Benefits of Bespoke Software
Computer software technology is continually evolving, and if your company software isn’t kept up to date and fit for purpose “you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’” in any number of interesting ways:-
And in no particular order:-
- You are not competitive - you can’t get an advantage over competitors if you have old, out of date, software
- Risks of malware - the older your software the longer it is available for hackers to find a way in
- Loss of critical data through system crashes
- Outdated software can cause expensive delays
- Outdated ‘off the shelf’ software may not run on new hardware
- Outdated software may no longer be supported
- Cost - the cost of maintaining end-of-life software can be considerable in terms of fixing bugs and patching
- Outdated and end-of-life software may not be compatible with the latest operating systems
- Unsecure applications may result in compliance and liability issues
- Outdated and end-of-life software will have a greater chance of crashing
Any, or worse, any combination, of these problems emerging into the light of day can have huge repercussions for your business
The impact on your business of a significant software problem has knock-on effects for the successful operation of your work. This could have disastrous effects on staff morale and subsequent reduction in productivity. The occurrence of a major IT meltdown speaks for itself in terms of what it could do to your business.
What are the signs that show your business software is in need of an overhaul?
- If you don’t understand what your present software system does and how it benefits your business
- If your software system is not a good fit for your business and doesn’t match all your needs
- If employees are avoiding using your present software and looking for workarounds
- If your present system doesn’t run smoothly, but is rather clunky and messy
- If your present system isn’t working for you efficiently
- If your system is not compatible with the rest of the company’s software
- If there are parts of your system that you don’t use
- If you are not competing in the marketplace
- If your business has recently expanded and your software doesn’t meet your new needs
- If you are manually undertaking processes that could be automated
- If your business has a particular need that is not covered by your existing software system
- If your subscription and licencing fees for off the shelf software you have are getting too expensive
The old adage ‘if it ain't broke don’t fix it’ doesn’t apply to business software. It should read if it ain’t broke monitor it, find out how it could work better and improve it. If you’re not constantly thinking about your IT system your business is not working to its optimum potential, and your competitors are going to gain an advantage. If you have off-the-shelf software you have to do this thinking for yourself. If you have bespoke software designed for your needs, you have the help of the software development company to take the worry about your software away from you.
Some companies will opt for the commercial off-the-shelf option, but there are several distinct disadvantages to going down this route. Although it might seem the cheaper option there are issues with it rarely being a complete solution to all your business needs, and the necessity of working around the areas which are not covered by the off-the-shelf product. There are also the problems associated with business expansion, security, support and ownership which are addressed below.
If you have decided that the off-the-shelf option isn’t for you, there is another way to possibly go. You could opt to outsource your IT needs to one of the many specialist companies who have the expertise to manage it for you. This may be a viable route for some companies and does bring some advantages, however it is also beset with disadvantages. If you pick the right company to outsource to it can work well, but if you don’t it could leave you with more problems than solutions.
Pros and Cons of Outsourcing
- You are buying in team expertise which can add to your own knowledge which may mean quicker solutions to problems. If you use in-house resources it may be a smaller team and their expertise may be limited to the knowledge acquired on your present system
- You can concentrate on the business rather than the IT which supports it
- You can reduce the risk of outages
- You have to surrender the control of your system
- The issue of data security is beyond your control
- You lose control of response times
- If your system crashes the resolution time is out of your control
- You may lose control of operations and deliverables
Costs, when outsourcing, are a double edged sword. There are possible savings on staff time etc if you go out of house. However If you pick the wrong outsourcing partner you could well end up spending more on unexpected costs and hidden extras; unless you take the precaution to pay for legal advice on contracts.
The main concern for the business owner is the loss of day-to-day management of the IT part of his business, and there are no guarantees that your outsourcing partner has the same values and standards as you. You will be sharing a large and important part of your company’s data and confidentiality with another company. Also remember that if anything disastrous happens to your outsourcing company, it happens to you as well.
