Opting for bespoke software development can feel like a huge decision for your company, both financially and in terms of a long-term strategy.
“Is this the direction that’s right for us?” seems like such a simple question. But, given how much information there is out there – often contradictory – it can be a difficult one to answer.
That’s why we’ve put together this side-by-side comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of building over buying.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Bespoke Software Development?
Below, we run through some of the major areas you need to consider when deciding whether bespoke software development is the right choice for your organisation.
Advantage: Bespoke Software Development Functionality
Perhaps the biggest advantage of bespoke software development is that it is built exactly to your specifications. Software consultants and developers will meet with you to map out your requirements for the system and then build you a programme explicitly designed to meet those requirements.
What this means is that, with a custom solution, you get increased efficiency right from the start. Your user base – whether internal or external – will buy into it quicker because it’s tailored to your needs. You’ll avoid the nose-dive in efficiency that comes with implementing an off-the-shelf solution precisely because it is designed to fit in with your existing business processes.
With bespoke software development, you also remove the need to compromise on functionality. An off-the-shelf product might fit a good percentage of your needs – but what about the rest? Your options are to make your peace with the fact it’s not completely fit for purpose, or to opt for expensive and potentially risky customisation work.
Disadvantage: Bespoke Software Development Cost
It’s impossible to provide generalised figures for how much custom-built software costs – it’s a bit like asking how much it costs to build a house.
It is generally true, however, that, feature for feature, bespoke software development will cost you more than an off-the-shelf solution. If you want your very own version of an ERP like SAP, for example, expect a customised solution to cost considerably more than the off-the-shelf product.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that bespoke software development is a large upfront cost, which could be a barrier to some – particularly smaller companies and those more used to paying software costs on a SaaS-style month-by-month basis.
That said, you’re not comparing like for like.
If you’re looking for a custom plugin to an existing solution, for example, you could save the expense of upgrading to a higher pricing tier and paying an extra £30 per user per month for a host of other functionality you don’t need. You will have to do the sums, but it’s likely that this would equate to a major cost saving.
Advantage: Bespoke Software Development Return on Investment
Whilst custom-built software is typically more expensive than off-the-shelf software, you will typically start seeing a significant return on investment (ROI) much quicker.
In essence, it’s a case of spending more to gain more.
Because bespoke software is built to your unique specifications, it’s easier to implement. You won’t have to figure out how to fit your business processes into off-the-shelf workflows that weren’t designed for them and you won’t experience the associated drop in productivity and rise in additional customisation costs that stymie off-the-shelf implementation phases.
This means bespoke software pays for itself sooner than off-the-shelf products through heightened efficiency, right from the start. Whilst it might be more expensive, you’re getting better value for your money.
Disadvantage: Bespoke Software Development Timescales
Bespoke software is built from scratch to meet your organisation’s specific needs. This takes a significant amount of time.
It’s fair to say that unless you’re a large multinational rolling out a global implementation, or something has gone very, very wrong, you should be able to implement an off-the-shelf product quicker than building one – assuming we’re comparing similar solutions.
That said, when you take into account the time taken to select the right off-the-shelf product then completing an implementation phase, you could easily be looking at a year-long project for a small to midsize company. So, whilst there is a time differential, it might not be as steep as you think.
Advantage: Bespoke Software Development Security
Security is a tricky one because so much of it is reliant on internal practices, rather than the software itself.
There is no reason to suggest that custom software development is inherently more secure than off-the-shelf software. On the one hand, you have more control over the build, on the other, SaaS software providers live and die by the strength of their software security and have the resources to invest heavily where you may not.
One advantage that bespoke software solutions do have in this area, however, is that both motive and opportunity for hackers to access bespoke software is reduced. This is because:
- A smaller user base means fewer potential entry points
- A smaller user base means fewer rewards – hackers won’t gain knowledge about any other companies’ systems by hacking yours
- There’s no existing knowledge about your software’s potential weak spots out there already
Advantage: Bespoke Software Development – Control
How much control do you want over your long-term software development?
Being able to add new features and make user experience (UX) adjustments as soon as you identify the need can give your software a major competitive edge.
In an internal setting, this manifests itself through efficiency savings.
If you can identify major roadblocks in an ERP system and fix them immediately (rather than waiting for a vendor to fix them in an upcoming release), you can keep productivity levels at a maximum.
In an external setting, this offers you the chance to make the UX of your software a major selling point. Off-the-shelf white label products frustrate your ability to respond to customer feedback and quickly eliminate software pain points.
Bespoke software, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to build a truly standout UX for your customers – which translates into a truly standout customer experience (CX).
Given that customer experience is an increasingly prominent competition point, this should be a long-term strategic consideration for many companies.
Finding the Right Software Development Company is Essential
Because of the higher costs and potentially longer timescales involved in bespoke software development, it’s important to find a software development partner you can rely on to deliver the benefits.
At Evolve, we have over 13 years’ experience in helping organisations realise the competitive advantage that comes with bespoke software development.
With a UK-based senior consulting team and the ability to draw on a global pool of talent to build the custom solutions that will set you apart from the crowd, we put your business needs at the centre of everything we do.