No matter the scale of the business, most companies these days require some form of professional software to manage internal data, improve client service, and optimize internal processes for maximum efficiency across the board. Bespoke software development just happens to be the definitive option for any business looking to make it big in this world.

In this article, we will take a close look at custom application development, and share our knowledge and experience in the field with you by comparing the benefits and disadvantages of both off-the-shelf software and bespoke software development. To avoid potential future mistakes, and to save invaluable time and money, check out this in-depth overview in order to decide on why you should choose one over the other.

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What is Bespoke Software Development?

At its most fundamental level, bespoke software development is custom software engineering for the unique and specialized needs of a particular business. Since the software is built from the ground up, there are generally no limitations on what it can do, (within the realm of logic, of course).

The user interface is designed specifically for the employees and clients of your particular company. Nothing is redundant, and all software functions and tools are utilized in one way or another. Every line of code is written with a specific goal in mind, and all the features serve a purpose.

Having this type of custom-designed software allows anyone to instantly improve the efficiency with which they work. Moreover, since the software is owned exclusively by the company that uses it, they can add or remove features at any given time, whenever the need for it arises. Should the business require it, individual bespoke solutions can also be developed for very specific tasks.

Bespoke software development provides full control over any outside influence and code changes, granting absolute independence from third parties and other companies in the market sector. This is exactly why the most successful companies in the world, both large and small, operate their businesses on custom-developed software. But before we draw our conclusions and make the final choice in favor of bespoke software development, let us consider the alternative – off-the-shelf software.

What is Off-the-Shelf Software?

Also known as ready-made software, these are the types of applications that are available to the masses and are in many ways – general purpose. Their main advantages – availability and affordability. Many small businesses and startups in particular don’t have the resources to handle bespoke software development costs. Available for the mass market at any given time and meeting the needs of the majority of its users, off-the-shelf software is the one-size-fits-all approach that has been the only option for businesses for a very long time, but not any longer.

Some examples of ready-made software applications you may have heard of:

01

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Salesforce, Keap, Zoho CRM.
02

Enterprise Risk Management (ERM)

Intelex, MasterControl, Cority.
03

Software as a Service (SaaS)

ProofHub, HootSuite, Zendesk.
04

Billing and Invoicing Software

Wave, FreshBooks, Xero.

Bespoke Software vs Off-the-Shelf Software

Criteria
Bespoke Software
Off-the-Shelf Software

Flexibility

Flexible throughout, with the option of adding and removing features as the business scales in size

Low flexibility, as you get a fixed list of features that are hard to customize and scale in most cases

Available Functionality

Programmed according to the requirements of the project or business

Limited by the platform and what the developers intended it’s capabilities to be

Speed of Implementation

Depends on the task, but generally quick to implement in the business operations as it is custom-tailored

In most cases - fast. Businesses tend to use the same existing options depending on their needs, so the software is there

Costs

Lower in the long term. The initial expenses may be high for the custom software development process, but the added efficiency will increase the value of the business and its profitability

Lower in the short term, but future improvements are both limited and potentially very costly, as you will be working with certain restrictions imposed by the software

Security

Since bespoke development uses proprietary code, high-end security protocols, and encryption, it is significantly harder to bypass and hack

Significantly more vulnerable as the software is available to be studied by outsiders, and weak spots can be easily identified

Maintenance and Upgradability

Provided and handled by the bespoke software development company

Challenging, as you may need to engage third-party companies to implement new functionality and fix existing issues

Advantages and Disadvantages of Bespoke Software Development

Advantages

  • One of the best bespoke software development benefits is that you are the sole authority exercising full control over any changes the software needs to undergo. Highly customized business apps will provide you with full control in terms of adding, changing, or removing features in order to adapt your company to the current market conditions;
  • Another obvious advantage of bespoke software development is that you aren’t tied to other people’s experience with the application. Hence, any features the community wishes to add, change, or remove based on their vision of the software won’t affect you as you operate independently from everyone else;
  • Customized business apps are great at adapting to existing and ongoing operations within the company. Since custom-made software can be tailored to whatever the business requires, it can be convenient in design, quick to learn, easily integrated, and most importantly - streamline all operations;
  • There is no need to pay premium fees or sign up for subscription plans in order to get more features and functionality that are otherwise unattainable. Any feature you need is accessible right off the bat;
  • With custom software, your company can go a step further and actually start selling it. A well-made piece of software that embodies your best practices and experiences from the industry can launch your business into a whole different league;
  • Any company willing to go the extra mile and operate its business with the help of custom software will have an edge over anyone sticking to universally available, one-size-fits-all software. You have full reign over how your software looks and functions. Flexibility and exclusivity, something other businesses using standard software don’t have.

