Bespoke software for small to medium sized businesses

Bespoke software offers small and medium sized businesses the flexibility they need to grow with the least technological resistance possible. In the long term it can also save them money and time, as well as offering solutions which cannot be fulfilled by off-the-shelf software.

Many businesses assume that bespoke software is the reserve of large businesses, with huge technology budgets to spend. With some business leaders labelling it as an out of reach option during the growth stages.

Yet, it is during these stages of rapid growth that bespoke software can offer the functionality and flexibility needed to take your business to the next level. From business process specific CRM systems to software which can implement rapid and efficient invoicing. Bespoke software offers an opportunity for automation and growth, which could be much more cost effective than you believe.

In this guide we explore why bespoke software may be an excellent option for small and medium sized businesses. We also give a level headed run down of the pros and cons of bespoke software before highlighting exactly how you can implement bespoke software in your business.  

What is bespoke software?

Let’s kick this off with the basics. What do we mean when we refer to bespoke software?

Much like an off-the-peg suit may have a little extra, unneeded length in the sleeves or legs, off-the-shelf software often has extra unneeded features that can create clutter and doesn’t quite work exactly how you need it to.

Bespoke software is much as it sounds, a custom built software created specifically to meet the needs of a business. This type of personalised software is often referred to custom or tailor-made software.

Businesses use bespoke software to match their requirements exactly. This mean it can be created to match your current business processes rather than having to change your process to match software functionality or having to crowbar software into your business to make it work in a way which meets your business needs.

Unlike off-the-shelf software, as your business grows, bespoke software can adapt and grow with you. We will cover more of the benefits of bespoke software later in this guide.

 

Why do businesses use bespoke software?

Businesses use bespoke software for a whole range of different reasons. In theory, any software you currently or plan to use in your business can be replaced by bespoke software. Often this is done when off-the-shelf software doesn’t meet the requirements of the business, doesn’t meet business needs or where efficiencies can be gained by creating a better system.

Some common examples of bespoke software in small and medium sized businesses includes:

CRM Software

Businesses use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to track the conversations and relationships they have with customers, partners and suppliers. This type of software allows businesses to develop relationships at scale and leverage those relationships to generate revenue.

This is so important for businesses because:

“Depending on which study you believe, and what industry you’re in, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.” – Harvard Business Review

With this statistic in mind, it is clear why many businesses opt to optimise their CRM systems through the development of a bespoke software solution.

E-commerce Software

E-commerce is big business.

When starting out many choose an off-the-shelf option for integrating ecommerce into their website such as WooCommerce or Shopify. However, it often doesn’t take very long for businesses to understand the unique requirements of their ecommerce system and seek a more tailored solution.

Often this can include bespoke needs including stock management, invoicing, payment systems and fulfilment automation. This is where bespoke software comes in, allowing for a tailored e-commerce system which meets all your needs.  

CMS Software

As content becomes an increasingly important aspect in the growth of small and medium sized businesses, Content Management Systems (CMS) in turn are becoming a more crucial part of a business’s tool box.

Although there are many off-the-shelf options when it comes to implementing a CMS such as WordPress. Many of these have limitations in how they can be applied to an individual businesses need to index, search, review, publish and format content. This leads to an increased need for a bespoke software solution.  

Accounting & Invoicing Software

Many small and medium sized businesses will know how much of their resource is focused into accounting and invoicing. That may be financial resource to pay professional accountants or time resource for elements which they keep in house.

That is part of the reason why accounting and invoicing software is so popular amongst businesses. This type of software allows them to streamline the crucial financial elements of operations, whilst minimising the time they spend on them. This frees up time to focus on other important, growth activities.

Again, there are many accounting and invoicing software options on the market including Sage and Xero. These offer an out of the box solution, which work to an extent but may not fit perfectly with the way in which your business works.

Project Management Software

Tailor made software for project management is another common alternative that businesses invest in. This is especially true in businesses where projects are complex in nature and require specific information to be presented in a particular way.

Using this type of software allows you to build a platform specifically to how you know projects work most efficiently in your business area. This can lead to significant time and cost savings across the board.

Task Specific Software

Bespoke software does not always simply replace off-the-shelf software with a more tailored version, but can also be used to automate or drastically lower the time spent on tasks which are specific to the business you run.

For example, a clothing company may develop bespoke software which helps them to match customers measurements and preferences to the stock they hold or allow them to create bespoke clothes. This is possible without bespoke software, but would require a high level of manual input, so is much more difficult to scale.

