If you’re running or planning to build a business that will operate in the digital world, you surely came across the terms “off-the-shelf” and “bespoke software” once or twice (or even many more). Today we’ll focus on that second one, and we’ll lead you through the advantages of the bespoke software so you can consciously assess whether this solution may be a good fit for your business.
But let’s spare a minute to look at the ready-to-use software first. Sometimes the main reason why the entrepreneurs are going for this option is pretty trivial: such solutions are easily accessible and, as one of its names indicates, ready to use once you decide to introduce them to your business. And, to be fair, there is nothing wrong with such an approach.
An off-the-shelf solution is a great way to go when you’re at the beginning of your business journey, and you’re not even sure if people will like (and follow) your way of doing things. Or when you are not sure whether the tool you have in mind would work well within your organization. In those scenarios, a ready-to-use solution helps you make the first steps, start building your customer base, and/or validate your ideas. But once your business grows, its needs (or your customers’ needs) grow as well – and with time, you’ll most likely require additional or better-adjusted features that your off-the-shelf software simply can’t provide. That’s the moment you should start thinking about going bespoke.
Even though at first sight the bespoke software may seem to be an expensive solution, the truth behind this assumption is not that black and white. Worry not – we’ll dive into that as well to make sure you have the full picture of how it works!
Got your coffee ready? Let’s dig deeper!
What is bespoke software?
Bespoke software (aka custom software or tailored software) or applications are those that are built especially for you – meaning based on your business needs, so they have all the features that you want it to have.
Let’s say you’re running a company that needs some handy tool that will help you organize your work and speed up your business’ growth. In this case, bespoke software would have the features adjusted to your internal processes, the activities run by your company’s departments, and maybe also those that would help you provide a better service to your customers.
But bespoke software isn’t reserved for internal processes – it’s also a great way to go when you’re looking to build a product that will serve your clients. In such a case, it would contain all the functionalities needed to provide your users with the best possible experience. Imagine you operate in the fitness industry, and you want to introduce an app that will help your users in their training routine. If you have already done your research and you know your audience’s needs, choosing the bespoke solution allows you to equip your platform with those and only those features that your users really want. No features that nobody will use (that may be included in the off-the-shelf solution) and no complaints about your software lacking some important functionality that your audience craves.
Okay, but are those the only advantages of the bespoke software? (Of course not.) And are there any arguments against reaching out to a custom solution? Let’s move on.
Advantages of bespoke software
The list of advantages of bespoke software can be veeery long. When you dig deeper, you can find numerous aspects that make this solution a great way to speed up your business growth and gain bigger control over it. But as none of us have the whole night to spare, I’ll go through only several – the most important – examples.
1. Individually crafted solution
The whole sense of the bespoke software is for it to be tailored specifically to the needs of your business. You set its purpose, and the role of your development team is to help you build features that will… well, ensure that this purpose will be fulfilled.
The biggest problem with off-the-shelf solutions is that they usually lack some functionalities you need – or maybe even have them, but they’re not exactly how you would like them to be. You look at those features, and you think, “it would be awesome, IF…” – and that “if” is something that usually makes those ready-to-use options “quite good” or “okay,” but stops them from becoming “the tool I cannot live without.” On the other hand, such solutions may also include features that you don’t need at all – but as they’re an integral part of the software, you end up paying for something that’s… well, useless.
Whether you’re building software for your company’s internal use or for your customers, the undoubted advantage of bespoke software is that it allows you to tailor your tool to your requirements and your customers’ needs. It can work exactly the way you need it – of course, as long as the currently known technology allows it. But no worries – its possibilities are enormous. And what if you’re unsure if some features or integrations are possible to implement? That’s exactly why it’s worth working with an experienced tech partner. They can help you analyze your ideas, check if they’re doable and if your users would really want to use them, and suggest the best approach for implementing every element.
Also, if you’re considering moving from the off-the-shelf solution to the bespoke software, an important reason may be simply the fact that it’s lacking some features your users ask for. Before finding the one and favorite, most users try multiple apps – so they most likely know what features are out there and may miss some of them in your product. You don’t want to lose them because of such a trivial reason, do you? In this case, the advantage of the bespoke app is that you can add the functionalities that your users ask for and therefore keep up with their growing needs and make sure they’ll stay with you instead of moving on to another app.
2. Growth & scalability
This one is a natural consequence of the above. While off-the-shelf solutions come with particular features chosen by their providers, adding new functionalities also depends on providers’ decisions – not your current needs. The bespoke software, in turn, gives you vast possibilities in terms of scaling and growing your product.
You’re introducing a new process or opening a new department in your business, and you need new functionalities that will cover new areas? Done. You learned that your users seek a certain feature that will boost their experience, and you want to implement it? It’s your bespoke app, you rule it, and you decide when and how it grows.
