In the technology industry, off-the-shelf software refers to products that are already made by the programmers and available for sale to companies, small businesses, or individual home or office users. (PCmag.com, 2007). Custom software is also known as bespoke software on the other hand refers to software that is specially designed and programmed for a particular client taking into account the specific needs of the client.
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This software, off-the-shelf and bespoke applications have various benefits and risks depending on their intended use. This paper takes a balanced look at their pros and their inherent risks to help inform business managers intending to purchase software for their businesses to make informed choices that suit their needs.
The off the shelf software unlike bespoke is definitely cheap. The cost of its very development is easily spread over a huge number of users. The software can be very sophisticated (e.g. Powerpoint or Word) as the revenues from numerous users means that a lot of resources can be channeled to its development. (Steve Davidson, 2006). The off-the-shelf systems are made to satisfy the needs of a specific market or clientele. They have customization facilities for complex applications and contain one size fits set for its generic features.
More significant is easy to install and use. It is worth noting that the off-the-shelf software is bred from the best parts of various software systems. They may at times start as a bespoke package designed for a specific clientele. Customers who need support for their off-the-shelf system have comfort in the knowledge that the software is tried and tested with readily available support. (Steve Davidson, 2006). The software is very affordable, and the problem of it becoming obsolete is done away with.
The software like any other has its risks or disadvantages; first, it will definitely contain large sections that one may never use (the average user of Word is reputed to only use about 10% of the available facilities) and some may even be more complex to use.
It is a compromise between the two software types because it is originally designed for many different types of users, each of whom has personalized requirements or needs. (BCS Programming and Software, 2007). The large nature of the software complicates consequently it may take a long time to properly learn how to use it.
One may also be forced to compromise or change the way they work in order to fit in with the way that the software has been designed. (Approved index.co.uk) There will also be operations that one might simply not do with the software hence complaint as one small voice amongst many others will not carry much weight or will go unheard (BCS Programming and Software, 2007).
Bespoke software on the other hand has its own unique set of advantages and risks that should be considered. First, it has been specifically designed for one personalized requirement and can be tailored to fit in exactly with the way that one’s business or organization wants to operate. Bespoke software is easily customized to interface with other software to provide one with a fully integrated IT infrastructure across your whole organization, hence its advantage over off-the-shelf software.
This might not be possible with the shelf software. The users will usually find it easier and even more effective to use because it contains only the necessary and not superfluous facilities. it should also work or operate in the way that they are used to working more so it is also flexible than packaged software and can be modified and changed over time as one’s requirements change with time. (BCS Programming and Software,2007).
The advantage of bespoke systems is that they are tailor-made to meet the exact requirements of the company thus allowing the software to fully integrate thereby helping to meet legislation or key business objectives. Scalability is also a positive factor, with bespoke systems able to accommodate business growth and contract with any necessary downsizing. (Steve Davidson, 2006). The system should evolve with the company to provide an ongoing perfect fit. This is possible because bespoke systems are designed with the long-term IT plans of a company in mind. Software of this type ensures that the company can move forward instead of just automating what it already does, resulting in it being stuck in the same rut. (Swagman Systems, 2005).
The problem with bespoke software is that if the customer does not have the source code they are dangerously exposed and are prone to be wholly dependent upon the developer’s continuing goodwill and existence. To avoid this problem, it is recommended or advisable to make go for a developer who provides the source code. Choosing the wrong developer an application will result in acquiring for use an unstable and unreliable software that may be full of bugs hence corrupting the system or software. (Swagman Systems, 2005). A large investment is needed in the development process and a bespoke application will take longer to implement in the business.
In conclusion, as products become more sophisticated and the population as a whole becomes more computer literate and integrates computer usage into their everyday lives, it is of necessity to merge both the software so as to meet the needs of the targeted and fast-growing clientele. The real challenge that lies ahead is how to combine the two to capitalize on the strengths of each whilst eliminating their weaknesses. Clients are increasingly demanding ‘smart’ solutions, and it is high time companies respond by offering them.
Approved index. Bespoke vs. Off-the-Shelf Software – A Free Guide. Web.
BCS Programming and Software,2007. Bespoke vs. off-the-shelf software. Web.
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Pc mag. Custom software definition. Web.
Steve Davidson. Bespoke vs. Off-the-shelf Software. Hero Solutions Limited. 2006. Web.
Swagman Systems Design Inc. Off-the-shelf vs. Custom Software: What to Consider. Web.