Choosing Between Bespoke or Off the Shelf Software Solutions

Bespoke Software, Software Development | 0 comments | by Shaz Ide

Business needs vary from one company to another. But one consistency is that constant development in techniques and processes are a must for a business model to succeed.

Company owners are compelled to step out of their comfort zone and perform frequent evaluations to see whether their current approach is being effective or not.

In today’s high-tech business environment, creativity is at the forefront of innovation.

So when it comes to choosing software to make things work, many companies have a complex decision between developing bespoke solutions or purchasing off-the-shelf software.

Bespoke software –also known as tailor-made – is software custom-built to meet the individual needs of a client.

“Off the shelf” software, on the other hand, is made for the mass market. It comes with pre-built integration and is usually sold by a third party vendor to millions of businesses.

Your Choice can Come Down to Compatability

Compatibility is yet an important factor one must consider when choosing new software.

Solutions that are off-the-shelf can demand extra upgrades. Meanwhile, bespoke software is designed to be handled with your company’s existing practices and available tools.

Furthermore, a customised software solution belongs to you, whereas off-the-shelf packages are usually owned by the developing company.

Whatever your business needs are, customised software can get it done. Sadly, we can’t always say the same thing about off-the-shelf solutions. We’ll explain why below.

Choosing Between Bespoke or Off the Shelf Software Solutions

The Disadvantages of Off-the-shelf Software

There are ten key disadvantages to an off-the-shelf solution. Many of these issues stem from the fact that these commercial software solutions are generically designed.

How the Software is Made Influences its How it Can be Used

An off-the-shelf solution is made to cater to a wide variety of clients based on a single product shared with the masses.

The software is created by a developing team devising a standard, pre-defined framework. Their final solution is then sold to millions of people.

Considering the standard condition of off-the-shelf tools, it is impossible for it to meet the exact demands of all buyers, particularly those whose business faces individual and unique challenges.

That’s Not to Say You Can’t Succeed with Commercial Software

Many businesses can and will manage with an off the shelf solution, and be perfectly successful.

This is particularly the case with some small businesses, who can’t afford to invest in creating their own unique system. They will also benefit from the surplus features often available when purchasing commercial software.

Most businesses find that issues come when they have grown, and the solution can no longer sustain their business.

It often becomes unfit for purpose, and no longer inkeeping with their work processes.

Commercial software often falls foul of being incapable of flexibility or of integration with other systems. It could also simply become too small and too slow for it to be feasible to run a profitable business off of it.

This is where the contrast with bespoke software becomes clear.

Bespoke software, on the other hand, is exclusively designed for the individual client. The tools are built internally and they can always be adapted to suit the needs of your business, allowing it to evolve and grow alongside it. In addition, users of bespoke solutions can always update and improve the software and re-shape it for increased performance and productivity.

Choosing Between Bespoke or Off the Shelf Software Solutions


How Can Businesses Benefit from Bespoke Software

So how exactly can your business benefit from a bespoke software solution, and why should you “go bespoke” rather than stick with off-the-shelf?

First, we should again repeat that commercial packages are proprietary software solutions packed with standard features. They are fixed and inflexible to adaptation or change, making it difficult to implement any new integrations or features you might need. It also means you rely on the vendor to update the solution or hire a specialist third-party developer to try and cobble together a solution for you or patch any bugs that come up.

Whereas custom software is targeted to fit your company’s specific requirements. Because of this, users will find a bespoke solution a lot more intuitive and easier to use as it is designed to the most efficient solution to your individual problems, made to match your work processes, and doesn’t contain superfluous or unnecessary features.

It is also extremely flexible and it allows users to perform changes and modifications based on the practices and requirements of their business.

This is because the source code is all yours to do what you want with it, meaning you can easily adapt the system whenever and however you may need to over time. 

You can update a bespoke solution as little or as often as you want, with exactly what you want. Whereas with an off-the-shelf package, the vendor decides when updates take place, and what they contain.

Bespoke vs. Off the Shelf Software Solutions

You can read a full breakdown of the complete advantages and disadvantages of off-the-shelf software and of the advantages and disadvantages of bespoke software, which will help illustrate the key differences in the types of software and how it impacts your business.

Below, we will break down the common points of contention between bespoke and commercial software, and what that means for your business.

Individual Needs vs Common Requirements

When apps are built with bespoke software, the process follows your requirements to the letter.

Developed following your guidelines and demands, custom solutions blend easier into your existing business model. You are actually saving money and time as you won’t have to teach your employees how to use the software.

Basically, the solution becomes more intuitive and easier to work with, helping to boost productivity and employee morale.

