Bespoke vs off-the-shelf software

To help you learn the difference between bespoke and off-the-shelf software, find our insights into the pros and cons of each solution.
Bespoke software on desktop computers

When selecting the software that will underpin critical business processes, you need to consider and make an informed decision between bespoke or off-the-shelf software. To help you learn the difference between the two, we have shared our insights below.

What is bespoke software?

Unlike off-the-shelf software, a bespoke software solution will be built from the ground up to serve the specific needs of your business and users. Bespoke software can be built using a range of programming languages, frameworks, and tools. It also includes custom User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design.

What is off-the-shelf software?

Off-the-shelf software systems are ready-to-use tools available on the mass market. Off-the-shelf solutions tend to target a broad audience looking to solve a generic business challenge. It offers a large set of pre-built features, functionality, and templates.

Differences between bespoke vs off-the-shelf software

Aside from the obvious contrasts highlighted above, one of the key differences between purchasing an off-the-shelf package and investing in a bespoke solution is the ownership you have over your software.

Off-the-shelf solutions are typically available via a licence or subscription. This means that you don’t own the software but instead are renting it for a while. With bespoke software, you have complete ownership over the technology and your future roadmap.

Having full control of the development allows your software to evolve in line with your business strategy. This provides ease when your business continues to grow and you’re looking to add or update your software’s features and functionalities.

On the other hand, there is a risk that your off-the-shelf software will become unsupported, especially if updates aren’t regularly applied. Bespoke software is often easier to maintain, and any issues that emerge can be resolved quickly.

Pros and cons of bespoke software

There are many advantages to a bespoke piece of software. One is that you’re able to target any investment where it’s most needed. This means you can have the exact functionality you require, but also ensure that you don’t waste time, money, or effort on features you’re not going to use.

It’s important to think about the expected lifecycle of your software and the role it will play in supporting your business strategy. While the upfront costs of bespoke development may be higher, it does remove the need for ongoing licensing costs. It can also drive greater return on investment long-term. As well, it can provide the added confidence and security that your software is yours to evolve and work with to meet your exact requirements.

Pros and cons of off-the-shelf software

A key advantage of off-the-shelf software is the speed at which you can get up and running. This makes it a convenient solution when you need basic functionality delivered quickly.

Organisations are often tempted by the fixed costs associated with off-the-shelf software, as well as the cost of outsourced maintenance and development roadmaps with these solutions. Off-the-shelf solutions typically require less upfront investment than a bespoke software system. So, it’s important to consider the value your solution will deliver back into your business and assess your options accordingly.

There are some compromises in utilising off-the-shelf software solutions. When trying to meet the needs of a vast user base, the functionality that off-the-shelf solutions deliver must be generic. This means you may find you are altering your business’ wants and needs to fit the software rather than the other way around.

Off-the-shelf software solutions are prone to ‘feature bloat’. Because the software is trying to appease various users, it may contain features and functionalities that you don’t particularly need or want and not perform in the way that you need.

An informed choice, for a successful software solution

Whether you need an off-the-shelf solution, a bespoke software development project or something in between, it’s important to make sure you assess all the options available. This is to ensure your investment is focused on where it will deliver the greatest value.

Looking for a bespoke software solution?

At Impact IT Solutions, we’ve worked with organisations across a range of industries to design software solutions tailored to their needs. If you are looking for a bespoke software solution, find out more about our Software Development Services.

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