Tech 101: What is Bespoke Software?

Bespoke software is specially developed to the requirements of a user or organisation, which differs from off-the-shelf software that is produced for the mass-market. It is designed hand-in-hand with the specifications, aims and needs of the organisation, with careful detail given to problem-solving, performance efficiency and future professional requirements.

How Does It Work?

Developed through collaboration with a customer, bespoke software is customised to suit particular needs and preferences, to build upon existing business processes or to replace them. It is created in a series of stages or phases, often known as “sprints”.

The first stage is the initial planning stage – this is where the customer will meet with the development team to discuss their business needs and the features the software should include. A prototype may be created, as a visual representation of what the software will look like and how it will function. This can then be adjusted until the customer is satisfied that the end product meets their requirements, and development work can begin.

Once the plan has been agreed, the project will then move into the development stage – the actual “building” of the software. The development team will use the plan to create what is often referred to as a “minimum viable product” – an initial version of the software to be released, with the agreed features, that can then be built upon.

After each development “sprint” has been completed, a round of testing both by the development team and the end-users will take place. This user acceptance testing (UAT) is done on a system separate to the live system, so you can test features and provide any feedback on bugs or issues in a pseudo-live environment. UAT is invaluable to ensure the robustness of the system in the hands of the people that will be using it day-to-day.

Once the software has been released and is ”live”, the customer is able to continue to add features and improvements to the software. As the software is bespoke, the customer fully owns the software and has freedom to adapt and change it as their business needs change.

Why Might Businesses Need It?

Often mass-market software does not perform enough of the functions businesses require in a single package. These can include the management of customers, inventory, HR and content. You may be able to purchase these features as ‘add-ons’, for an additional cost, but most off-the-shelf software does not allow you to customise the system to the level that your business requires.

For some businesses it may be better for existing legacy software to be adapted, with gaps filled and problems solved as necessary, so that the software functions far better than originally possible. For other companies, replacing old software (or starting from scratch) with bespoke packages trumps concerns about the initial expense and time involved in attaining the technology that will meet their professional needs from the offset. Both options can be relatively pain-free when handled by an experienced, reputable software development partner.

7 Benefits of Bespoke Software

The initial cost of bespoke software and time commitment can seem sobering at first glance when compared to off-the-shelf products, but there are a lot of ways that bespoke software trumps software produced for the masses. Here are some of the benefits bespoke software can have:

  1. Mass-market software may require elaborate customisation to meet a business’s needs, which takes time and money to achieve (that is, if you are able to make these customisations), whereas bespoke solutions target specific problems.
  2. Bespoke software does not require the high upfront licensing costs of off-the-shelf products, nor the ongoing costs of yearly (or more frequent) updates and expensive upgrades.
  3. Bespoke software is designed to be intuitive and to fit in with your existing business processes. Employees (and your customers) will be able to perform simple tasks more efficiently, and no one has to struggle with outdated, ill-functioning programs.
  4. With bespoke software comes bespoke IT help – no more call centres or confusing operating manuals, meaning your business can continue to operate efficiently and effectively.
  5. Because customised products make management processes simpler, you can process business quicker. Off-the-shelf solutions may require several programs to accomplish a single multi-step task.
  6. Bespoke software can add value to a business. It’s an investment that should grow and flourish with a business’s professional outlook.
  7. Going bespoke can help you to grow and develop your business. With bespoke software, there are less limitations and the software developers can look at new challenges and adapt their original concepts to keep up with a company’s changing needs and enhance its performance.

We discuss the differences between bespoke and off-the-shelf software in more detail in our webinar, ‘Bespoke or Off-The-Shelf? Making the right decision for your business’.

Bespoke Software Now Versus 10 Years Ago

Technology has evolved exponentially over the last 10 years and many industries have taken advantage of bespoke software to streamline processes, create efficiencies and provide a better overall experience for their customers and end-users.

Inventory recording, billing and e-commerce have become simpler for the Retail industry with the use of bespoke software. Patient data can now be transferred through a network of hospitals, doctors and specialists and stored in a database, making private medical care more streamlined. Likewise, schools can keep better records of their students’ academic progress and attendance through the use of software, and can even deliver teaching and resources to their students over the internet.

Today there are even more options when it comes to making software your own. Cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are bringing software and hardware together. Advances in technology have made it possible for care workers and families to monitor dementia sufferers and the elderly remotely via IoT and Artificial Intelligence, and allow them to safely stay in their own homes, as well as revolutionising surgical practices through the use of robotics and the analysis of the data from these procedures.

Mobile working and smart devices all mean that how we think about a business and where its basic functions take place are changing faster than they ever have before. A bespoke software company will take all this into consideration and provide the solutions to make these leaps possible.

What’s In Store For the Future?

Because bespoke software is made to measure for a business, in some respects the sky is the limit when it comes to its future. Where do you see your company going? Making your software match your goals is a way to get you there. It can provide a real competitive edge, eradicate long-standing problems or even make the merging of two businesses easier and stronger.