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Bespoke vs. off-the-shelf software

The 5 scenarios where bespoke software shines

In a post-Covid world, software that was once ‘nice to have’ is now a necessity. It’s sobering to see businesses who have put-off progressing their digital evolution finding themselves on the back foot and ill-prepared to survive and thrive in the new business world.

Increased demand for contactless services and work-from-home tools have forced businesses to review their systems. Once the penny drops that they need upgraded software solutions, the first question businesses often ask is – “What off-the-shelf solutions are out there?”

With potentially cheaper upfront costs than bespoke solutions and the promise of rapid implementation, it’s a natural choice for a business to look for an out-of-the-box solution first. And there certainly are many well-defined and good quality applications available that take care of standard requirements for business functions such as AML/KYC, CRM, Accounting, and Custodial functions.  But…

  • What if your business does things differently?
  • What if you’re not ready to scrap your existing system just yet?
  • What if you want to digitise your processes as well as your products?

That’s where bespoke solutions really shine, where specialist software meets specialist businesses. As proven specialists in your industry, here’s a view of the key benefits that come with bespoke and some of the common myths we encounter...

1. Bespoke Software exactly matches Business Needs

The most obvious reason to invest in bespoke software is to get a solution that exactly matches and enhances your business needs and processes.

Because you should adapt your tools to your business – not your business to your tools. It sounds obvious, yet many businesses bend under restrictive software.

We’ve encountered too many businesses that have effectively cobbled themselves by attempting to adapt their businesses to their tools. Whether it’s a mission-critical spreadsheet or a complicated customer registration and onboarding process that could (and should) be automated, manual workarounds and double-handling to adapt to an off the shelf product can soak up the potential benefits one might have anticipated from them.

Targeted solutions that are built to solve a problem in its entirety allow organisations to push the envelope. With a platform that captures institutional knowledge while streamlining processes, teams and individuals gain a tool that gets the job done accurately and efficiently.

The wider and deeper benefits of enhanced workflow, productivity, and efficiency soon demonstrate how custom solutions can provide a more significant return on investment than other approaches.  

2. Bespoke Software captures Competitive Advantage

We’ve all heard a version of the phrase ‘a business is nothing without its people’. 

Organisations are quick to advertise the centuries of combined experience in their team. It’s what sets your business apart from your competitors and it’s why your clients stay – your people are your greatest asset.

But even your best people will inevitably move on at some point. What happens then? 

If your people are the asset, that means your advantage is lost (or at least diminished) when change happens. Newcomers start on the backfoot and take years to gain the same level of knowledge their predecessors took with them.

This is where bespoke software can make a big difference. Because it’s built alongside your team, it’s able to capture institutional knowledge and best practices. The result is a platform that amplifies the competitive advantage provided by your people and ensures a consistently high standard of service.

With bespoke software, businesses are better equipped to take a leadership position in their industry without the risk of losing a competitive edge when change happens.

Another simple yet powerful advantage of bespoke software is that your competitors won’t have anything close to the platform that has been specifically developed for your business. The online experience you provide your customers is now so much more important! 

3. Bespoke Software Is Your Asset

By choosing an off-the-shelf platform, businesses pay another company for the use of their product. Even if the software is integral to the everyday functionality of their business, it’s still owned by someone else. Some key constraints come with this model:

  • Product modifications
  • Vendor lock-in
  • Hidden costs

The supplier owns the core platform code that your business uses daily. This means they can modify, add, and remove features at their discretion, so the system you rely on could become obsolete overnight.

Businesses can quickly experience vendor lock-in. Essentially, your business becomes reliant on an off-the-shelf solution for daily processes – you might even build further processes and acquire tools to integrate with the platform.

Now you’re trapped with a restrictive system that feeds into all your other business processes and you can’t go to market for a better alternative because that would mean a full-scale overhaul.

But bespoke software is different because, even though you hire a team of developers to build your system, it’s 100% your own software. It gives you the freedom to further develop your platform either by outsourcing, insourcing, or a hybrid model in the future depending on the direction your business wants to take. The intellectual property captured by that platform is retained in the software 

Bespoke software is a company asset that can be valued and treated on your books much like any other valuable company asset. Furthermore the intellectual property that has been captured within that platform is valued by future investors of the business.   

4. Bespoke Software Equals Accountability

For businesses that handle sensitive client data, the software you use has a significant impact on your accountability. 

