The Battle between Off-The-Shelf and Bespoke



For as long as we can remember there has been an ongoing battle between Custom Developed Systems and Off-the-Shelf Software, and we thought it would be useful to highlight the differences.


The majority of Software Programmes on a standard computer are Off-the-Shelf and this means that it was created to accommodate a vast number of consumers and meet certain general requirements.

Bespoke Software Programmes are tailored to specific requirements from a Client and built to operate as you need. Both offer advantages and disadvantages.

The Benefits of Off-the-Shelf Software
  • Cost could be the most prominent initial benefit of Off-the-Shelf Software as it is financed by many users.
  • Some Packaged or Pre-Developed Software may offer extra features and additional options because more resources can often be committed to the original development.
  • Because popular Commercial Software are often widely used, support and advice may be easily available.

The Disadvantages of Off-the-Shelf Software
  • The Client has little or no input into the development of the software and usually won’t be able to request any changes.
  • Off-the-Shelf Software is built to serve a big audience and can be very broad-minded, so the Client might have to consider changing certain Business Processes to adjust to the Software.
  • Many Businesses often implement the same Off-the-Shelf Software, which could be a Security Threat as successful hacking attempts generally materialize when vulnerabilities are exploited in well-known Commercial Software.
  • Hackers find Commercial Software very attractive, due to code being freely available, and millions of systems sharing security modules.
  • Businesses who use several Systems may find that accurate integration will be near impossible between individual Off-the-Shelf Systems.
  • Annual licensing fees could be very expensive.
  • New and/or unfamiliar packages can be extremely challenging and costly to train staff.
  • Certain Off-the-Shelf systems require specialist consultants to implement and customise installations which may become prohibitively expensive.

The Benefits of Custom Developed Systems
  • The most significant benefit of any Bespoke Software System is that it is designed according to specific requirements and can be customized to integrate into any existing systems and future systems.
  • A Bespoke System may start very small, and have the flexibility to grow and accommodate various Business areas without the limitations generally experienced using Commercial Software.
  • A Bespoke Application is unique, which might give Businesses a genuine advantage in productivity and efficiency.
  • Security modules that are unique will only be known to the Developer and the Owner of the software, which makes it very unattractive for hackers to try and exploit.
  • The quality of support will be much higher; as the User will be dealing directly with the Developer, who will understand the importance and structure of the Software.
  • Although the initial cost of Custom Developed Systems can be higher than Off-the-Shelf Software, it should require minimal maintenance and no Annual Licensing fee which will make it much more cost effective in the long run.

The Disadvantages of Custom Developed Systems
  • The Client will exclusively fund the project, so the initial investment might be higher.
  • It may be difficult and time consuming to set up a sufficient Project Specification and to select the appropriate Developer to create and deliver the system.
  • Should the Client not be the owner of the System, the Business could be at risk if the Developer becomes unavailable.

If you would like some advice on your business software please send me an email at jeanne@jerilimited.co.uk or give me a call on +44 (0)1428 656 446.

All photos are courtesy of the awesome Ryan McGuire at Gratisography.


Jeri Limited is committed to Bespoke Software Development and will always aim to create effective business solutions that are intuitive and easy to use.