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Disadvantages

  • It should come as no surprise that getting all these benefits comes at a price. Bespoke software development costs can be high, limited only to your vision of what the end product must look like. This is why many businesses prefer to take a gradual approach and start only with features that are essential. The software is then tested to see whether it is even worth the hassle over paying for ready-made software with more limited but universal functionality. One of the best ways to counteract the high price tags and cut custom software development costs is by taking the development offshore and putting it into the hands of a bespoke software development company;
  • Another disadvantage of bespoke software development services is the considerable investment of time and effort it requires. Having a proper discovery phase can mean the difference between success and failure. Planning out the entire project: the teams; the budget; the timeline; desired functionality; and everything else is an art form in and of itself.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Off-the-Shelf Software

Advantages

  • The first and obvious advantage is that it is ready to use and available immediately. Depending on the software, there can be a multitude of flexible packages with varying prices, and in some cases - free trials;
  • With an existing user base, the community can share hacks, plugins, and other third-party systems that complement the software and allow it to work more efficiently. In addition to that, guides and tutorials will likely be available with explanations to issues you might be experiencing, something that’s not available with customized business apps;
  • Since developers tend to try and meet the needs of most of their users, and make the software as universally attractive as possible, you will find that the scope of features your business requires will be found in various products.

Disadvantages

  • Continuing on the point above, though the features may be there, they may not entirely suit you. There is a chance the functionality you need can be locked behind a paywall or a subscription plan, while the unnecessary filler features will be much more than you’ll ever need. The general consensus here is to have one specialist study the software and spend time setting it up and learning how to properly use the functions that you require, and then train the other employees. Or you could simply hire a bespoke software development company and create the perfect solution;
  • Whether you want it or not, software changes will be implemented without your consent, and they may remove or change features you actively use. If the company behind the software is experiencing financial difficulties, it can close its operations altogether, leaving you stranded. A less critical situation is when temporary software or server crashes happen. Before bug fixes and a new version is rolled out, your operations may be put on hold for an uncertain amount of time.

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Why You Need Bespoke Software

If your goal is to build a business with a unique product, high-security standards and you are not limited by time, bespoke software is the only way to go. Otherwise, you can consider off-the-shelf software if you need to launch fast, but be ready for scalability and sustainability problems. Once possible – make the shift from general to custom, and hire a bespoke software company to elevate your business to the next level.

Custom application development will benefit small and medium businesses just as much as large enterprises. Scale is the obvious difference here, but the core principles for switching to customized business apps in order to grow your business stay the same.

 

1. You Have Concerns about Cyber Security

The number of cyberattacks is on the rise. Finance, healthcare, and manufacturing are the most targeted industries. Hackers aim at obtaining intellectual property, personal data, credit card info, passwords, and more. It is imperative that the security of your company’s data is prioritized and the risks are minimized across the board. Most of this defensive front lies in not only the custom designed software being unavailable to the public for study, but also in the specialized security code and encryption it utilizes.

 

2. It’s Not as Costly and Time-Consuming as You Think

One of the more compelling arguments against using custom software development is the cost and the time that’s needed. Once upon a time that really was the case, but the wide array of tools available these days have changed the game forever. Most people mistake high early costs as something out of their league, but if you compare that to the expenses you will have to sustain over a long period of time from subscriptions or licensing fees, and that is from software that may not entirely fit your requirements, it becomes evident that bespoke software development may be the more rational option.

 

3. You Are in a Highly Competitive Industry

Do you have a dependency on software to deliver a product or service to your customer? Your competitors have likely already acquired the same or similar off-the-shelf software solutions. Ready-made software simply cannot provide you with the same competitive advantage that custom software can, due to the simple fact that it is available to everyone. If you are thinking long-term, the only logical choice to maintain an edge over the competition is bespoke software development.

 

4. You Are Dependent on a Third-Party Service Provider

If your business depends on the use of third-party platforms and programs, then sooner or later an unexpected change can completely sabotage your entire business due to some form of unexpected malfunction in the code. Everything can work great for a year and then one day the business will be overwhelmed by problems that came seemingly out of nowhere, and the fix may take some considerable time. The only way to ensure that there are no complications between existing software and future updates is to make your own software that is initially configured to adapt to new conditions and is flexible in its structure.

 

5. You Have Plans for Expansion

Assuming you are in business in order to continually develop it, custom-developed software will help drive the growth at any scale. For those who work with franchise operations, creating a single platform for all franchises to operate on will allow for more reliable communication and work between individual managers and the company as a whole. Moreover, if at the end of the day you plan to sell the business, then its value will be considered higher if you have a proprietary software platform.