Choosing a third-party provider to power any of your day-to-day operations runs the risk that sensitive customer data may well be replicated multiple times and stored in multiple places without your specific consent. With recent privacy rules coming into play it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure your business has control over your data. 

Bespoke software can provide businesses with far better control over who has access to the data and where your data is stored and protected. Nuanced permission structures can be developed for staff who need different levels of access at different times to ensure the risk of breaches are minimised and uptime is maintained.

Furthermore, capability can be built into your software to trigger an alert on system changes for centralised management and log production, suitable for future audits which are inevitable. 

5. Bespoke Software Supports Innovation & Growth

Software that fits like a glove can take a business to the next level of achievement. 

With Bespoke the constraints and limitations that come with products disappear. Such freedom can provide that special difference needed by your business to innovate and scale. 

The custom platform advantage can provide superior business efficiencies, substantially reduced operational costs and a vehicle to scale fast. 

Plus, custom software developers are innovators by nature. They’re positioned on the pulse of industry developments, which makes them the perfect partners for businesses looking to scale-up and shake-up their industry.


Busting The Myths About Bespoke Software

It’s More Expensive

Cost is the number one objection for bespoke software as compared to off-the-shelf. Many businesses just can’t see past the initial comparison between a monthly fee and an up-front investment.

But when you factor in the total cost of ownership over the total life cycle of a software solution against the added benefit of being able to capitalise your own software as an asset on your books, a fairer comparison of costs emerges.

By factoring in the improved efficiencies and benefits provided by 100% custom solution it often becomes the case that bespoke ends up being less expensive. 

With bespoke solutions, it’s also much easier to effect graceful migrations of incumbent institutionalised platforms over a longer period of time such that adequate return on investment can be achieved from those older systems to boot.

Development Takes Too Long

Off-the-shelf software is perceived as being fast and transactional by nature. There is a perception that a business can purchase and install an off-the-shelf platform in one day.

But it’s easy to overlook the time taken for a business to adapt to the solution. Training, data migration, business process reengineering, integration, customisation and even company restructures are common overheads that should be factored in when moving to a product-based solution. 

With Bespoke solutions, a slightly different approach is taken. While there are still tasks such as training and business process engineering they are part and parcel of a development project that results in a business being able to hit the ground running once the custom solution is deployed. Specialist solutions for specialist operators ultimately equate to faster return on investment. 

It’s Risky

The negative stigma of bespoke software can be largely attributed to development methodologies of the 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, requirement specs were often defined and signed-off once as part of a monolithic project management process. This has since been replaced by Agile approaches that are iterative in nature that are far less risky.

With Agile, a project has the freedom and flexibility to change direction based on feedback loops, leading to software that suits your business at the time of deployment and can adapt to your business as it evolves. Agile is now a very well-proven methodology, with numerous studies reporting a staggering ROI when compared to the traditional development method.

The collaboration between developers and customers that comes from the Agile approach ultimately delivers solutions that capture your companies ‘secret sauce’ and lead to enduring partnerships that serve you well for your entire business lifecycle.  Rather than a product you gain a technology partner.

A complete solution ecosystem

As bespoke developers YouDo are of course big advocates of the bespoke approach. That’s not to say that we recommend only bespoke solutions for your business, in fact we work with many partner product suppliers as part and parcel of our practice.

As we’ve alluded to there are a growing number of well-defined and good quality applications available that take care of specific business functions of your business. If they closely fit the requirements then they shouldn’t be ignored.

The good news is that more and more of these product components now come out of the box with well supported and documented API’s. By doing so they are able to play a vital role in a more complete solution ecosystem where custom digital business processes, implemented with bespoke software, integrate with multiple systems to align with the exact needs of your business.  

Your people are empowered by their software solutions to deliver your business advantage. This is the bright future we see in business software solutions. 

Choose A Bespoke Software Development Team That Knows Your Industry

The advantages of bespoke software can’t be underestimated, especially when the developers have a deep understanding of your industry.  Ask yourself ‘How many product companies know your business well?’

As architects of tailor-made solutions that are powerful and responsive, the team at YouDo can help businesses unlock opportunities and achievements never thought possible.

With the ability to understand your challenges and ambitions and work directly with your team, our approach to software development eliminates risk and stimulates growth.

In times like these, future-proof systems are the difference between surviving and thriving. Invest in an asset that digitises your best practices and people, with a tech partner that can push the envelope.

It’s a no-brainer.

- Find out how bespoke software can amplify your advantage. Give us a buzz.

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