Batman vs Superman or Bespoke vs Off-The-Shelf

bespoke v off the shelf

Batman vs Superman or Bespoke vs Off-The-Shelf

Whilst I’d rather not draw any comparison to the woeful DC Comics cinematic disaster, it’s difficult to avoid the synergy.  It’s obvious in both of these examples that there is a place for both and that both are good and extremely viable in the right scenario.

As developers of bespoke software applications and solutions, we are clearly going to make the case for the custom route.  However, we are also mindful that this is not always the best solution for everyone. As such, we are advocates of best advice and making sure that whichever route a business chooses, it’s the right one for them, their staff and their objectives.

So why have we pledged our allegiance to Batman (or Bespoke software)?  Well the truth is we haven’t entirely.  Much of the work we do for clients is custom built, but will also utilise existing applications and tools such as SharePoint and other elements of the Microsoft stack.  We can also be found elbows deep in integration projects, linking existing systems together to make sure we achieve the desired result for clients.  So I guess it’s fair to say that we want the best of both worlds and certainly the best for our customers.

Developing a software product is more than a little challenging and I guess that’s one of the reasons we love what we do.  For us it’s an opportunity to work closely with a client over a period of time to develop a solution to a pain or a number of pains.  And that’s where the process starts, what is the pain that we are looking to overcome?  How will this benefit the business in the long term? Where and how will we elicit the ROI?

Once we understand all of these things and more, we’ll develop a specification for the project and commence the build.  We’ll decide on the technologies to be used and provision the environment on which the application will sit.  Projects may last a number of weeks or a number of months, they may be delivered in one single stage or in multiple phases, either way we will be on hand to ensure that we maximise user adoption and we’ll continue to provide support for the lifespan of the system.

If I had to pick a side…….

So how do you know which way to go and which is best for your business?  Well, there are obviously pros and cons for both.  We’re not here to debate both sides, and that would be somewhat unfair.  What we can say though is that a bespoke solution is exactly tailored to you, or to throw another analogy into the equation Saville Row vs Marks and Spencer.  People often choose the bespoke route as there is a perception it will fit better and last longer, there is a feeling of quality.  Whilst we don’t hold with all of those being true, we do believe that solutions should meet the client’s needs and  way of working rather than customers being forced to adopt structures and processes imposed by standard systems and by someone else’s perception of ‘the right way’.

With bespoke products there is often the view that these are more expensive than a commercially available alternative.  This may be the case in some instances, but not all, especially when you consider the total cost of ownership or LTV (lifetime value). It’s easy to look at a website and see a license cost for a piece of software.  What’s not so easy to understand is the cost of deploying that application, the cost of training, support and the lost opportunity cost of shoe horning your processes to fit the system or the cost of replacing it if you finally decide that the fit isn’t right.  A custom built solution can potentially look more expensive due to the upfront cost in design, however this can be quickly recouped once you start to use the system and realise the operational benefits.

In our experience we come across very few clients that rely solely on one or the other.  The clients that get the best from their software and systems are those that recognise there is a requirement to work with a partner that can support them whichever route is best and ensure that their systems are fully integrated to optimize the use of data and process flows. In other words, a partner that understands that there is a place for the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel and how to get the best out of both.