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Bespoke Software vs Off-the-Shelf Software. What to Choose?

Bespoke Software vs Off-the-Shelf Software. What to Choose?
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    Big or small needs, every business needs software to manage its data,  improve the services and processes. The marketplace offers a mind-boggling range of software products and services. Which one to choose? It can be hard to decide: off-the-shelf or bespoke, buy or build? To avoid the wrong solution, save time and money, here is an overview of the two options.

    What is Bespoke Software?

    Made for the needs of the customer from scratch, bespoke software solutions are always unique and specialized. It adapts to your existing business processes. There are no equivalents. Its interface is tailored specifically for the workers and clients of a particular business. All bespoke software functions and tools are used to their full extent/capacity % - nothing odd, just useful. Of course, such bespoke software allows you to work most effectively. 

    Moreover, this type of software belongs only to your company. This means you can add and remove features. If necessary, it is always possible to develop a bespoke software solution according to the business requirements. 

    The bespoke software development ensures total control over any changes and absolute independence from third parties. Amazon, Uber, Netflix, McDonald's, Google go bespoke.

    Impressed? Before making a final choice on bespoke software development, let's review its counterpart - off the shelf software.

    What is off the shelf software?

    Off-the-shelf means that the software is ready from the very beginning. It is not unique. Off-the-shelf solutions are universal. They suit everyone. This kind of software is developed to cover different functions and approaches for diverse businesses. Off-the-shelf software offers a comprehensive set of features to streamline operations of any enterprise type.

    Indeed, You can also try to adjust them for yourself just like we adaptSkype, Microsoft Office Suite, SAP, Oracle. 

    Both of these options have their pros and cons. Let's figure them out.

    Bespoke Software Pros and Cons

    Here we look at the pros and cons of bespoke.


    • Tailor-made. All applications easily adjust to business processes, and not vice versa. Tailor-made software is convenient in its design, so employees will quickly get used to it, and you will save time and effort spent on learning to use the new software. Apart from the necessary functions, bespoke software will have fewer errors and time spent at work.
    • Autonomous. With bespoke software, you don't have to worry that some features will cease to operate. The software owner can sunset it anytime. But this is not the case with bespoke - you are the sole owner of the software, and no one will take it away.
    • Competitive. Your direct competitors are likely to use the same software unless yours is bespoke. With it, you decide how your software will look and work, and thus you can make the best deal on the market. For example, you can make it more client-oriented, while your competitors use ready-made software with limitations. 
    • Flexible. You decide what and when you need to change your software. Bespoke software presupposes enough control to add, change, remove functions, and adjust to your new business needs. Moreover, you do not need to migrate your software - transfer work data to a new platform. You can simply expand yours on an existing platform.
    • Cost-effective. You do not need to pay to extend the access to the application (as it often happens with off-shelf solutions). Also, you do not have to pay for additional functions that you may need in your work.


    • Expensive. You will need to pay for the development costs. Depending on your needs, the price can vary from medium to very high. The initial price will be greater than any monthly subscription. Facing this, businesses often do it gradually. They adopt only the most necessary functions at first. Moreover, you will most likely save in the long term. To check it, you can compare your software's cost and the subscription software cost for the duration you plan to use.
    • Time-consuming. Bespoke software requires some time and effort. First, you have to develop a project, outline the desired functions, budget, and deadlines. The planning stage usually takes a whole week. After that comes development and implementation itself, here timeframes may vary - averaging from 3 months. For a more precise estimate, talk to us about your project. Feel free to leave your contacts and your question, and our custom development specialists will reach out to you as soon as possible.


    Off the Shelf Software Pros and Cons


    Now let's go through the advantages and disadvantages of off-the-shelf software.


    • Affordable. The cost of using the existing software is several times lower than that of Bespoke software. Besides, there are flexible pricing packages and free trial periods. Typically, you will pay only for the place or the number of accounts you use.
    • Available immediately. There is actually nothing to develop in the case with the off-the-shelf software. All you need is to register and get to work.
    • Supported. Many users have already worked with this Off-the-shelf software. Most probably, they have already faced the issues you are trying to solve. This ensures quick support for all questions. Besides, there are guides for the most popular settings, ready-made answers to the most frequently asked questions.
    • Community service. Large communities who use this software share life hacks and interaction systems with software for more efficient work. So, you can take advantage of blogs, articles, YouTube, videos, etc.
    • Multi-functional. Usually, developers try to cover the requirements of the majority of users. This means most likely you will be able to find the functions that you need. Of course, you will not use all of them but will adopt many to start working.


    • Compromise. Whatever the functions are, they will not perfectly match your needs. So, these businesses will need to adapt or even change their working processes with off-the-shelf software.
    • Dependency. You will be dependent on software changes. Updates do not always happen for the better. It appears that the functions you need are removed or changed so that they are no longer useful for you. Also, if the company is experiencing difficulties, it can close the application. Well, or less radically, applications interruptions in time are possible, as bug fixes and new versions are being rolled out, and at this time, you have to wait until everything works.
    • Training. Off-the-shelf software often includes many functions and tools, 10% of which is likely to be handy. Moreover, this user will be generalized. `As possible. Be prepared to have to spend time setting up and learning how to use off-the-shelf software correctly. Usually, this is one employee who is trained for this, who prepares the guide and then trains the rest.
    • A hybrid solution. There is one more quite popular solution. It is a hybrid software when you have a ready-made software that you use and it does not meet your full needs. If you would like to improve your existing applications to make your work convenient, hybrid software is the right choice. 

    Magento is one of such. It is an off-the-shelf open-source software with free access. Still, Magento does not always suit business needs. Custom software development based on an off-the-shelf solution is a way out.

    Hence, you can have an entirely built foundation; you do not need to invent anything. The only thing is to configure only the necessary functions and interface. Zfort group experts are proficient in providing solutions.


    Whatever type of software attracts you, it would be useful to consider your business's nature, scalability, long and short term goals before making the right choice for your software needs. Meanwhile, let us summarize:

    • Go for your own perfect software, but you will spend money and time,
    • Buy a subscription or find free services, but you have to cope with restrictions
    • Order a hybrid solution and get the best of both.

    Our company develops custom applications. We can expand and update the existing functions,  as well as build hybrid solutions. If you are interested, contact us and get a free consultation.

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    Roman Korzh

    VP of Development

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    Anna Slipets

    Business Development Manger

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