Bespoke, task specific software can be used to generate a competitive advantage over others in the market, allowing you to offer unprecedented levels of service and efficiency.

What are the pros and cons of bespoke software?

In the above section we have taken a look at exactly how a business may use bespoke software. This section has highlighted the level of flexibility and adaptability which bespoke software can offer, allowing for greater growth for the business.

In this section we explore more of the benefits of using tailor-made software. We will also present the counter arguments and where off-the-shelf software solutions may be more suitable.

Cost

The first and most obvious question a business will ask when exploring options for bespoke software is ‘how much will it cost?’ Of course, there is no specific answer to this and it widely depends on your needs and the availability of software development skills to fulfil those needs.

It is widely assumed that bespoke software is more expensive than off-the-shelf options, which in many ways is true. However, there are a number of factors which must be considered when deciding whether bespoke software is a cost effective way to move your business forward.

Obsolete Functionality|

The purpose of off-the-shelf software is to create a product that meets or closely meets the needs of many. This allows the software to be sold at scale and ultimately leads to a reduction in the overall cost per user.

However, this also leads to much of the functionality of the software being obsolete to the majority of those that purchase it. For example, accounting software may include extensive functionality for managing stock. But if you are a service based business, you are paying for functionality you will never actually use.

Therefore, when you create bespoke software, you can handpick the functionality required and only pay for that, often leading to a cost saving.

Ongoing Costs

There are a number of ongoing costs involved with off-the-shelf software.

In recent years many software businesses have taken a leap from one off up-front costs to continuous monthly/annual costs for software. Although there will be some ongoing costs involved in bespoke software, this is only required when you need to change or add functionality.

Secondly, typically off-the-shelf software works on a tiered model where the more users you grant usability to, the more it will cost you. As you own your bespoke software there is no additional cost as you increase your workforce and increase the need for user access.

Time

Off-the-shelf options are often pre-made and ready to be installed on the day you decide to buy. On the flip side, bespoke software can take a considerable amount of time to put in place.

This is due to the process of collecting requirements, building the platform from scratch and then rolling it out across the business.

Maintenance

Maintenance is another thing to consider when assessing your need for software. As we previously mentioned, maintenance is one of the only ongoing costs involved with bespoke software.

On the other hand, off-the-shelf software will usually include any maintenance in their one-off or ongoing costs. In many ways this can be a benefit, although it can also lead to untimely maintenance on software when your business needs it most.

When you own the software you can usually pick and choose a maintenance time which is convenient for you.

Training

Training is another element which must be considered when assessing the need for bespoke software. Whether your business will need more training for off-the-shelf or bespoke software depends widely on the functionality it will have.

For example, if you have a need to replace a common piece of software with a tailormade version, some training may be required in order to familiarise staff with the new way of doing things.

However, for the most part, less training will be needed with bespoke software as it allows you to create a platform which fits with your current business processes.

Does my business need bespoke software?

At this point you may be asking yourself whether your business needs bespoke software for one or various aspects of your business. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide:

Do you track data manually?

For example do you use programs like Microsoft Excel to regularly input, store and retrieve data? If so, a bespoke software could help you streamline this process, saving your business money.

Is the software you currently use scalable?

For example, will the software you currently use let you to grow your client base or workforce in a cost effective and efficient way? Bespoke software can give you the scalable tools you need to your business without resistance.

Are you currently using multiple pieces of software for similar tasks?

Many businesses will use multiple pieces of software to support just one business function. Efficiency can be gained by the development of bespoke software that allows for all processes and tasks to be completed in one place.

Are you paying fees for a large number of employees to use the same piece of software?

For example, if you are paying for licences or accounts for all your employees to access a time tracking software, costs may be drastically cut if you were to develop tailor made software for the same purpose.

How do I get my hands on bespoke software solutions?

Getting your hands on bespoke software solutions may be easier than you think. We  specialise in bespoke software development and have worked on many projects for small and medium businesses that are eager to grow.

In summary, we can see that bespoke software is not just the reserve of behemoth businesses. In fact, small and medium sized businesses can benefit more from the flexibility and efficiencies offered by tailor made solutions.

We have also seen that although the upfront investment may be larger than off-the-shelf products, the long term costs savings and increase in business efficiency will likely outweigh that cost substantially in the long run.

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