Off-the-shelf Software vs Bespoke Software

Many of us turn to software to help solve our business problems or improve the way we work. If this is you, you may find yourself having to decide between off-the-shelf software vs bespoke software, you need to consider all angles. Luckily for you, we provide both, so we’re well-placed to offer tips and advice to help you make the right decision!

Off-the-shelf software vs bespoke software

When implementing software to manage, automate, or streamline processes, it’s important that you take the time to consider your specific business needs.

There is a huge number of applications, programmes, and software services available in the market, and wading through all the options to find the right solution for you can be difficult and time-consuming, especially if you’re not 100% sure what you need.

What is off-the-shelf software and bespoke software?

Off-the-shelf software is ready-made and available for purchase by anyone, usually through a marketplace or website. Examples include desktop applications, like Microsoft 365 and Adobe Acrobat, and heavily-configured enterprise applications, like SAP, Salesforce, and Sage. We also use off-the-shelf products developed by AccessPay, Jet Brains, and Redgate.

Bespoke software is designed and developed to meet the needs of your business. It’s not readily available, and you need to follow the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) to create the application, programme, or script. You may choose a bespoke solution if you can’t find off-the-shelf software that includes everything you need. Bespoke software can be developed in-house by your IT team or by an external software development company like us.

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Here are the key differences between off-the-shelf software vs bespoke software.




The differences between bespoke software and off-the-shelf software - Time icon

Off-the-shelf software can often be purchased and implemented relatively quickly, sometimes instantly, as it is already available in the market. The slowest part of the process is choosing the right product in the first place.

It may take longer to implement bespoke software as you’re often starting from scratch and need to gather requirements, design, develop, test, and deploy the software.


The differences between bespoke software and off-the-shelf software - Cost icon

Often, off-the-shelf solutions can be more cost-effective, as there’s only one version of the product to meet the needs of all the users.

Bespoke software has a higher cost as it’s created specifically for you. However, it can also give you a competitive advantage by helping you to leverage your Intellectual Property and unique processes.


The differences between bespoke software and off-the-shelf software - Contracts icon

Off-the-shelf solutions are often subject to standard terms and conditions and pricing.

If you’re working with an external software development company, you’ll need to agree on the terms and costs and who owns the Intellectual Property.


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Off-the-shelf systems naturally lend themselves to non-core, common, or administrative processes or tasks.

Bespoke solutions are perfect if you want to leverage the unique, business-critical processes that make you stand out from the crowd.


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Off-the-shelf systems can often be configured but not customised.

A bespoke solution offers complete flexibility. Once implemented, you can continue to enhance your software to meet your changing needs.


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If your off-the-shelf software offers third-party integrations, the product owner will choose the integrations that benefit most of the users.

You can integrate bespoke software with any third-party system using APIs, fully connecting your application ecosystem and helping you to grow.

In summary, off-the-shelf software can be a cost-effective solution if you need basic or standard functionality quickly, while bespoke software offers greater flexibility and you can continue to customise as you continue to grow and need extra functionality. Both options have pros and cons, and you should carefully consider your specific needs and budget before deciding which type of software to use.

If you’d like to talk to us about our bespoke software development services, head to our software development page, or contact us.

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Picture of Craig Kennedy

Craig Kennedy

Chief Executive, Craig Kennedy, is a Certified Accountant with 20 years’ experience. Craig joined Koderly in 2011 as Finance Director and took on the role of Chief Executive in 2019. Craig oversees strategy, finance, and compliance, working alongside the Board of Directors.