Software applications – Bespoke or “off the shelf”?

Originally published on our old website in March 2017

For many, this argument about the software was won years ago.  Thirty years ago if an organisation needed a suite of applications to achieve something be it paying pensions, managing bank accounts, handling a payroll they would have employed a project manager and recruited a development team to build their new system.  Often this took a long time and was very expensive.  But, if the team did their job well and were able to establish and maintain a good relationship with the end users of the system then the software that resulted fitted exactly to the needs of the organisation.  In fact, many examples of this class of software were so well researched that so much of the business or at least business process logic for the owning organisation was embedded in the software that many of the users didn’t need the knowledge that they had needed previously.

All this, however, cost money, lots of money and took a long time.  The world and business have changed and continue to change at an increasing rate.  Now we can buy off the shelf software for a myriad of jobs and much of it is very good indeed. This logic is unassailable – an application can have the equivalent of hundreds of developer years development but because it’s sold to thousands of clients the costs are shared. Development can be continuous and experts can support it.  All good!

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Excellent as these off the shelf solutions are they will all have been written with a certain approach, a certain type of user in mind.  If you buy the wrong package you will either have to modify your business processes to suit the software (which may be helpful but not if you’ve carefully set your processes to suit your business and your clients) or will get very frustrating as tasks take a lot longer to do.

So be careful, choose carefully and if you don’t find something that is close enough to what you want then consider having some bespoke code written.  The chances are that it will do far less than the package solution and it may seem more expensive but like tailor made clothing it can fit like a glove, be comfortable to use and do exactly what you want.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *