When it comes to software packages, there are two main options available:

an off-the-shelf product or a bespoke application.

Off-the-shelf products are easy to purchase as they are ready-made and take a one-fits-all approach. Although the development costs would potentially be lower, it would be rare for a business to find just one off-the-shelf product that meets all the needs of the organisation, which may result in the purchase of more than one.  

On the other hand, partnering with a technical expert to develop a bespoke software system can have a number of benefits. A bespoke system is designed to meet the specific needs of the business and aims to improve efficiencies by automating your already existing processes.  


When it comes to bespoke software, customisation is key to the design and creation of the software. It is developed to specifically meet the unique needs and requirements of your business to create seamless transitions within your existing systems. In comparison to this, off-the-shelf software is designed to appeal to the majority of businesses and therefore could contain elements that are irrelevant to your business requirements.  


Bespoke software is designed with integration in mind. This means that bespoke software can be designed to integrate with your company’s existing internal systems so that the process is streamlined and can run more efficiently. It is unlikely that an off-the-shelf product will do this for your business. The people within your business will have to work around the chosen software and jump between different programmes which can create inefficiencies.  


When a bespoke system is designed, the technical partner designs the software so that it will be compatible with the relevant systems needed for your business to operate and what the objectives of the software are. In comparison to this, off-the-shelf products tend to not be as flexible with integration of existing systems and technologies.  


Using a bespoke system over an off-the-shelf product, allows room for businesses growth. The software can be designed with future goals and needs in mind. An off-the-shelf product might not have the same flexibility and could struggle to keep up with the business as it evolves. This can cause frustration with employees as the systems are no longer fit for purpose, and this can lead to the company spending additional money on new software to meet the new demands of the business.  


When using a technical partner, you will have direct communication with the people who developed your software solution which will allow you to communicate with those who understand your business. This means that technical support will be more personal and effective. On the other hand, when using off-the-shelf software, there will often be an online support and help function to answer the most common Q&As, however this would be generic and not unique to your business. If your question is not answered accurately, you could be left frustrated and stuck without a solution.  

When deciding between a bespoke software solution and an off-the-shelf product, you must ensure you are not just picking a solution that is the cheapest or “almost fit” rather than a system that will ensure your people have the tools they need to work as efficiently as possible. A company must consider what they feel will benefit their business in the long run and what will overall deliver a cost- effective solution for their organisation.  

Barry Booth

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