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Bespoke or Off-the-Shelf?

October 6, 2016.
Bespoke or not bespoke? That is the question that, sooner or later, any IT director will ask about software.

Sur mesure - Bespoke.

Bespoke or not bespoke? That is the question that, sooner or later, any IT director will ask about software.

Buying off-the-shelf software can make a lot of sense: more often than not, it is the cheapest option, and it can be up and running quickly. On the other hand, there are always special situations when investing incustom-made software can be the better choice.

As a general rule, the more specialized the company and the more complex and unique its processes, the less likely it is that its needs will be met by off-the-shelf software. And when using a new platform, sometimes there is no compatible software at all.

Things to Consider

The following issues should be considered before making a decision.

  • Your company’s specific needs: Even the most powerful software may not match up exactly with your particular processes and operations.
  • Compatibility: Can any given software easily integrate with software that is essential to your company’s functioning, now and in the future?
  • Flexibility: Is it possible to adapt the software, for example by adding or removing modules, now or down the line?
  • Upgradability: Will any given software be able to evolve as your company grows and develops new processes?

Advantages of Off-the-Shelf Software

As enterprise software has been commercially available for several generations now, most common enterprise problems and needs have a ready-made solution. You may have to make a few compromises, but there probably is a program out there that pretty much meets your needs.

Simply put: since these applications are developed for many potential clients, development costs can be spread out over all potential buyers, optimizing return on investment.

Advantages of Bespoke Software

For companies with specific needs, bespoke solutions mean better workflow and increased productivity.

Another advantage of bespoke solutions is adaptability to your specific situation. With this type of solution, you’ll never find yourself wishing you had a certain feature, or putting up with useless features… nor will you experience any problems integrating the software into your environment.

Besides, off-the-shelf is not necessarily cheaper: licensing fees are such that over the long run, it can be smarter to create your own solution.

Finally, in some industries, especially in the technology field, if all players are using the same software, a bespoke solution can become a competitive advantage.


There are some drawbacks to using off-the-shelf software: recurrent licensing fees, integration costs and delays… In some cases, these systems can be too rigid to accommodate your processes, creating extra work.

The greatest drawback of bespoke software is its cost. Building software from the ground up is an expensive and lengthy process. Not to mention medium-to-long-term maintenance: can your IT team handle it?

The decision to have software custom-made is an important one for any company. All the more reason to weigh the pros and cons, and to be fully aware of all the issues at stake.