Bonus: Top Bespoke Software Development Companies

1

Daffodil Software

Min. project size: $10,000+

1,000 - 9,999 Employees

$25 - $49 / hr

Headquarters

Gurugram, India

Daffodil is a software engineering partner globally known for its technological agility and customer satisfaction. Its team of over 1200 professionals has served over 150 global clientele. The company specializes in creating industry-specific solutions, focusing on healthcare, fintech, real estate, travel & logistics, and media & entertainment. Their expertise includes leveraging user data in every stage of development, which is offered through their affiliate, Unthinkable Solutions. Their focus on innovation and result-orientation is reflected in their people-centric culture and recognition as a Great Place to Work.

Headquarters

Gurugram, India

2

Saritasa

Min. project size: $50,000+

50 - 249 Employees

$100 - $149 / hr

Headquarters

Newport Beach, CA, United States

Saritasa is a custom technology solutions company specializing in developing complex software systems. Their services encompass mobile, web, database, AR/VR, IoT solutions, and custom software development. Saritasa operates out of five locations, including their headquarters in Newport Beach, and additional offices in Austin, Chicago, Manhattan Beach, and New York. The company has completed 1769 projects for various businesses in the medical, financial, education, retail, real estate, logistics, manufacturing, and more industries.

Headquarters

Newport Beach, CA, United States

3

Oyova

Min. project size: $5,000+

10 - 49 Employees

$100 - $149 / hr

Headquarters

Jacksonville Beach, FL, United States

Oyova is a software development and marketing agency founded in 2006. The company specializes in delivering digital solutions, like social media marketing, SEO, Shopify e-commerce, web development and design, content, compliance, branding, user experience, etc. Oyova was recognized as one of America’s fastest-growing private companies in 2022.

Headquarters

Jacksonville Beach, FL, United States

4

Andersen

Min. project size: $50,000+

1,000 - 9,999 Employees

$50 - $99 / hr

Headquarters

Dallas, TX, United States

Andersen is a top-ranked software development company with 16 offices worldwide. They have successfully implemented over 1,000 projects. Their team consists of 3500 experts who have previously worked with large enterprises like Siemens and Johnson & Johnson. Andersen is known for its expertise in financial services, healthcare, logistics, automotive, and media & entertainment industries.

Headquarters

Dallas, TX, United States

5

Sapphire Software Solutions

Min. project size: $5,000+

250 - 999 Employees

< $25 / hr

Headquarters

Ahmedabad, India

Sapphire Software Solutions is an ISO 27001:2013 certified company specializing in web and mobile app development. With a focus on custom software development, they offer IT services catering to enterprises, digital agencies, and startups. Sapphire has a strong team with over 20 years of technology experience, providing full life-cycle software development, engineering services, product development, and more. They serve a diverse client base, including education, healthcare, and information technology industries, from their state-of-the-art delivery centers in India.

Headquarters

Ahmedabad, India

Conclusion

Before deciding on the type of software you wish to employ, it is important to consider the nature of your business and its scalability. Your vision, and your long and short-term goals play an important role in the final decision. The fact of the matter is that anyone, be it a small business, or a mega corporation, will benefit more from bespoke software development in the long run.

The benefits of having tailor made software running the business far outweigh any potential costs their development may incur. If you have plans to build a long-term business that will remain competitive throughout its life, and happen to be looking for bespoke software development services, contact us.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is bespoke software development?

Bespoke software development is the process of developing custom-tailored software solutions according to the requirements of the business. With custom software you improve the efficiency of your business and make it more secure, allowing you to earn more profits, improve customer experience, scale, and reliably optimize operations within the company.

What is the difference between bespoke software solutions and off-the-shelf solutions?

The biggest difference is that custom software application development allows for a considerably more optimized integration of the tech into the company that employs it, while off-the-shelf solutions are made to appeal to the masses. Tailor made software will almost always be better and more efficient for businesses that can afford it. It is generally considered to be one of the best long-term investments a company can make.

What are the benefits of a bespoke software solution?

There are many advantages of custom software. A custom software application tends to be more flexible and reliable when it comes to integrating it into the business and existing operations. It offers precisely what the company requires, without any unnecessary filler features to complicate the workflow and lower efficiency.

What are the indications that my business needs bespoke software?

If you operate in a sector that has a high level of competition, custom software development is the difference between staying in business and losing your clients to the competitors. If you plan to grow your business and expand by scaling your operations, while maintaining high levels of security and flexibility within the software, then bespoke software development is the only way to go.

SERHII OSADCHUK
CTO @ DOIT Software
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