When implementing software into your business, there are two main routes to explore: building or buying.
Consensus suggests that buying ‘off-the-shelf’ is an easier, cheaper option and that building bespoke software can be laboursome and expensive.
In reality, the argument is much more nuanced than that. This blog post explores the benefits of investing in bespoke software and why buying off-the-shelf may or may not be the right solution for your business.
Investing in bespoke software allows you to design a solution that wraps around your business rather than your business process having to fit around an off-the-shelf product.
You get to design a solution to meet the specific needs of your business, users, and processes. Custom software can integrate with existing systems more efficiently, meet specific regulatory requirements, and include unique features not always available in off-the-shelf.
Superior User Experience
Another benefit of bespoke software is the improved user experience that it affords. Custom software is designed for (and sometimes with) its end users, resulting in a more intuitive and user-friendly system, which leads to higher productivity, better adoption, and improved user satisfaction.
Often off-the-shelf software doesn't always meet the exact requirements of users, resulting in frustration, lack of adoption, and decreased productivity.
Enhanced Data Security & Privacy
In today's digital world, security and data privacy are critical factors that must be at the top of your priorities when adopting digital systems, especially if it handles personal or sensitive data.
With bespoke software, you have more control over your data security and privacy, allowing you to design it to meet specific security requirements, such as compliance with regulatory standards.
Off-the-shelf software is designed to meet the needs of a broad range of users and industries, which may not provide the level of bespoke security and privacy required by your organisation.
Bespoke Systems Integration
Bespoke software can be designed to easily integrate with your existing systems, such as CRM or ERP, leading to a more seamless workflow.
This may not be possible with off-the-shelf software, with customers requiring permission from the vendor, as well as significant effort and resources to integrate with your existing systems.
Bespoke software carries no boundaries when it comes to data integration; the possibilities to pass data into other systems are infinite. For example - you may be exploring implementing a system for managing Health and Safety (H&S) data. Whilst an off-the-shelf product may only be configured to capture data pertinent to that system’s objectives, with a bespoke build, you can explore other opportunities to capture related data that can be used by other departments. For example:
Construction companies want to capture the skills and credentials of everyone working on their projects/sites.
The social value team needs to enter data for all apprentices/work experience personnel on site.
The data captured at source can be shared instantly with other applications/departments, removing double keying of data and ensuring one point of authority across the business.
A bespoke build allows multiple departments to benefit by contributing to the design of the solution and adding relevant data capture points they need.
Challenging the Status Quo
Scoping a bespoke piece of software is an in-depth process and can be challenging. You will be challenged on your process, user profiles and overarching requirements.
This is an excellent opportunity to challenge the status quo, during which people often realise many operational efficiencies that can be achieved.
Sometimes taking a step back and viewing things with heightened focus, away from the day-to-day running of your business, can give you a whole new perspective on things.
Maximising R&D Tax Relief
Investing in bespoke software may also provide opportunities to realise research and development (R&D) tax relief. You can take advantage of R&D tax relief by including costs related to the research and development of bespoke software, such as the cost of software development, testing, and design, in your tax relief claims.
Ownership and Control of Costs
Many businesses assume that off-the-shelf software is more cost-effective than building bespoke, but this is only sometimes the case. When evaluating the cost of a piece of software, businesses should consider the total cost of ownership (TCO).
One of the main hidden costs of operating off-the-shelf software is configuration cost. Off-the-shelf systems cater to a broad array of users, which often limits the amount of customisation possible out of the box. To combat this, you may need to hire (or contract) developers to customise the software. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process.
In addition, you will need to factor in: licence fees; implementation and deployment costs; maintenance and support costs; customisation; ongoing upgrades/add-ons etc.
Owning Your Own Intellectual Property (IP)
When you develop custom software, you can own the IP rights to the software, giving you control over how it is used, licensed, and sold. Owning your IP can be a valuable asset for your business as there may be opportunities to generate revenue through licensing or selling the software to other companies or industries.
Developing bespoke software allows you to adopt systems and processes that are not available to other businesses; this can give you a unique advantage over your competition, helping you stay ahead of the curve in managing your people and processes.
In addition, it can promote a culture of innovation within your organisation, which can lead to the development of more innovative solutions. The sense of ownership created when engaging the business in developing new software can lead to higher engagement and motivation, and encourage employees to drive innovation within the business. Tribus developed a platform for a Tier 1 construction company that not only won digital transformation awards but was recognised as industry-leading.
By its very nature, off-the-shelf software solutions have a large customer base; you are one of many customers.
When encountering issues with the software, your query will be placed into a queue along with all the other customers; it will be dealt with in due course. When building bespoke software, however, you will have direct access to the people who designed and built the platform, and they will be able to react to your requests almost immediately.
Create a USP
With a solution designed from the ground up, you can create something that wholly meets the needs of your business and your customers. This can be pivotal when replying to a tender or pitch where every vendor has the same software solution to deliver reporting. By returning real value through software that excels beyond the ‘norm’, you are giving yourself a real USP.
Should I buy or build?
Off-the-shelf platforms can be cost-effective and quick to implement into your business, but a bespoke solution is designed with your specific requirements in mind, making it highly customisable, flexible and industry-leading.
Want to find out more about how bespoke digital solutions can solve challenges within your business? Get in touch with us today.