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Tailored Software - Advantages of Bespoke Software

Understand why off-the-shelf solutions aren't necessarily a time saver for your business.

12 mins read
Published January 21, 2024
By Adam Richardson

What is Tailored Software?

Tailored Software (Bespoke Software, Custom Software, Unique Software Solutions, Purpose-built Software) is any kind of software that has been built-for-purpose, specifically and meticulously designed to fit the unique business flows of a singular entity (whether that be a single product owner, or a large-scale organisation). This is the most important difference between tailored software, and off-the-shelf solutions - Tailored Software has been built for your business and your needs, there are no limitations beyond your own vision/capabilities as a business.

Although tailored software is created with your business in mind, it is worth bearing in mind that even tailored software can come in various forms, there are fully-bespoke solutions, semi-bespoke solutions, and bolt-on solutions so let's go over these:

  • Fully Bespoke:

    • Fully bespoke software is a software solution that has been designed from the ground-up, specifically crafted to completely fit the needs of a business from the point of back-end architecture, all the way to the front-end user experience. This provides a fully, truly unique software solution for a client/organisation and can be the difference-maker between two organisations.
      • True giants of the business world such as Apple, Meta, and Google, will all be operating with a fully-bespoke software system to give them that extra 1% edge over any competitors.
  • Semi-bespoke:

    • Semi-bespoke is more common among the average business/organisation due to its lower cost, and speed of development. Semi-bespoke software uses pre-existing infrastructure to save time, allowing for faster implementation of the specific goals of the business.
      • Due to their cost-effectiveness and speed of implementation, semi-bespoke solutions will be used among the majority of your day-to-day organisations that embarked on a Tailored Software journey
  • Bolt-on solutions

    • Bolt-on solutions are generally tailored-tweaks to off-the-shelf software, this will typically be an addition to the existing software that is made to suit the needs of a business, but isn't considered truly bespoke because the underlying infrastructure is reliant on a third-party.
      • Various software providers will allow their clients to bolt-on new features to their packages in order to accommodate specific business needs. Examples of providers that commonly do this are: Sage and Monday. Although this may be offered through select partners/providers.

Why not off-the-shelf?

Off-the-shelf software isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's more or less immediately ready-to-use, typically already been stress-tested to eliminate the risk of show-stopping bugs, and is also being used by many competitors. However, although this may be useful if you're a small business; you are inevitably going to run into scalability issues and constantly find that things just aren't quite working as you'd like them to - Off-the-shelf software comes at a price, and that price isn't necessarily just monetary, the limitations of using something that hasn't been made for your specific use-case, will inevitably catch up to you and become your business bottleneck.

Tailor-made Software doesn't only increase your business efficiency, it also increases your business's valuation

A common myth is that off-the-shelf software is a safer solution, because "if everyone has it, surely it's better?" feels like sound logic - Until you delve a bit deeper and realise that if everyone has it, then nobody has the has ownership of their software, and, more importantly, nobody has the competitive edge in your industry. Being able to cut the time it takes you to perform common tasks lets a business achieve profit margins their competitors can only dream of.

Limited Customisation

Typically speaking, when you're using an off-the-shelf product, what you see is very much what you get; you are limited to the functionality that a third-party development team have created, and they haven't at all created the product with your business nuances/unique flows in mind - By design the software is meant to be as one-size-fits-all as possible, and this means that your own needs aren't at the forefront. Customising the software will be costly, long-winded, and often just not possible as what you want might be the opposite of what another client wants, resulting in an often half-baked solution that increases the complexity and time to perform the task you want to complete.

Compatibility Issues

Another common issue with off-the-shelf software is compatibility. Just like mixing patterns that don't quite match, integrating generic software with your existing systems can be challenging and complex, often meeting weird inconsistent reasonings that often translate to political business reasons that company might not want you to integrate with a product you want to.

This can lead to data inconsistencies, manually re-entering of information into multiple systems, system crashes, and other technical headaches that cost you both time and money. This also means if you want to upgrade any area of your business, you have to do so with the thought of your off-the-shelf capabilities in mind. You can't grow or scale at your own pace.

Decaying Support and Updates

Off-the-shelf software companies are always releasing new versions and updates, this is their business model - But this means you're forced to go on that journey with them, often requiring you to pay for upgrades/updates that you don't need, want, or even use. Tailored software does exactly what you want, updates when you want it to, and doesn't require you to work around it, tailored software works around you.

Off-the-shelf vs Tailored Software

  • Functionality

    • The purpose of off-the-shelf software is to meet the basic needs of as large a range of businesses as possible, whereas the functionality of tailor-made software is to meet the full needs of a specific business. This the core and fundamental difference between the two; one will function as a tool work alongside your business when needed, and, the other will function exactly how you want it to, as a supportive aid, or as the heartbeat that drives your business machine.
  • Cost

    • Off-the-shelf software is always cheaper initially, this is because you're not the only one paying for it - Your business is part of a larger collective that are all paying towards the cost of the underlying infrastructure, whereas with bespoke software the initial costs will be higher because it's being designed just for you - With your specific ideas in mind.
      • However, although the initial cost may be cheaper for an off-the-shelf solution, you do not own this intellectual property, and, the costs of using the software never go away while the functionality is always limited. With tailored software the costs typically go down over time, and the software is Yours - Which is a major benefit from a control standpoint, and if you're planning on gathering investments in your organisation.