Scaling Up With Bespoke vs Off the Shelf

Another great advantage of bespoke software is its increased scalability.

This is because it can be developed with the knowledge of your business, the direction it is going, and the velocity. It can also be created with solutions such as the cloud, making it able to scale quickly and easily.

Cost Upfront vs Lifetime Cost

Off the shelf software solutions can be the more affordable option upfront, but over time they can cost far more in time, effort, and in money. They also can become irrelevant or simply unfit for purpose.

Although commercial software can be purchased for a single upfront fee, you have to remember there are significant ongoing costs such as licensing fees, additional users, and even for maintenance or development.

Bespoke costs more initially, but you decide when, where, and how it is maintained and developed giving you more flexibility with ongoing costs. Not to mention, you’ll never have to pay licensing fees or to add additional users.


Bespoke systems are often preferred because they meet your company’s needs, permitting it to grow but without forcing it to depend on the software in question.

Differences in Security

There are far more differences and advantages to the solutions. For example, custom solutions offer improved safety and security for your business against external threats.

Most hacking attempts on today’s businesses are successful because of common vulnerabilities in packaged software. With bespoke, you’re no longer an attractive target as a lot more effort is required to break into your system.

Not to mention, you will have security embedded in the design, rather than the necessity to purchase third-party security as you often must with off the shelf software solutions.

Going Bespoke Means Minimal Integration Issues

Bespoke app development can operate with your business’s current software packages. We can’t say the same thing for all off-the-shelf, which almost never interacts or integrates without errors, if it can at all. In this way, licensing standard business software for your company can decrease productivity levels due to continuous errors interfering with your work.

With bespoke solutions, such issues should never occur because the tools fit perfectly into the software ecosystem of your business model.

Choosing Between Bespoke or Off the Shelf Software Solutions

Continuous Maintenance (bespoke) vs. Limited Maintenance (off-the-shelf)

Off-the-shelf software only provides limited maintenance. Basically, your company will be at the mercy of the provider you’ve bought the package from.

If, all of a sudden, they decide to drop the app or they go bankrupt, your business will suddenly have to buy a different software package or switch to supported and maintained software.

With custom software, this doesn’t happen because the developers will have the program tailored to the vendor’s hardware as well as hardware’s capabilities. In the long term, this will actually help you save money as you won’t be compelled to buy unnecessary additional hardware.

Unlike licensed off-the-shelf software, bespoke solutions feature a number of added benefits as far as maintenance, scalability and integration are concerned.

Extant software may not fit your business model and goals, and many companies today are just not willing to take that risk.

Rather than choose affordability, many of today’s entrepreneurs choose quality; paying a bit more in the beginning to be certain of the product’s uniqueness and profitability. With bespoke, you have continuous maintenance and an excellent platform to build upon so that your business enjoys uninterrupted success.

 Choosing Between Bespoke or Off the Shelf Software Solutions

Pros and Cons of Bespoke and Off the Shelf Software

Both bespoke and off-the-shelf software solutions have advantages and disadvantages.

We can’t say that bespoke is perfect, just like we can’t say that off-the-shelf is useless.

To get a clear perspective of these two software solutions for your product development, we’ve created a crystal-clear comparison chart to help you decide:

Bespoke software
  • Designed to be unique, easy to customise
  • Easy to upgrade and improve
  • Intuitive & scalable
  • Continuous system maintenance
  • Competitive edge due to a unique built
  • Long-term investment
  • Higher upfront costs
  • Additional costs may be involved for changes to be made
  • Takes longer to develop
Off-the-shelf software
  • Low upfront costs
  • A varied palette of pre-installed features
  • Upgrades are usually offered at a reduced price (some are even free)
  • SaaS integration – no additional software of hardware to install
  • Quick to set up, only requiring installation
  • Unwilling to change or slow to adapt to the business needs of the buyer
  • Highly complex – an extensive range of features targeted to suit a broad audience
  • Increased license costs
  • No intellectual property rights (business can’t change or sell the software)
  • Predisposed to threats & hacks – because of a generalised built
  • Limited system maintenance
  • Standard software package that contains apps your company might never use
  • May require training to use or changes to work processes


Software – whether bespoke or off the shelf – is the backbone of any business.

Prior to making a choice, companies should carefully assess the pros and cons of these two solutions to inform their purchasing decision, and to understand which software solution is best for their business.

Why do we think bespoke better overall?

Because it is tailored after the individual needs of your company.

In order to gain a competitive edge and make yourself and your business model stand out, you have to be unique. Only bespoke software solutions can provide that kind of leverage.

IT Enterprise specialises in crafting bespoke software solutions for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

We make IT happen, so you can make it happen.


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