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Off-the-Shelf or Bepoke Software?

You have two choices; you can opt for off the shelf software or, you can purchase bespoke, customised software. Remember, 'off the shelf' packages and related applications will typically be run by thousands or even millions of users. However, bespoke software is custom developed for your particular organisation or business. There are various advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Your best bet is to take a hard look at the facts before purchasing the software that could make or break your business.

If you would like to find the best software for your business - whether you need it to be bespoke or off-the-shelf - then the best way to proceed is with a quote. Approved Index can help here. With our quick and easy quote comparison service you can get prices, services and estimates from top, vetted UK software developers. It's the quickest and easisest way to find the best deal, and you could save as much as 40%.

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The 3 Core Differences:

1. Price
Off-the-shelve Software is usually reasonably priced whereas a customised product can be relatively expensive to build. The cost of development of an off-the-shelf product is distributed over a number of buyers. Therefore, the pricing is spread over the number of licenses that will be sold. Customised software on the other hand, is uniquely made made for just one buyer.

2. Generic build
Off-the-shelf software is made for a wide range of consumers. In fact, one product is spread amongst a number of consumers, leveling the playing field for all. Not much competition is there? The development team provides a standard design and pre-defined framework. Since off-the-shelf product is fairly standard, it may not cater to to all requirements for every individual company. Usually there are adjustments that an existing organisation will need to make in order to implement an off-the-shelf product. Customised software internalises current processes and builds an electronic framework to automate them. There is no requirement to change any processes. It takes a matter of days to familiarise yourself with the software. Customised software can change to suit your needs. You’re also able to fine tune the software for better performance.

3. Updates
Each time there is a revision in software purchased off-the-shelf, you will need to shell out an update fee. However some off-the-shelf products may not have any updates for a long time, and your software may be rendered obsolete which might have negative repercussions for your business. Customised software provides updates based on the requirements and budget of the company. Note, Off-the-shelf software is ready to go the minute you slide the installation CD into the drive. Bespoke software is built to your specification.

The advantages and disadvantages of Off-the-shelf and Bespoke Software

Off-the-shelf software: The Pros

  • Off-the-shelf software tends to be relatively cheap. The cost of development can be spread over a large number of users.
  • Off-the-shelf software can be very sophisticated. For example Microsoft Excel or Word, as the revenue from a very large number of users leads to plentiful resources that can be applied to its development.

Off-the-shelf-software: The Cons

  • Off-the-shelf software can be highly complex. It will usually include large sections that you will never use. The average Word user is reputed to only use about 10 % of the available facilities.
  • Off-the-shelf software tends to be a compromise. By its very nature this software is designed for many different types of users. Each will have different requirements.
  • Off-the-shelf software may take a long time to learn properly. This is because this software tends to be large and complicated.
  • You may have to make adjustments. This means altering the way that you work in order to fit in with the way that the software has been designed. There will probably be operations that you require that are simply not possible with the software.
  • Your competitors are on your level. As the same system can be bought by your competitors it is very difficult to gain any competitive advantage from its use.
Bespoke Software: The Pros
  • Bespoke Software is unique. More importantly, it’ll suit your pocket and your company’s unique requirements.
  • Bespoke Software applications are written to meet specific and unique client requirements. In this way it offers many advantages over standard, off-the-shelf software as it can be tailored to fit in exactly with the way that your business or organisation wishes to operate.
  • Bespoke Software develops with your business. It can be tuned to your specific needs, providing performance benefits that are not feasible with packaged software. It is much more flexible than packaged software and can be modified and changed over time as your requirements and business practices change.
  • Bespoke Software is easy to use. This is because it works the way you want it to work. You are in control since you can make the changes you require when you like. It requires less supervision and results in fewer errors.
  • Bespoke Software increases productivity. Customised applications increase productivity by automating repetitive tasks.
  • Bespoke Software gives you the upper hand. Your Bespoke Software sets you apart from your competition. The use of professionally developed Bespoke Software applications can give you a significant business advantage over your competition. If you’re fortunate enough to find good developers, they can significantly add value to your company by suggesting alternatives, improvements and by acting as a source of IT advice and information.
  • Business information is easier to understand. This is because customised applications incorporate your business knowledge. Information can be integrated from disparate existing applications.

Bespoke Software: The Cons

  • Without the source code you’re doomed. If you do not have the source code you are dangerously exposed. You’re also completely dependent on the developer's continuing existence and good will. To avoid this problem make sure you choose a developer who provides you with the source code.
  • You could risk unstable software. If the software is not developed to professional Best Practice standards it may be unstable, unreliable and full of bugs, although this can also be true of some packaged software. Selecting a developer who works to Best Practice should counteract any risk.

It makes sense to interrogate every option rather than settling for something that might not do your business justice in the long run. Purchase software that can give you maximum results rather than software that gives you mediocre results. Your business is at stake. Having a customised application developed for you can potentially provide you with major business and commercial benefits and allow you to gain significant competitive advantage.

Keep in mind, you can expect to pay more for a bespoke solution than for a packaged solution as it is essential to use a professional developer who works to Best Practice standards and will develop exclusive software for your business. Consider the above mentioned points when making your decision.

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