Introduction to bespoke software, part 2: Custom vs off-the-shelf software

In our first Introduction to software blog, we defined bespoke software and how it fits into businesses. You now understand what it is - software solutions that are created specifically to resolve a challenge in your business, built uniquely for you.

In this blog, we’ll talk about what the benefits are of using bespoke software, as opposed to off-the-shelf products.



Off-the-shelf software looks like a great solution in terms of cost, as you can directly see how the lack of particular functionality can be fixed with a fairly cheap tool. It can work for a while, but once a business starts working with a particular tool, it becomes very difficult to change away from it. The more time goes by, the more expensive that process becomes.

A business is a living organism that has to adapt to a changing environment. With custom software, the initial cost is high, but in the long run it allows us to modify the functionality to adapt to an evolving business - not the other way around, as it happens with off-the-shelf tools. When bespoke software is maintained and always aligned to the business, there is no actual need to change it to something else. This eliminates the risk that such an operation will be required.

A real life example from The Beaverhead: we use Atlassian software. We use a self-hosted product from Atlassian that is the core of our Continuous Development system. Recently I've learned that Atlassian is dropping the product in 2024 and we have to either switch to a cloud version of that product or look for something else that is self-hosted. The cost of moving to the cloud solution will be significant to us, not to mention what cost can be if we decide to drop their product in favour of something else.

And that’s just one comparison between off-the-shelf and bespoke software. But let’s get into the details.

What is off-the-shelf software?

This is simply software that is ready to use out of the box. These are solutions that are developed with general challenges in mind, and built to meet the needs of as many businesses as possible. They often offer a large variety of features with the hopes of working for most of their target audience.

Advantages of off-the-shelf software

There are two main benefits of buying ready-made, commercial software - the initial cost, and the training opportunities.

Building software specifically for your business is indeed an investment, while you can start using a commercial product at a much lower cost.

When it comes to training, the more popular the software your purchase is, the less you need to invest in training your team. There are probably multiple free resources available online, as well as an onboarding process designed for teams like yours.

Advantages of bespoke software

Aside from the above two, though, the advantages of off-the-shelf software stop.


Yes, the initial cost of starting to work with ready-made software may be lower, but there are often multiple costs that add-up over time - a monthly subscription, maintenance fees, user fees, overages, costs of extra features, etc. With bespoke software, you are able to built the solution exactly to your needs and specifications, pay for it once, and own it forever.

Streamlined processes

If you purchase off-the-shelf software, you have to fit your business around it and its features. If you build your own bespoke solution, you get to make it so that it compliments every part, process, and department of your business. It can resolve your very specific, very unique needs in a way that no other solution could.

You get it all

You don’t have to compromise when you get bespoke software. If you try to find an off-the-shelf solution for your problems, you might need to choose between a few that don’t all have the features you need - you end up having to choose between features that you want. Not with bespoke software, though - when building your unique solution, you get to pick and choose all the features you need and how they will work.


Speaking of not having all features you need, another problem with off-the-shelf software is that you will have a lot of features you don’t need. As mentioned earlier, commercial software often has as many as features as possible to cater to as many companies as possible, but that means that it’s a hefty size, packed with things you don’t need. A bespoke software solution will be easy to use and fit right into your processes, without any extra baggage.

Supports your brand

Since the software is built for you, it will be built with your brand in mind. Your logo, colours, persona and language can be embedded in the software, empowering your brand and building it up among your employees. Taking this a step further, you can later monetise your software by licensing it out to other businesses!


Finally, bespoke software gives you a level of flexibility you simply can’t get elsewhere. You can change your specifications and features as your business changes your time, you can fit the software to your exact product process and client experience.


Bespoke software is an investment - but a worthy one. Off-the-shelf solutions may be okay for smaller business or early stages, but if you truly want your business to grow, you need software that feels intuitive and supports you every step of the way.

With optimised processes and easy-to-use, automated tools, bespoke software is a necessary step to help you reach your full potential.

Contact us today to find out how bespoke software can help your business!

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