Bespoke software vs. off-the-shelf software

Choosing between bespoke and off-the-shelf software depends on budget, business needs, and size. Bespoke offers customization and flexibility, while off-the-shelf provides immediate use and lower initial costs.

With the world rushing by, many businesses decide to invest in software that would help them differentiate their company from the competitors and thus succeed. When looking for a software solution, you have two options – buying an off-the-shelf software produced for the mass market or having bespoke software designed and developed to meet all of your requirements. Your choice depends on the type of your business, its specifications, your budget and many more factors; if you want to know which solution is the best option for your company and why, keep on reading.

Bespoke software

Also known as custom or tailor-made, bespoke software is a product developed especially for your company. A software development company is a group of specialists who make sure what you receive is precisely what you need – nothing less and nothing more. They base the features of your order on your own demands so that you and your team can benefit from using all of the tools.

Off-the-shelf software

As the name suggests, off-the-shelf software is ready to use right from the very beginning. It is a product developed for the mass market, which means it is expected to respond to the needs of as many users as possible, offering many more features than a bespoke solution would. Unfortunately, commercial software often does not meet all of your expectations.

Main differences

As going bespoke or buying ready-made software are the most popular solutions, they are often presented as opposites, and there is more than one reason for that. The biggest differences between the two products are:

  • Costs

    The pricing of a commercial product and the one developed especially for your company are nowhere near similar. Buying individually crafted software is more expensive at the beginning due to the fact that you pay for the development process, which involves a team of dozens of specialists, such as business analysts and test engineers. When choosing an off-the-shelf solution, there is a licence fee you need to pay and usually nothing more.

  • Time

    The most significant difference between bespoke and off-the-shelf solutions is the waiting time. As you already know, you can start using a commercial product right away; the only thing you need to do is to choose one among various brands and options. When it comes to tailor-made software, it takes a few months to design, develop and test the solution. The wait time depends on the size and complexity of your order; however, a custom product will help you and your company save time in the long term.

  • Maintenance

    The first two differences are what customers always pay close attention to, but it is the maintenance that is often ignored. Making sure your product is flawless after it goes live is a massive advantage of custom products. Going bespoke gives you the possibility to report a bug and have it fixed by a group of specialists in a short period of time. You can also choose one of our development on-demand packages. Unfortunately, continuous maintenance is not an option when it comes to commercial software products.

Besides the three core differences, which are the costs, the wait time, and the maintenance after you start using the product, both bespoke and off-the-shelf software solutions have their advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of off-the-shelf software

A ready-to-use solution, whose initial costs are without a doubt cheaper and also there is no need to wait through the development process, may attract companies which are looking for:

  • Community support

    There is no software without a bug. When you or your employees find one, you can easily google it and ask others for help, as you are not the only user of the software. Maybe you find a company that has used the solution before and managed to solve the problem. However, they are not the specialists that you should contact in case of any severe malfunction.

When going bespoke, there is no need for you to search for help online. All you need to do is reach the maintenance team, and they will fix the bug for you.

  • Lower training costs

    To work efficiently, your staff must know the software very well. As every employee should be trained on how to use the solution, ready-to-use products usually go with training materials that every team member can get familiar with. This will help you to save both learning time and training costs.

In the case of bespoke solutions, all the employees must be trained by the company that has developed the software.

Disadvantages of off-the-shelf software

A commercial solution can, at the same time, discourage companies from using it because of the following:

  • Compromise

    Off-the-shelf software is designed and developed to meet the needs of as many users as possible. That is why it only contains the most popular functionalities for specific industries. Using it very often means making a compromise, as it is not possible to find all of the features you need in a single package, especially if your business is rather unique. When choosing one among many off-the-shelf solutions available, you need to decide which features you can do without.

By buying a bespoke solution, you receive a product that meets all of your requirements. In other words, you get precisely what you need.

  • Size

    Not only does off-the-shelf software lack features your company could use, but it is also loaded with functionalities your business will never use. Too many features slow down the solution and thus negatively influence your work. In most cases, it is impossible to delete or turn off useless components; they may also complicate the usage of a product.

Individually crafted solutions are very light as they only contain the features you had asked for, simplifying your work.

Advantages of bespoke software

As opposed to off-the-shelf software, there is a bespoke solution that is developed especially to meet your requirements. The maintenance is, without a doubt, the greatest feature of going bespoke, as specialists make sure your product works flawlessly. Other advantages of tailored-made software are:

  • Flexibility

    Due to the agile approach of a bespoke software company, your product gains much flexibility, which gives you the possibility to change your specifications over time. It allows you to engage in the development process and make sure the product you have ordered will still meet your needs after months of coding.

When buying commercial software, you need to adjust your requirements to what you receive. If the solution no longer suits your needs, there is no other way than to buy new software.

  • Number of users

    Even though the initial costs are much higher when it comes to custom software solutions, there is a way to save money. Because you officially and legally are the owner of the intellectual property, there is no need to pay for each user of the product as your business grows.

If you use commercial software, there is a license fee you need to pay for each employee.

Disadvantages of bespoke software

Undoubtedly, a bespoke software solution is far more expensive than a commercial one; it also takes more time to develop it, while you can start using off-the-shelf software immediately. Other disadvantages are:

  • Experience

    To receive a 100% useful bespoke solution, you need to know your business and its specifications very well. Ordering some tools without being certain your company needs them is a tremendous waste of money. On the other hand, learning your business may be a fantastic opportunity to get to know your goals at the same time.

As commercial solutions are much cheaper and usually loaded with different functionalities, you can discover what your business needs while using them.

As you can see, there is an excellent difference between bespoke and off-the-shelf software. It would be best if you had much more time and money to develop a bespoke solution, but you invested in your company’s future in the long term. On the other hand, there is commercial software which is cheaper but may not meet all of your needs. Your choice depends not only on your budget but also on the character and size of your company.

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