phase is dedicated to designing the architecture of your system. The development company bases the internal design of all the product modules on the SRS document. The most important parameters considered are budget and time constraints, design modularity and risk assessment, as the developers want to be sure your solution is robust.

During this stage, the external design may be created as well. Depending on the complexity of your order, it may be easier for your company to understand how the solution will work if the development company provides you with mock-up screens and interfaces. Basic demonstrations will explain how the user will access the software.

4. Development and implementation

This phase is definitely the longest one, as the actual product is finally being built. Developers start coding your solution, carefully following the Software Requirement Specification document and the internal design instructions. If the previous stages have been observed with close attention to detail, coding should be accomplished without further problems.

Depending on the software development model, each development team approaches this stage from a different angle. Many companies follow the Agile methodology, which means they hold brief, iterative meetings called daily Scrum meetings, during which each team member reports any issues and progress on their tasks. This approach improves their workflow and productivity.

5. Testing

After the solution is developed, it is tested for any deficiencies and defects before it is ready to be released. During this phase, test engineers perform various functional and non-functional testing, manually or automatically. The most important features that must be checked are the core application functions, text input, installation on localised machines, and aspects unrelated to any specific function, such as scalability and security. If any bug is detected, it is fixed and tested again. The process lasts until the quality of your solution meets the original requirements.

The very important thing is that you and your team also test the software. The development company provides you with a beta test environment to make sure you understand the solution, and you are comfortable with the way it works. They wait for your feedback and are ready to fix any issue you report.

6. Deployment & maintenance

After successful testing, your software solution is ready to be released. However, it is a mistake to call the project done. This is the time for you and your actual users to get familiar with the system. Once you start using it, many unexpected problems may come up. Depending on their priority level, they may be fixed right away or gathered together and improved later.

Maintenance is an excellent advantage of bespoke software solutions as the development company takes care of your system not only during the development process but also after the release. They make sure your product works flawlessly.

The Agile development methodology

A significant difference is introduced to the bespoke software development process when the development company uses the Agile methodology. The last three phases become a separate cycle that is regularly repeated. As software is being built, your team is provided with a test environment where you can get to know your system and see how it evolves. You then give feedback to the development company so they can fix anything you report, and only after that will they continue coding.

You hopefully can now see why the costs and the wait time of bespoke software may differ from the ones of off-the-shelf solutions. The development company carefully designs and develops, both internally and externally, a system that will meet all of your needs. They also ensure it is flawless by running various tests and taking care of it after the software is released.

Bespoke software solutions from HeadChannel

After reading this article you may be left wondering who can offer the bespoke software development services you need. You may also be wondering if there is a custom software provider who has experience in developing bespoke business software in your sector. London-based software developers, Headchannel, have a proven track record in delivering enterprise-grade bespoke web applications, mobile apps and a wide range of other software that integrates seamlessly with your existing systems across a broad range of sectors. Using a combination of our own and Agile methodologies means we deliver projects flexibly and swiftly when building bespoke software.

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