The same applies to handling the growing number of users and the amount of data you gather along the way. With a bespoke app, you’re not subject to any top-down limitations, and you can freely scale your product and adjust it according to changing needs.
3. Return on investment
Even though building bespoke software requires an initial investment, once it’s ready, it will quickly pay itself back. If you carefully validate your idea and build your product based on realistic measurements, your business will function better, attract more customers and, in consequence, grow faster. Bespoke software is also a form of your company’s intellectual property, so it can increase the value of your business.
Read also: What is an error budget?
4. Time-saving & no integration issues
Yes, building bespoke software takes time, but on the other hand, having such a tool saves tons of it – for example, on things like integration. There are always some functionalities that require integration, like payment systems, video streaming, etc. Choosing the bespoke solution, you can implement them during the development process, which means that once your bespoke software is built, it’s ready to use with all the integrations in place.
Having one well-equipped software with one consistent interface will also shorten the time needed to train your employees to use it. You won’t have to waste time on multiple training sessions for various tools and will start enjoying the benefits of your software faster.
5. Distinction & competitive advantage
As already mentioned, one of the big advantages of bespoke software is that it allows you to make things a bit differently. It’s especially important in the case of platforms or applications built for your customers’ use. You can equip it with the features that your competitors lack (especially if they use the off-the-shelf option) – and, therefore, easily overrun them. And even talking about the features that every other product from your industry has – you can always think of a way to make it unique or simply better than your competitors did. That gives you a huge competitive advantage and a chance to attract more and more customers.
6. Full control
Another perk that comes with the bespoke solution is that it gives you complete control over your project. You own the development roadmap. You set the direction and pace of the development process. And finally, you decide when to add new features or change some of them. That also means you can act on your users’ feedback – applying changes to your product whenever it’s convenient or possible for your business, without waiting for the provider of an off-the-shelf solution to maybe implement some features or upgrades in the future.
Surprisingly, not many people talk about this one, while – when you think about it – it seems crucial. The ready-to-use options aren’t really a “solid ground” to safely lean your business on it. Those are solutions run by other people, ones that can be potentially exposed to many risks that generally might never concern your business – except if it’s built on that off-the-shelf ground. If this product is withdrawn from the market for any reason, everything you have created may suddenly fall into pieces. It doesn’t sound well, right? But, having your very own bespoke software, you’re much more independent – and the future of your business depends on how you are going to handle it.
8. Easier maintenance
The above bonds also to the subject of the maintenance of your software. Having your in-house team or the support of a reliable tech partner who constantly keeps an eye on your product, you can solve any potential problems faster and more efficiently. There is a much lower risk of delays and no need to wait for the provider’s reaction. And it’s worth keeping in mind that such a provider servers dozens or even hundreds of other companies at the same time – so there’s always a “queue.” The same applies to upgrades or adding new features that your product will most likely need at some point.
Okay, we have spent a while listing all those advantages. Time to move on to bespoke software disadvantages.
Are there any disadvantages of bespoke software?
Let’s be honest: there aren’t many. But the best thing is that the disadvantages of bespoke software are not something you cannot avoid and just have to accept, which is often the case for off-the-shelf solutions. Here they are rather just factors you need to consider while deciding to go for a custom solution.
As I already mentioned, choosing bespoke software requires an upfront investment – and that’s a fact that no one argues with. Building a custom platform or application usually costs more, considering the time and effort of specialists needed to create a really good product. The thing is, the strengths of such a solution will pay back, bringing your business faster growth, which means – saying simply – you’ll most likely quickly start making more money.
When you think about it, it’s actually quite obvious. Building masterpieces doesn’t happen overnight, so if you want to have a really good product, you need to consider the time your developers simply have to spend on it (apart from the fact that product development, in general, always takes time). However, considering the benefits such a product will bring to your business (like growth and money), it’s definitely worth waiting for.
But what’s important here is that you don’t have to worry that you’ll be waiting forever, not knowing how much longer it will all take. While working with an experienced tech partner, you always get the time estimates. Of course, you cannot get too attached to the indicated timelines, as the development process is dynamic, and lots of things can occur along the way. But you’ll always have timeframes for your project and regular updates on the progress that will help you plan your next steps accordingly.
Features of bespoke software
That’s the beauty of it – a bespoke software can have all the features you want and/or need – of course, as long as you have a good team of developers that has the skills to build them. (That’s why we keep mentioning the subject of a reliable tech partner that can equip you with an experienced team and, even better, adjust the team members and their skill-set to your projects’ current needs).
