Bespoke vs. Off-the-Shelf – Which One Fits Your Needs?

03 / Nov / 2017 by Poulomi Nag 0 comments

Innovation is taking a center stage not only when it comes to product development but also forming a new business model leveraging the latest technology. Shared Services and Collaborative Consumption models from Uber and Airbnb are greatest examples of such innovation. As the choice of technology or software is critical to business operations,  companies need to be extremely mindful of their choice. One of the long-standing confusions for most technology-led businesses is to choose between a readily available off the shelf software solution against a customized bespoke solution.

“Bespoke” software, as the name suggests, is software that is tailor-made to meet custom needs of a business. On the contrary, “Off-the-shelf” solutions refers to software that comes with a pre-built integration and is often retailed through third-party vendors by a huge number of organizations. However, every organization must ensure that the software it chooses is compatible with its existing infrastructure, workflows, and processes.

It is often observed, that off-the-shelf software may demand extra upgrades in comparison to custom software development as it is designed specifically to blend with your company’s existing practices and available infrastructure.  Additionally, since bespoke software is specially tailor-made for your company needs, you also have a proprietary right to the solution.

Bespoke software can be tuned up, designed and redesigned for a customised performance goal.

Bespoke vs. Off-the-Shelf: Business Benefits

Most organizations are baffled whether their business demands a need for developing bespoke software. Since there is a significant difference in the cost of the two, it is advisable to put considerable thought how about the benefits of customizing your own software. Not too long ago, businesses did not have enough choice other than to go bespoke, unless and until their requirement was very generic. The software evolution today has made sure that traditional off-the-shelf solutions go above and beyond task-based specific software for pre-defined verticals. Nowadays, there is an option of, myriad apps for every task and every device, and sophisticated SaaS models that allow software to be delivered as a cloud service to any user in the world.  While this trend has led to an increase in options for off-the-shelf takers, it still leaves room for the use of an innovative technology to meet a specific business need.

There is convincing evidence that displays that organizations harnessing bespoke software development are the ones that are benefiting sufficiently from the extensive off-the-shelf availability. Off-the-shelf solutions offer several stable, effective and cheaply licensed plug-ins, frameworks along with significant code patches that can be tapped by bespoke developers. Bespoke developers can use these features to augment the desired functionality of wider business software projects.

There is compelling evidence that the wide-scale availability of off-the­ shelf software actually benefits those organizations harnessing bespoke software development. Stable, effective and cheaply licensed plug-ins, frameworks and other portions of code are readily available to bespoke developers to augment the desired functionality This ready availability can have a positive impact on bespoke development as it helps in sufficiently improving development speed and cutting costs without compromising focus on the customer’s unique needs. The fact, however, remains that off-the­-shelf software options are hardly capable of addressing unique business requirements.

Let us examine carefully the comparison between Bespoke and off-the-shelf solutions that can help you make an informed decision.

Bespoke vs. Off-the-shelf:  Software Solutions

The very basic foundation on which bespoke software works is that the creation of the software package is designed to fit your business requirements befittingly. This may be more cost-effective in the long run as you will be saving much time, cost, and effort to train your employees. It is developed as per the guidelines and demands laid out by you, these solutions, therefore, easier to blend into your current business structure. They are more perceptive and spontaneous towards your business model which makes it increasingly scalable. Given that most custom software developers are used to a contractual setup, they are good at providing exemplary maintenance as and when your business increases in size.

Consequently, off-the-shelf solutions are either very economical or very expensive. The chances, however, are that the cheaper solutions will miss out on significant software packages that are necessary for your business which might incur you a heavier cost for the long haul. Moreover, off-the-shelf software is more vulnerable and less secure due to common vulnerabilities that exist is a packaged software. Custom solutions add significantly to software safety and protect a business against external threats. Hackers today are adept at making successful attempts on business because of certain common vulnerabilities that exist in packaged software. Custom software makes the ordeal much more difficult as it needs a lot more effort to break into a system and hackers usually avoid such a scenario.

Additionally, bespoke app development can easily harmonize with your business’ current software packages. Off-the-shelf solutions, however,  are more often than not, either incompatible or partially compatible with a business’ current infrastructure which leads to several errors. Procuring licenses for standard business software is a highly cumbersome process. It may decrease your company’s productivity levels as continuous errors may interfere with employee tasks and deliverables. Such a scenario is very rare when it comes to bespoke tools because it blends perfectly with the software ecosystem of your business model.

Bespoke vs. Off-the-shelf:  Maintenance

Another area of comparison that figures, in this case, is the availability of continuous maintenance for bespoke while only limited maintenance is available for off-the-shelf.

There is certain risk involved with off-the-shelf software because it’s limited maintenance. The software may leave you at the mercy of the provider company owing to their availability whenever something goes awry. Or if they suddenly decide to drop the app or shut down, you will be left clueless and invest heavily in another software package. Such a problem does not occur with bespoke software as developers will have the program tailored to the vendor’s hardware as well as hardware’s capabilities. This is a more cost-effective option in the long run as you won’t be spending unnecessarily on additional hardware.

The bespoke solution, unlike its counterpart, comes with a plethora of added features in the domain of maintenance, scalability, and integration. Many businesses are unwilling to take a chance with the off-the-shelf solution given its inability to adapt to any business model with a particular objective. It is important that entrepreneurs choose quality over short-term affordability and pick a software solution that is unique and congruous with their business needs. The bespoke software brings with itself the luxury of a continuous maintenance process along with an excellent platform for a build that gives your business the edge of an uninterrupted user experience.

Bespoke vs. Off-the-shelf: Pros and Cons

Both bespoke and off-the-shelf come with their own set of challenges and benefits. The pros and cons are elucidated in the table below for a clearer picture:

Bespoke vs Off the shelf comparison

Bespoke vs Off the shelf comparison


Digital Transformation is all around us. Companies are digitizing products, improving customer experience, revamping business model and injecting operational efficiency. In such times, it is critical to decide between off-the-shelf and bespoke software. Ideally, it is advisable to carefully assess the challenges and benefits of each before choosing between the two. However, it is observed that bespoke has more advocates in its favor because of its customizable nature. It helps to gain a unique competitive edge and helps your business model to stand out.


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