Commercial Software vs Bespoke Software
Most software that you buy for personal use will most likely be ‘commercial off-the-shelf’ (COTS), which means the same application will typically be run by thousands or even millions of other users. It may not work exactly how you’d like it to, or do everything you’d want it to, but as an individual you’re prepared to adjust your expectations or work methodology in order to use the software ‘as-is’ to get the job done.
Businesses, however, face a choice of whether to adopt OTS software and accept that workflows and working practices may have to be adapted to work with the software, whereas a bespoke software solution is built exactly to the business’ specific requirements.
The advantages of ‘off-the-shelf’ software:
- The software is relatively cheap to buy and run as the cost of development is spread over a large number of users. Cloud-based “service” software can be purchased with no upfront cost at all – just a small fee “per user per month”.
- The software can be very sophisticated as the revenue from many users enables large resources to be made available for its ongoing development.
- Easy access to free support and help as there are many other users using the same software.
- Easy file sharing with others using the same software.
- No need to spend time or resources on product development or testing. Unless customisation is needed, you can be up and running very quickly.
The disadvantages of ‘off-the-shelf’ software:
- The software can be overly complex to cover the general requirements of mass users and therefore include large areas of functionality that you will never use, which can also make it more difficult to introduce your users and require training.
- Equally, there will probably be functionality that you require that you simply cannot do with the software – because it is specific to your business operations.
- There will always be a compromise to be made as it is designed for a wide range of users with differing requirements.
- You may have to alter the way that you work in order to fit in with the way that the software has been designed.
- Individual requests for software changes will not carry much weight with the software vendor and you may have to wait months or even years for new features and upgrades.
- As the same system is available to your competitors, it is very difficult to gain any competitive advantage from use of the software.
- Support requests for an ‘off the shelf’ product will never carry the kind of resolution priority by a large and faceless organisation that a development company will have for its own bespoke software.
Unlike off-the-shelf packages, bespoke software is designed to fit how your company operates and solves your specific issues; it is not a generic system offering broad functionality (much of which remains unused), while some required operations are simply not available.
The advantages of bespoke software:
- Designed specifically for your particular requirements and tailored to fit exactly with the way your business operates.
- It can be integrated with other software that you use to provide you with a fully joined up solution across your whole organisation.
- Staff will usually find it easier and more intuitive to use as it should operate in the way that they are used to working, without any unnecessary functionality that your company will never require.
- Bespoke software can be modified and changed over time as your requirements and business practices evolve. Small changes can often be made within days.
- There is usually a full range of support services available from the developer to maintain the software in optimum condition as technology and your business changes.
- Well-designed bespoke software applications can give you a significant business advantage over your competition. If all or part of your business involves online commerce, this is even more important.
- You have full control over your data.
- There are usually no “per user” fees; you can roll out the software to your whole user population without extra software licence costs.
- The software can be customised to your corporate “look and feel” to provide a better user experience.
- The software is yours to use, sell, monetise or change, as you can own the rights to the application. Note that Blueberry offers this transfer of IP and source code; not all software developers do! Caveat emptor!
The disadvantages of bespoke software:
- The initial investment in bespoke software is usually much higher than packaged off-the-shelf software. This is usually the biggest deterrent to choosing bespoke software for most companies. Consequently, it’s worthwhile comparing the lifetime costs (over say 5-7 years) against the expected benefits of both bespoke and off-the-shelf systems.
- If you don’t own the source code you are dangerously exposed and wholly dependent on the developer if things go wrong in the future, or the software needs updating. To avoid this, always choose a software house that will provide you with the source code on completion of the project – AS BLUEBERRY DOES.
- A bespoke application will take much longer to implement than an off-the-shelf product and will require a larger investment in your time during the development process.
- Using a developer that is technically not up to the job can mean you end up with an application that is unstable, unreliable or full of bugs. Some software houses that initially quote low to attract customers can actually end up costing clients much more by the time the software is ready. For this reason, select a developer who works to best practice and industry standards – never on price alone.
- It can be difficult to get software support for a bespoke system if you no longer have access to the original software developer. BUT if you own the source code (as you will with a Blueberry system) you can always find another developer to take it over if you ever needed to.
The most important asset for most companies is their workforce and the valuable time of their employees. In this context, while off-the-shelf software has its obvious mass market role, it can be overly complex, with large areas of unnecessary functionality, making it unsuitable for corporate environments where brand individuality is crucial to maintain competitive advantage. Additionally, staff may be required to alter the way they work in order to fit in with the way the off-the-shelf software has been designed to operate.
In a corporate setting with established ways of working, bespoke software is therefore more likely to bring with it significant commercial benefits and competitive advantage because it is uniquely designed to improve on your organisation’s existing methods of working.
A tailored software solution can help businesses increase the productivity of their staff by automating routine tasks and doing away with duplication of roles. In this way, it support a “continuous business improvement” strategy.
If you have a business challenge but are unsure of whether it can be solved through technology, contact us to talk about your requirements. We’ll give you the straight answers you need to help you make informed decisions about your next step.
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