That is the (software) question, when you need to determine how to address the very specific needs and requirements of your company.
It is not an easy question to answer, since the answer is not always one or the other, but sometimes a combination of both. However, we’ve tried to make it easier for you in this post by listing the questions that you should ask.
To begin with however, let us just give a short description of bespoke, and its alternative.
Bespoke software is software that will be created specifically to address your company’s unique needs. Of course, how unique these needs are is subject to discussion, as it is very likely that other companies exist with requirements that are pretty close to what you need. And if these requirements are common to many other such companies, it is likely that someone, somewhere, has already created this software and is offering it for sale off-the-shelf.
So how should you choose between one option and the other?
BESPOKE IS MADE FOR YOU: the software will be created from scratch, based on your company’s specific needs and will, hopefully, be a solution to all of your organisation’s challenges, or at least those challenges you would like to address.
TIME: Bespoke is not a quick fix, because developing software which works well takes time.
FEATURES: Off-the-shelf solutions often cover a wider range of features than bespoke, since the latter usually won’t start as feature-rich.
RISK: you may be paying a high price for a bespoke solution, but not get what you originally intended.
PRICE: Off-the-shelf software is generally cheaper compared to custom since bespoke software is made exclusively for one company. Yet, sometimes, the ROI for bespoke may be bigger and faster, wiping out any price differences in the long-term.
SCALE: Usually off-the-shelf software, especially SaaS applications like Zendesk, CRMs like HubSpot, Salesforce and Dynamics scale as you scale with little to no additional effort. On the other hand, bespoke solutions would usually require technical intervention and continuous development to make sure the software scales as the business scales.
COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: part of the value of bespoke, also reflected in its ROI, is that your competitors won’t be able to use the same software. If the software is that good, it gives you a competitive advantage that can’t be easily replicated.
SECURITY: off-the-shelf software can be risky since you’re sharing software with other users, putting your company in danger of being hacked.
SUPPLIER DEPENDENCE: Bespoke solutions will make you reliant on one provider to maintain and support, unlike off-the-shelf solutions which are often supported by many providers and come with a large community of users willing to support. However, this dependence can be mitigated by choosing the right development company.
At Cleverbit Software we have experience designing an developing bespoke solutions as well as helping businesses deploy off-the-shelf solutions, customising them and integrating these solutions with other systems within an organisation.