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Posted by

Alan Brown

Is Bespoke Software Really More Expensive Than Off-The-Shelf Software?

Bespoke software as the name suggests isn't something you can just pick up in an instant.

It's designed specifically to meet your needs and whilst that aspect of it may appeal to many companies, the perception that it's going to be much more expensive and

Off-the-shelf software can seem attractive for a number of reasons:

  • The software has a lower upfront cost as you typically pay a license fee to use it, rather than cover the costs of building it.
  • An off-the-shelf software solution can be set up and utilised very quickly.
  • Off-the shelf software programmes come with installation guides, training manuals and there are often online support groups which can make it feel like the safer option.
  • Off-the-shelf software usually has a great deal of functionality as it's designed with so many users and tasks in mind.
  • Regular free software updates are typically available too as a team of developers are always working away in the background to keep improving the product's functionality.

However, there are also disadvantages to an off-the-shelf software package which can create the case for choosing a bespoke software solution instead:

  • Lower costs at the outset can be deceiving – you may need to purchase additional user licences to provide access to other members of your team or you may decide some months into using it that the solution isn't quite right for you after all but by then you're tied into a contract. The costs of using off-the-shelf software can mount up significantly over time – after all the costs of developing it need to be covered somehow.
  • The many functions of an off-the-shelf piece of software can be great but they often present challenges too – the software can be harder to navigate, more complex to use and how many times have you come across an app or site that seems to offer features and solutions for doing everything, except that one thing you really want it to do!
  • Unlike off-the-shelf software, bespoke software will take longer to develop, however it is designed with your business goals in mind and will reflect the specific tasks you need to complete so it tends to be much more user-friendly.
  • Off-the-shelf software isn't always so off-the-shelf – you may still require some form of customisation as it may do some of what you want it to do, but not all. Heavy customisation can result in very high installation and configuration costs and extended delivery times.

One good example of a bespoke software solution we've developed is an online ordering system for a corporate workwear provider. Tailored Image design and create tailored and branded corporate workwear for a wide variety of clients, many of whom employ 1000+ staff across multiple site locations. Their clients operate in all industry sectors including hospitality, tourism, transport, financial, retail and commercial, therefore their uniform needs differ too - a hotel concierge's uniform requirements are not the same as those of the bus drivers or the bankers they also clothe.

This bespoke software designed allows Tailored Image's clients' to order from the same bespoke web platform by accessing a branded uniform wardrobe that is unique to their company. Here they select the appropriate products, sizes and quantities and place their orders. Their Go Ahead London Case Study illustrates how Tailored Image deliver over 12,000 uniforms to clothe over 6000 staff via this bespoke online ordering system.

Among the platform's many benefits, the system streamlines order processes, reduces turnaround times, cuts down on administration time, and also enables the company to win new clients. Based on these results, the return on investment for Tailored Image is now significantly greater than the time and costs involved in planning and developing the system.

Your decision regarding which software to choose for your business will often depend on the activities you need to fulfil. For standard processes that are common to many companies, a suitable off the shelf software package may already exist and work just fine. But, if your tasks or objectives are more complex and unique to your team – like those of Tailored Image, bespoke software will present a better solution and a greater long-term return on investment. The advice we'd give to anyone who is assessing their software options is this - prioritise value over cost and think long-term.

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