What is bespoke software development and why should I care?

Posted on 14 August 2019 by John Mooren

We say that we offer bespoke software development services. But what do we mean by that and why is it relevant to your business? Below we have tried to answer some of the questions we get asked regularly when we introduce ourselves to people. Please contact us if there is still any mystery in your mind about what we could do for you – we are always happy to discuss.

What is meant by bespoke software?

Bespoke software is custom or tailor-made software that solves a specific requirement. It is typically built for a specific client and then maintained by or for that client. It is not licensed to other clients afterwards. The alternative to bespoke software is off-the-shelf software that is typically written to solve a generic requirement for lots of clients.

Bespoke software can refer to whole, stand-alone software applications (web, mobile or back-end applications), but can also apply to integrations/interfaces between applications or adaptations of existing software applications. A lot of the work we do is ensuring that the off-the-shelf applications in the infrastructure of a client communicate efficiently with each other, leveraging the strengths in each while optimising the productivity of the whole system infrastructure.

Visualisation of tailor made suit versus mass produced

How is bespoke software used?

Bespoke software is typically used to solve a specific set of requirements for a specific client. It allows clients to create a solution that they control, suits the workflow of the client, and can exploit the USPs of the client. The focus can be on improving productivity, reducing cost, enhancing employee wellbeing, better customer service, and/or increasing sales. Whichever the driver, a tailor-made solution can create a strong competitive advantage and do so very quickly.

Some examples of work we have done for each of these drivers are:
Productivity & cost reduction: We have integrated an off-the-shelf accounting and payments system with our client’s homegrown Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to automate several accounting tasks and create far more detailed financial insights into the business.
Employee wellbeing: We have built an HR application that allowed for quick and simple 360-degree feedback on a regular basis in a way that was not achievable in any off-the-shelf software available.
Customer service: We have rebuilt a client’s website, not only making it load faster, multilingual, and responsive to different screen-sizes, but because it was built from scratch we were able to integrate their bespoke Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and make some of the key customer data searchable from the website. We were also able to build a bespoke fee calculator and a compliance criteria generator to truly personalise the site for our client’s customers.
Sales: We have integrated an e-commerce platform and an e-learning management system (LMS) into a website to allow our client to sell their training material more effectively.

What is the difference between bespoke and off-the-shelf software?

The main difference between bespoke and off-the-shelf software is that off-the-shelf software is built and designed with a wide range of customers in mind, meaning the design is standardised and the functionality will have limited room for variations to suit the clients’ needs. In contrast, bespoke software can be designed and built to suit one client’s requirements.

You should beware that the consideration is not necessarily whether to use bespoke OR off-the-shelf software. Bespoke software is often used very effectively to enhance or integrate off-the-shelf products in use at a client, making the total system infrastructure more valuable and effective.

Visualisation of blocks not integrated versus a complete and fitting whole

What are the main advantages and disadvantages of bespoke software?

The main advantages of bespoke software are:

  • It allows you to create a solution that suits your needs perfectly
  • You are in full control over the end result
  • It allows you to get the most out of any off-the-shelf software you use
  • If executed well, the return on investment over the medium and long term is higher than for off-the-shelf software

The main disadvantages of bespoke software are:

  • The up-front investment required is usually higher than for off-the-shelf solutions
  • You need to understand your requirements well enough to be able to communicate them to the software provider

If you don’t have the internal resources to maintain and enhance the solution over time, you will need a reliable partner to provide that service.

Have you got any bespoke software requirements?

Now that you have a better feel for what bespoke software could do for you, you may want to discuss your own needs in more detail. Send us an email or call us on 01273 830 331 – we are always happy to give you some initial advice for free. We may be able to highlight efficiency gains or revenue opportunities you may have overlooked so far.

If you want to explore what we could do for your e-commerce or e-learning activities or your membership platform in more detail, have a look at our services overview. Are you interested in what we have done for other clients in more details, have a look at our portfolio pages. Or check out our testimonials to see how we look after our clients.