Off the shelf or bespoke? Which type of software is right for me?
You have a business problem. You know IT could help you solve it. But you don’t know where to begin. Have you ever been in that position?
The starting point is often to think about whether someone has already invented a solution that you could purchase and configure for your needs. These are often referred to as ‘off-the-shelf’ or ‘third-party’ solutions.
The more generic the challenge, the more likely somebody has invented a solution.
Online accounting packages are a good example. Every business from the smallest to the biggest needs to understand its income and expenditure. Type “Online accounting software” into any search engine and you will see that there is a lot of competition for your business.
It is unlikely most businesses will need or want a bespoke accounts solution because an off-the-shelf solution will have all bases cost effectively covered. The task is simply to choose a package that ticks all your boxes. There are many different criteria you may wish to consider to compare options and arrive at a decision. Key factors may include: cost, ease of use, features, supplier references, training and implementation support.
Bespoke solutions have the flexibility to be designed to your unique specification.
However, where the challenge is more particular to the intricacies of your business or sector, a third-party package may not be the right move. Although they can often be tailored to some extent to your specific needs, there is an ever-present risk of “one size fits all but actually fits nothing.”
Flexibility can have a cost, but the investment could still prove to be comparatively good value. As typically you will own the software, this could make it cheaper in the long run versus off-the-shelf packages which are often priced on a per user basis. Evaluating this trade-off becomes increasingly relevant if you grow and therefore so does your number of users.
Assessing your needs and options
There is much to consider from analysing the requirements in the first place, assessing your options, and then finding the right partner to deliver a solution which will work for you.
Irrespective of whether you choose bespoke or off-the-shelf, hard work still lies ahead to ensure the project runs smoothly and your expectations are met.