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DWF 3Sixty Blog

Bespoke or off-the-shelf software?

Posted by Tristan L Dorman on Sep 21, 2015 4:13:00 PM


The world of software can be a confusing place to navigate. Not only do you need to work out what the best software is to suite your needs, you also have to decide whether to buy an off-the-shelf or bespoke software package.

This blog gives you a quick overview of the three different options that are available:


Bespoke systems are, unsurprisingly, the Rolls Royce of claims management systems. The beauty of bespoke systems is that they are tailored to the exact requirements of your company allowing the software to fully integrate, helping to meet legislation or key business objectives. Scalability is also a strong feature, with bespoke systems able to accommodate both growth and downsizing where necessary.

In an ideal world everyone would have bespoke software, if it wasn't for three key factors:

  • All this luxury comes at a price. The amount of time and manpower required to develop, deliver and maintain a bespoke system means a bespoke system may well be at odds with your budgets and deadlines.
  • Bespoke software can only match your requirements to the extent that you can define them and the developer can understand them. If there isn't a clear strategic plan for the business operations, long term IT plans are difficult to determine. These systems can't evolve with the company.
  • If the software is not compatible with the existing systems, operational difficulties are likely to arise. Legacy systems may not be designed to integrate making data transfer problematic.


Providing a generic set of features, a one-size-fits-all approach is taken. As a rule they are easy to install and use, often containing the best components of various software systems. These systems are likely to meet your core needs, but not all of them or necessarily the way you want them too. Off-the-shelf products are mass marketed meaning they are much cheaper than bespoke software.

A huge advantage of off the shelf products is that the software is tried and tested and support is readily available. Also bug fixes and upgrades are easily rolled out meaning the problem of it becoming outdated and even obsolete is eliminated.

On the down side you won't have ownership or management rights over the software, meaning that there is little to no flexibility around how it works. The knock on effect is that you have to change your processes to fit how the system works. This lead to less efficient working practices than a more tailored system.

Something else

A third option to consider is a compromise between off-the-shelf and bespoke solutions. Specialist IT companies develop systems using a mixture off-the-shelf software which can be modified by them to fit your requirements exactly.

By matching the needs of the customer to an existing product, the challenge is then to integrate it seamlessly into the company, with little or no disruption to existing working practices.

The Pareto 80:20 principle can be applied to this scenario. Having 80% of the application already available enables the remaining 20% to be configured specific to customer requirements.

This type of environment is especially suited to workflow or process driven requirements, where the engine and administration aspects of the application are already available and the 20 per cent bespoke configuration allows rule sets and process specific to the customer to be easily implemented.

Other benefits that become apparent are the cost savings. Modifications or additions to an existing software package shouldn't run into the tens of thousands of pounds that a full system development would cost. This is a much more manageable project for an in-house IT team that, once deployed, have no ongoing IT issues to deal with.

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