Bespoke software development vs. off-the-shelf software

28/08/18

Why pay a software company to develop a bespoke application when there are so many subscription based online services?

Bespoke or custom software can sometimes be a better choice, but the decision is not always easy. This may help you decide:

  1. You want to build a new online service or product, one that you own. Go down the bespoke route, you don’t want to be paying a third party on a per user basis as your online business grows .

  2. You want to replace some back office spreadsheets with a single web application and database. Look for an off-the-shelf solution, especially if the business workflow that will create the data is generic. If you’re doing something that other businesses also do, then there’s probably an affordable off-the-shelf solution.

  3. This is the tricky one. You want to streamline some fairly involved internal processes, integrate with one or two other systems and open up access (secure) over the internet.

    Start by looking at configurable off the shelf options, get an idea of cost and timescales - what is the real cost of implementation? Then talk to a software development company and get a feel for what a bespoke system would cost. How long will it take to develop? Can it be split into more manageable phases? Is there a point where the bespoke option becomes a better long term investment?

Modern software development tools make custom software more affordable. Agile development approaches - flexible and iterative - can simplify the development and make it less burdensome for the client. Cloud based hosting is now very affordable and it’s entirely reasonable to expect that a modern, high quality web application should have a 10+ year lifespan.