If a bespoke app were a person, it would be that guy or a girl that has it all: is good-looking, smart, self-confident, have a great sense of style, lots of talents, great career – and whenever you ask them for a favor, they’re like “Sure, no problem.” You want a tool that will bring you better organization, speed up some processes and automate mundane tasks? Here you go. You want to build an app that will steal the hearts of your customers and bring you an advantage over your competitors? Hold my beer. You want to implement AI or make your app AI-ready, so you can implement it when the right time comes? The pleasure is all mine.
Well, I’m sure you get the idea.
Customized software examples
What about customized software examples? If they’re so good, why don’t we see them at every corner? The intriguing thing is that very often, we don’t even realize that they’re all around us. We use them every day, in various areas of our lives, without reflecting on the fact that their custom nature is exactly what makes us like certain solutions so much. We just enjoy using them.
Self-service kiosks & POS technology
Becoming more and more popular, self-service kiosks are a perfect example of bespoke software that quickly found its place on the market. And surely, nobody wants to go back to times when they weren’t existing. Their main goals were to boost customer satisfaction, speed up the ordering and purchase process, and reduce queues – and I believe nobody who has ever used them needs additional convincing that they entirely serve their purpose.
The easiest to name and probably some of the most recognizable examples of brands leveraging self-service kiosks are fast-food chains KFC and McDonald’s. Even though solutions utilized in both companies are similar, they have been adjusted to each brand’s specifics and its customers.
Trying to overrun the competition, at some point, both KFC and McDonald’s started equipping their systems with new features that were supposed to bring them differentiation and boost their customers’ experience even more. One of the brands introduced the “order through the app” option that allowed customers to place an order before they even get to the restaurant – so they can come and pick it up when it’s ready. Around the same time, the second brand launched a “custom order” option, allowing the clients to add or remove some ingredients from their meal, so they can get their food exactly how they like. (By the way, I’m sorry, but can we spare a minute to appreciate the beautiful inception of this example? A company implements a custom solution to offer their customers the possibility of customization 💛)
Ever heard of Revolut? Born as a visionary idea for a banking app that could ease the life of travelers, in November 2020, it became the most valuable fintech in the UK, and shortly after, in June 2021, UK’s most valuable tech startup. As the company grew and its founders gathered new funds, they kept scaling their app and enriching it with new functionalities and features. That is how, within barely a few years, Revolut became a multifunctional banking tool suitable for a wide range of finance-related activities and various groups of users from all over the world. (Not to mention that in many countries, it received a license and became an actual bank.)
Sports & fitness services
The world-spread events of 2020 and 2021 (I mean the pandemic, I just didn’t want to mention it) have completely turned the world of sports and fitness upside down. While lots of fitness centers and gyms didn’t survive the crisis, some of them embraced the sudden shift of the world to an online space and exploited its potential. One of them was our client, PortalYogi, which is just a perfect example for this article.
PortalYogi was operating online even before the pandemic – actually, from the very beginning of its existence. They started with an off-the-shelf solution that allowed them to validate whether an idea of online yoga classes would gain the interest of their existing customers and attract new ones. When the pandemic hit, the demand for this kind of solutions drastically increased and brought raising requirements of people who wanted to keep their training routine by switching to online classes.
At that time, PortalYogi was already noticing some drawbacks and deficiencies in their off-the-shelf solution for a while. Therefore, they decided it was time to reach for the opportunities that come along with the bespoke software. Thanks to that, the platform was able to fulfill the rising needs of its users, adding new features and solutions that supported its growth into one of the biggest yoga studios in Poland. Sounds inspiring, doesn’t it? You can listen to the whole story in the interview we ran with PortalYogi’s co-founder, Ewa Wysocka.
Top 8 advantages of bespoke software – summary
Putting it all together, even though bespoke software development requires an investment of time and money, its advantages bring you vast growth and scaling possibilities that are just simply worth it. You need to remember, however, that the success of going bespoke strongly relies on several essential factors:
- your business needs to be ready for it,
- you should carefully validate your ideas,
- wanting to build a great product, you need the support of good tech talents.
The last one is why I mentioned working with a reliable tech partner (aka web app development company) several times in this article. Even if you already have some in-house specialists on board, such cooperation can still be the best way to go for you. A tech partner doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who will build your product from A-Z – they can also support your internal team or fulfill the lack of specific skills within your organization. Thanks to that, you won’t have to worry about recruiting specialists that you need in the project only temporarily – your tech partner will take care of providing you with the talents required at every stage of your product development. Last but not least, a tech partner can also help you validate your ideas and determine whether your users will really want to use the features you have in mind, saving you from spending time and money on developing functionalities that wouldn’t gain any interest.
Lots to think about now, right? Hope this piece gave you a broader perspective on the advantages of bespoke software and will help you make the best decision for your business!
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