Open Source software
Open source applications are another alternative which can be attractive because their source code is available to anyone who wishes to view, share and alter it. Open source software code is therefore something people can modify to suit their own needs. To use open source applications you need a licence, the same as proprietary software, but the licence allows people to use the applications for any purpose they want. A software development company could use open source applications to build in the functions you require for your business needs, but it wouldn’t have the ‘perfect fit’ of a bespoke option.
Time to consider the benefits of bespoke software
The broad picture
A good software development company won’t design your system and the disappear. They will work with you, as the software is developed, to ensure that the IT part of your business is as efficient as possible, and will compliment your business. The shared aim is to help your company to realise its full potential.
You will have a vision for your company and where you want to place it in the market. Expansion might be a part of your plans, and, by employing a software development company to design your software, you will have a sounding board for how your ideas can seamlessly mesh with the IT part of your business. Bespoke software can be designed so that it is flexible and can develop as your company grows. You will not have to worry about buying in and learning a new system because your company has expanded, the bespoke solution will cater for your growth and the employees will not have to engage in a re-learning experience.
With a software development company on board you will have the support of people who know your system intimately, and can be relied on to offer you the solutions for the specific problems that arise as they become apparent to you.
Bespoke software advantages
Bespoke design flexibility advantages
- You can input to the design in all the features that you want, and those that will make your day-to-day business life a lot easier and more productive, such as avoiding repetitive tasks
- The system itself will be a lot easier to use because it will be built around your business needs, so there will be no more workarounds or patches needed to make the IT system fit the bill.
- You can be sure that your competitors will not have the same software as you; it will be designed specifically for your business needs, and will give you the potential to pull away from your competitors. You, and your software system, can work in a completely unique way. This will, in turn, make your business stand out in a competitive marketplace.
- The software developer can also input ideas, which you may not have thought of, and will streamline your IT system to make it more efficient. You should certainly see an increase in performance levels and expect a commensurate increase in productivity.
- Since the features in the bespoke software will be tailored to your business it will be easy to understand because it will deal with processes you are already familiar with, so you don’t have to get to grips with new and different systems and methods.
- The familiarity with the system should lead to fewer errors, less supervision of staff and thereby increased productivity.
- Data input can be validated, so no incomplete data entry resulting in empty strings and unusual software behaviour.
- Communication between the different parts of your enterprise can be improved and simplified.
- You can be sure that bespoke software will not be using outmoded applications, but will have access to the latest technology available
One of the disadvantages of off-the-shelf software is that, because it is widely used, hackers can get to know the system and take advantage of any weak spots. It is also worth their while to make break-in attempts on such software because it gives access to numerous users. Bespoke software, because it is a one-off solution, makes it harder and not worth the hackers’ time to spend the effort on it. In addition your bespoke option may have security measures built in as a matter of course.
Maintenance and support advantages
Off-the-shelf software may be supported, but if anything happens to the supplier you will be unsupported with out of date software. With a bespoke software solution the company that developed your software will provide updates so that your application will keep working with the latest technology. The good software design companies will be proactive in contacting you about updates and compatibility issues. They should offer full access to a support team that has detailed knowledge of the application build, so that a speedy response is always on hand.
With the off-the-shelf product ownership remains with the supplier. Licences have to be bought by the users, and the product is, in effect, rented. Users are at the mercy of the suppliers, and, should the latter terminate the product or go out of business, the user is left high and dry. Alternatively the user sometimes has to pay for any extra support they may receive. The bespoke system, on the other hand, is the intellectual property of the person or company that commissioned it. Should the company that developed your software go out of business, it would not be too difficult to find another software development company that could pick it up and take over the support you need. With bespoke software there are no issues with having to buy extra licences to install the software onto extra terminals and networks. In addition your conversation is entirely with the software company that designed the system and you are in control of the situation. You are not constrained by the decisions of suppliers who want to control how they update their systems.
The final decision about the best software solution is different for different companies because each has individual application requirements, budget, time scales, and other internal considerations which sway the argument one way or the other. The bespoke software solution, designed by a reputable software development company, certainly offers unique advantages in terms of having a business software system that is designed for your business alone and addresses all your needs. In addition with a reputable, trusted and knowledgeable software development company on your side you have the support of a partner who has a vested interest in your company’s success.