The Benefits of Tailored Software

Now, let's explore the advantages of bespoke software – software tailored specifically to fit your business needs, your vision, and is perfectly aligned with your culture in mind.

Tailored to Your Business

Tailored software is exactly as it sounds; tailored. This means that anything you want, however you want it, it's possible - It can be built to precisely match the goals that you have for your own business, from how it works in the background, to the aesthetics you see on the screen. This also means that you don't need to worry about any pre-existing systems that you have, because your tailored software will be built with those systems in mind, allowing it to seamlessly integrate into your infrastructure. Off-the-shelf software is often unable to integrate with your current systems, meaning a complete overhaul of how you operate, which costs money, time, and weeks of re-learning for staff.

Scalability and Flexibility

When you use off-the-shelf systems, you're held back by the speed of a third-party development team when it comes to updates/upgrades to the application, and, when they finally are released, they're often not even something you want or need, yet you still need to pay for it. This isn't something you need to worry about with tailored software, you update the application when you want, with exactly the updates you want, with the advantage of changing the goalposts if it's necessary, tailored software is agile and works for your needs, meaning it can scale at the speed you need it to, resulting in no software bottleneck.

Enhanced Security

An often overlooked benefit to tailored software is that you have complete control over your data, you can control who has access to it, who uses it, and where it's stored. In an evermore data-driven world, having complete control of your data is going to be even more important as time goes on.

Cost-Effectiveness

While it may be true that tailored software is a higher initial investment in comparison to most off-the-shelf options, this doesn't mean that it's actually more expensive overall. Typically speaking you'll end up paying less for bespoke in-house software because you control your updates/features, and you control the infrastructure supporting it. Another critical thing to note is that you have ownership of that product, this often increases the valuation of your business and has the benefit of increasing your employee efficiency, which again leads to significant time and cost savings in the long run.

Ongoing Support and Updates

As mentioned before, having in-house software that's tailored to your needs provides the ability to change things as-and-when you want to, you're not beholden to third-party developers that require weeks/months of planning and implementation meetings before you actually see any changes. You want something changed today? No problem, you can have your development team implement that change for you. This just isn't possible with off-the-shelf products because your priority, isn't their priority; your goals are not aligned.

Efficiency across the board

Having a system that's tailored to you and your business is proven to improve overall efficiency; this is because everyone is familiar with it, and it's been built with your specific business culture in mind, and, often it means that people from all across the business have had their own tweaks/insights embedded into the core functionality so that the system helps all departments have the edge over any competitor. From administrative teams, to executive-level requirements such as critical KPI reports, your system can do it all - Saving time and increasing efficiency at all levels of the business.

Competitive Edge

You know with absolutely certainty that with a tailored system, none of your competitors have what you have. You have given yourself the competitive edge by meticulously crafting a system that suits your organisation, in your industry, and increases your staff's day-to-day efficiency dramatically.

What sectors benefit most from Tailored Software?

You may be inclined to believe that only "techy" sectors would benefit from having tailored software, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Although it may be true that some industries are more rife with tailored software, this doesn't mean it doesn't provide the same benefit across the board. If your industry isn't tapping into the tailored-tech market, then that just means you'll be leading the pack if you do it first. While your competitors are focused on manually collecting their information, and spending hours sifting through it to achieve a report that they only look at once-per-week, you can have it all at your fingertips for when you need it, allowing you to spend less time performing tedious administrative tasks and more time doing something to increase your bottom line.

Software spend per industry (2020)

Software spend per industry breakdown (2020

Examples of common tailor-made systems

CRM

A Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) is a classic example of a tailor-made piece of software, this is because it will be used to manage customer interactions throughout their lifecycle with a business. This system will consolidate customer information into (often) a singular database, giving a business the ability to provide personalised service to each customer, track sales opportunities and streamline their marketing strategies. Having control over this data allows a business to implement specific features that match their industry needs.

DMS

A Dealer Management System (DMS) is an automotive specific system, allowing a dealership to streamline their internal (and external) operations by managing their vehicle inventory, their sales, customer information, and after-sales service all via one internal system. By using a tailor-made DMS a dealership is able to increase operational efficiency, enhance their customer service, and see real-time stats around daily sales/customer counts/vehicle issues - This allows the dealership to keep administrative roles at a minimum and focus on key areas of the business to enable rapid growth and outshine competitors using off-the-shelf DMS platforms.

CMS

A Content Management System (CMS) is an in-house system that allows users with limited technical know-how to efficiently create, edit, and publish Web Content. Having a bespoke CMS allows a business to implement exactly what features they need in order to maintain an up-to-date and engaging online presence.

ERP

An Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) is a solution implemented by businesses to have control over daily operations, this can range from things such as finance, HR, manufacturing, and supply chain management. The purpose of an ERP is to merge all of these sectors into one in-house system to streamline operations, improve data accuracy, and improve efficiency across the board.

Summary:

In summary, tailor-made software isn't just meant for the mammoths of every industry, it's an inevitable necessity for any business that plans on growing and developing. Having tailored software is ultimately a choice, but it's a choice worth giving great thought to, because it's worth bearing in mind that software tailored to your very needs (tailored), vs, software that is tailored to meet the basic needs of everyone (off-the-shelf) - Should be a simple choice to make.

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