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No one gets very far in their software deliberations before confronting the choice between an ‘off-the-shelf’ product, or a bespoke project.

That’s unless, of course, the concept of a bespoke software project is completely alien to you.  Many would have you believe: “with so much commercially available software out there, surely there’s a ready-made, tried and trusted product that’s ideal for what we need?”

To help organisations address the bespoke vs. off-the-shelf debate, we must first set the record straight on some ‘myths’.

In our opinion, it isn’t safe to assume that either off-the-shelf or bespoke is a perfect remedy for every software requirement.  We can show how each has its virtues.  It’s all to do with what your specific requirements are.

Consider the following before jumping to any conclusions about which approach takes longest, costs more, or is best for you.

MYTH #1: Bespoke is more expensive than off the shelf

Bespoke budgets can have a habit of changing during the life of the project.  The best way to avoid this pitfall is to establish a sound contractual framework that anticipates such changes – allowing the budget to flex within acceptable parameters – and clearly sets out how to resolve any dispute.

Hidden, supplementary costs frequently arise with off-the-shelf products. Third party integration specialists and development houses are frequently employed to help businesses succeed in getting off-the-shelf software packages to work for their unique organisational needs.

Determining an accurate comparison means looking beyond the purchase price of the software to whole-life costs.

MYTH #2: Going bespoke means it takes longer to get the solution you need

Unless your requirement is simple or generic, off-the-shelf is unlikely to deliver what you need straightaway. There can be many other time-consuming stages beyond downloading the software if you’re determined to make off-the-shelf software work in the optimum way.

Bespoke projects can happen really fast when they skip essential stages such as getting the feasibility, scope and legal framework correct from the very outset.  This is a pathway to failure.  Some benefits – such as enduring competitive advantage – are worth spending the time to get right.

MYTH #3: Bespoke is more risky and prone to failure

Arguably the bespoke developer has a greater incentive to ensure the security, functionality and success of their software development, because they stand to gain or lose significantly more than an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) selling licenses.  Aren’t off-the-shelf packages habitually flawed with bugs and vulnerabilities?

Regardless of motive or integrity (of which neither camp can claim exclusivity) the customer must choose their individual supplier/partner carefully to mitigate risk.

MYTH #4: It’s pretty dumb to go bespoke, when there’s so much software out there

The massively increased quantity of commercially available software now available has done little, if anything, to satisfy the opportunity to use technology to meet a specific business need.  Off-the-shelf products must satisfy the maximum possible audience in order to be viable, and this conflicts with organisations that want software to innovate in line with their individual requirements.

Wide-scale availability of off-the-shelf software actually benefits those organisations harnessing bespoke development; to augment the desired functionality of these projects.

MYTH #5: Bespoke developers have nothing like the big-scale development resources of an off-the-shelf provider

Very few ISVs can, like Microsoft and Google, invest billions of dollars in developing their products.  Most will be a good deal smaller – with development budgets to match – if they are going to have the feature set that’s somewhere near relevant to your highly specialised requirements.

Whether large or small, the resources of a bespoke software developer are directed toward achieving your goal.  If you’ve found the right bespoke software developer, they’ll invest in understanding your business and applying their technical skills to achieve precisely what’s required.

If you have any other questions about bespoke software development, get in touch today.