When to commission bespoke software development and when not to featured image

As a digital business we’ve had the privilege of being part of a wide array of digital projects that result in a bespoke software solution being delivered. This also means we’ve had time to hone our process and know what to look out for in a project. If you don’t have a background in technology it can sometimes be hard to understand when it’s appropriate to consider.

If you are thinking of commissioning a project and would like to speak to a member of our team, please get in touch.

What is bespoke software development?

First of all, let’s set the scene. When someone in the industry is talking about bespoke software development it’s simply jargon for something we’ll build JUST for you! There are different levels of development, ranging from commissioning someone to write a small piece of functionality on-top of an existing system through to full projects where your chosen supplier / team starts with nothing but a blank canvas and a plan.

The benefits of bespoke software development

As the term ‘bespoke software development’ is so vague, the benefits can be equally vague including things like simplicity, localisation, integration, lower costs at scale, full ownership, efficiency and many others. Let’s expand on a few:

  • Perfect fit – It’ll be designed for your needs. Designed exactly how you want, without the need for elements you don’t use / want. This should mean it’s quicker and easier to use.
  • Competitive advantage – It can give you efficiencies and features that your competitors don’t have access to via off-the-shelf software.
  • Innovation – Bespoke software development can be used to create brand-new products and services that can be monetised to add new revenue streams to your business. Some of the costs can even be offset through R&D grants / tax credits.
  • Integration opportunities – Streamlining information flow between older legacy systems or simply allowing you access to external platforms can help improve and create efficient workflows.
  • Reduce costs – Whilst the upfront cost can be high, there can also be a long-term cost saving if you are replacing a system with high licensing costs or have a large number of users that would mean an alternative system per user would cost too much.
  • Roadmap – With off the shelf software, you are tied to someone else’s roadmap, if they increase costs, change direction or cease trading you’re very much a passenger in the process. If it’s bespoke, you get to decide how to grow and modify the system.
  • Ownership – Typically, most bespoke software solutions involve transferring the intellectual property of the code to the client on completion giving them the option to sell the solution on if desired.

Who should consider bespoke software development?

Not that long ago, there was a misconception that only large enterprises can justify or think about bespoke software development. However, businesses of all shapes and sizes can reap the benefits of bespoke software.

Bespoke software is an investment and with any investment there are pros and cons as well as risks. Projects can fail to deliver the benefits expected for many reasons but poor planning is one of the main ones.

Who shouldn’t

No-one should rule out bespoke development however there are a few reality checks and in certain scenarios it simply won’t make sense to commission a project. The 80/20 rule is a good guide but ultimately this comes down to what is important to you.

  • If a solution already exists and is affordable and delivers 80% of the functionality with 20% cost.
  • Bespoke solutions take time to deliver, is there another solution that can be put in place in 20% of the time it would take but again deliver 80% of the functionality.

Tips for a successful project:

It’s important to find the right company to partner with if you’re using external help on your project. Software development companies come in many different shapes and sizes with different specialities:

  1. Are they experienced in delivering solutions like the one you need?
  2. Do they have the capacity to deliver your project on time?
  3. Have they invested in the processes around quality control of software solutions?
  4. Do they outsource development – if so who ultimately is responsible if a problem occurs?
  5. Do they offer support once the solution has been delivered?
  6. Speak to customers, read case-studies, were they happy? How did the solution perform?

Sometimes projects evolve during the design and build so it’s worth making sure your technology partner can flex and adapt to changes if needed.

Once you’ve identified your technology partner it’s important to set a detailed project plan and specification, this way both parties know exactly what will be delivered with no ambiguity. This also acts as a check and balance to ensure everything has been completed as planned. A good specification will outline tasks, responsibilities, highlight risks and provide a timeline.

CommunicationEffective communication really is the key to a successful project, it will require a significant investment from you as the client both in time and money so make sure to give it the attention it needs.

Stay focussed – It’s easy to get distracted by new ideas mid project but once the project has been started it’s in everyone’s interests to first deliver to the specification with new ideas being added as a second phase to keep clear distinctions and expectations on all ends.

Scaffold Digital is a Northern Ireland based software development studio servicing clients across the globe. We specialise in delivering solutions for web & app and we are the only certified partner for Ionic app development across Ireland.

If you would like to get started on a project please get in touch!