Skip to content

Software: Bespoke or Off-the-shelf?

Software makes most businesses tick. With processes and workflows relying heavily on IT and digital infrastructures, it has never been more important for companies to have the right software in place.

Yet, every company is different. They operate in unique ways and have their own preferences when it comes to working practices and procedures. With such diverse requirements across each industry, it is not always possible for companies to find software that works for them.

The choice facing companies is clear: purchase off-the-shelf software or commission bespoke software. In this blog post, we evaluate the pros and cons of both generic and custom-made programs.

Off-the-Shelf Software

What Are the Pros?

Choosing a pre-existing piece of software is an attractive option for businesses, especially when they are looking to keep the cost down. The initial outlay for an off-the-shelf program will be noticeably lower than a bespoke package, and may come in the form of a subscription fee. The reason the cost is lower? The software is being sold to a variety of customers, not just one.

As the software has already been produced, and is being used by many other companies, it is usually ready to be implemented — often immediately. Businesses searching for an instant solution will often choose a pre-existing program to avoid delay.

As mentioned above, there will be other companies using this software. This forms a natural community of users who you can turn to for support and advice on getting the most out of the program.

What Are the Cons?

The primary drawback of an off-the-shelf piece of software is its inflexibility. The program will have been developed to suit the initial needs of one company, or to offer a generic solution that loosely applies to the requirements of many. No matter how the program was developed, there is little to no chance that it provides exactly what you are looking for. Unless your issue is a minor, common problem, you will find the rigidity of the software to be inhibiting. Similarly, because the software is not designed specifically for you, there will be features and functionalities which are irrelevant to your usage.

When you implement pre-existing software, you start to lose control of how your business operates. Rather than a program focused on facilitating your current processes, you have to manipulate your workflows to work within the limitations of the program. Do you really want to lose control over your internal procedures?

Another factor to consider is the cost. Although the initial outlay is not an eye-watering number, you may find yourself paying a series of running operational fees. To keep the software current, and in line with its competitors, developers will carry out periodic upgrades and updates. To make it worth their while, they require users to pay a set fee in order to access the improved program. Over a period of time, these charges add up.

Bespoke Software

What Are the Pros?

When you encounter a problem, or identify an area of improvement, you want an exact solution; one that caters for your every need. With bespoke software, that’s exactly what you get. The software’s framework, parameters, features, and functionality will all be designed to your specification. This control allows you to work with the developers to produce a program that facilitates your business’ processes while delivering the solution you’ve been looking for.

The benefits of commissioning a bespoke program are not limited just to internal advantages. As the only user of this brand-new software, which is designed specifically to meet your needs, you have an immediate competitive advantage over other companies in your field. The software empowers your company and staff to work in the way that you want to, something that your competitors may find impossible due to their generic software.

What Are the Cons?

A lot of businesses are put off the prospect of commissioning bespoke software by the initial sum involved. Unlike an off-the-shelf program, a bespoke solution commands a substantial purchase cost. While this fee is often repaid by the benefits the software provides, companies without large budgets may be unable to afford the initial fee.

Another potential problem with custom-made software is the development time involved. It can take months for bespoke programs to be developed, especially if the customer has a number of complex specifications. Companies searching for immediate solutions are unlikely to choose a bespoke option, unless a placeholder can be found.

A Custom-made Product for Imperial College London

Imperial College London was recently faced with the choice between off-the-shelf software and a bespoke solution. At first, they opted for off-the-shelf curriculum mapping software, but found it focused too heavily on the administrators and not enough on the student experience.

In search of something that went beyond the administration requirements and provided real benefits to students, they turned to Isotoma. We worked with Imperial College London to gain a full understanding of their needs before designing software with the functionality they had been looking for.

Meeting Your Software Specifications

The Isotoma team specialises in software development. We take great pride in understanding our client’s needs inside and out. Once we have a firm grasp of the project, we design and develop bespoke software that matches their exact specifications.

If you think custom-made software can propel your business to the next level, get in touch with the Isotoma team — we’d love to hear from you.