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Bespoke software development: The pros and cons

Head shot of SteveBy Steven Piper

You’re in need of software, you’ve got limited resources and a tight deadline. Restricted by budget and under pressure, an off-the-shelf software product seems like the best solution to get your project off the ground, right?

Yes, it might be cheaper and quicker to implement in the short term, however it’ll only take your business so far.

The demand for bespoke software development has grown quickly over the last few years, fueled in part by digital transformation and the emergence of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. What’s more, custom software products are becoming increasingly popular among businesses that are looking to scale and reduce costs.

Here we consider the benefits and drawbacks of both options…

Using off-the-shelf software

In some cases, pre-configured software can be the most suitable option for a business. For example, it’s ideal for small firms with just a few employees, basic software requirements and no plans to scale.

However, off-the-shelf software typically comes with some features that you don’t really need or use and lacks some of the functionality you could greatly benefit from. In most cases you’re still required to pay for any features you don’t use, and if you want to add new functionality it’s either very expensive, or sometimes impossible.

When using an out of the box solution it’s likely that many of your competitors are using the same software which means you have less leverage to gain a competitive edge.

Importantly, with packaged software you must shape the way you run your business to fit the product, whereas with bespoke software you build a solution that is shaped to fit the way you run your business.

Still with me? Let’s take a look at bespoke software development…

Price

Custom software is usually more expensive to implement than a ready-made solution as it is built from scratch to meet specific needs and requires both time and expertise. However, tailored software can prove less costly over time as it is not a subscription-based package. The affordability of bespoke software can be a challenge for many companies; however some software developers provide payment plans that make custom software both accessible and viable for their clients.

What you spend in the short term can be recovered through return on investment in the long term. Many businesses invest in bespoke software to streamline processes, increase efficiency and facilitate growth; all of which can generate cost savings or increase revenues.

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What’s more, as your business grows, your bespoke software can grow with you, whereas you could outgrow an off-the-shelf solution.

This would mean spending more money on finding an alternative that has the features you now need or investing in custom software development the second time around. Either way, it’s additional expense that can be avoided.

Time to market

Bespoke products take a lot longer to be ready for use when compared with an off-the-shelf solution. There are several stages that software developers go through together with the client to achieve the end goal. These include research, gathering user feedback, collecting and analyzing data, building user flows and creating a prototype – and that’s before they even begin to build the software! Some projects take months or even years to materialize, especially if the client wishes to take a measured approach and develop systems in various phases.

However, when you want to scale the business or you need to adapt to changes in the market, this can be done far quicker with a custom-made solution compared to an out of the box product – and could be critical to business success.

Ultimately, bespoke software is built for the long term as it can develop and adapt over time alongside your business.

Agility

The definition of ‘agility’ may be somewhat tainted by it’s overuse in CVs and company mission statements, although when it comes to developing bespoke software products, the word couldn’t be more fitting.

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Creating agile digital products is at the core of well-executed software development.

In fact, many software applications are built using The Agile Methodology. This is one of few industry-wide methodologies that developers follow when delivering a project. It describes the flexible approach we take toward building software with regular testing, feedback and development cycles to improve the outcome.

We work in an agile way to create agile software that is flexible to changing business requirements. This ensures our clients are in control and can adapt their systems to meet customer expectations, react to changes in the market or leverage innovations in technology. This can also give them a competitive edge in disruptive industries.

Regulation

Putting functionality to one side, there are other key considerations and requirements of bespoke software including compliance and regulation. This is particularly the case for our clients in the financial services sector where regulations are fast changing and increasingly complex.

For example, adhering to the requirements of ISO270001, GDPR and MiFIDII can be challenging at best. Although, complying with new regulations can be easier to manage when you have bespoke software and therefore greater control over how you manage your data, who has access and where it is stored.

Added value

Other benefits of custom software development that may be overlooked include:

  • Beautiful design – there is arguably more consideration given to the UX and UI design of a bespoke software application compared with an off-the-shelf solution. What’s more, it’s unique, branded and the client owns the software outright.
  • Increased conversions – for example, we helped Smartdriverclub to increase their click to sale rate by 14% in less than 3 months.
  • Seamless functionality – this may seem obvious, however some ready-made solutions can be slow and clunky, especially when there are features on your dashboard that you do not use.
  • Development doesn’t end – that’s right, just because your software has been deployed and is being used, it doesn’t mean that our job is done and dusted. We’re a software partner, not a vendor, which means that we continually run tests, gather feedback and make improvements to ensure the system is flawless and meets your needs. It’s all part and parcel of our Agile Methodology.

If you’re interested to learn more about how we work, you can take a look at our four-part design and development process here.

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