22nd November 2023

Bespoke? Off-The-Shelf? Why Not Both?

Your business must implement the right technology. Implementing the right technology effectively will improve customer experiences, lower business costs, and improve overall business efficiency.

If you are running a business and exploring the different digital solutions available to you, you have probably heard terms such as “commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)”, “out-the-box”, “bespoke”, or “tailor-made” when assessing your software options.

Almost every article about bespoke and off-the-shelf software features the word “versus.” There’s often a portrayal that a business would pick one option because that solution was “better” than the other, but their reasoning can go much deeper than that. It comes down to your business, what you’re looking for, how much you’re spending and how soon you need it.

That’s why you should understand your options and make the right call based on your business needs, current circumstances and how you expect your business to look in several years.


Solution With Synergy: Why You Should Consider a Third Option


The biggest problem with comparing the two options is that there isn’t necessarily a better option. When businesses focus too much on pitting them against each other, they lose focus on what solution will most effectively deliver on their business needs.

It also makes businesses feel they must choose one or the other when in practice, you can blend the benefits of both to create the perfect model: a hybrid model.

What is a hybrid model?

Before, we used the analogy of modifying an old car when explaining how to modernise old computer systems.

Sticking with the car analogy, let’s say you visualise your dream car, but it doesn’t exist. Which gives you three options. Your first two options are to buy a pre-made car which closely matches what you’re looking for (but doesn’t entirely match it) or build your dream car from scratch; that’s all the parts, bodywork, everything. Your third option is to build your custom car by using and tweaking readily available car parts; that’s the hybrid option.

In the same way you would utilise pre-made materials to build custom parts for your car, the hybrid model of software development leverages the functionality of off-the-shelf software with bespoke development, to create a blended solution that balances flexibility, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.


Advantages of Hybrid Software


Many businesses are reluctant to go down the bespoke route because they see the higher upfront costs, the time it takes to develop, and the technical knowledge required. A hybrid approach removes all those scepticisms.

Taking a customisable platform (such as our VISION CRM) and tailoring it to your unique requirements gives you a tailor-made digital solution which is low-cost and rapidly built.

Because out-of-the-box and bespoke software offer unique advantages, a cost-effective solution is to leverage customisable off-the-shelf software to fit your needs. This combines the tried-and-tested functions of commercial off-the-shelf software with the freedom and flexibility of bespoke software.


1. Cost-Effectiveness and Value-For-Money

Bespoke software can provide more cost savings in the long run compared with off-the-shelf software, due to lower support, maintenance and set-up costs, cheaper updates, and the overall improvement to your business.

Utilising the foundations of a piece of off-the-shelf software to build your bespoke application lowers your development costs. Giving you a more cost-effective system for less money.

Also, some COTS solutions make you pay for all functions, even the ones you don’t need. By picking and choosing the functionality you need, you only pay for what you use.


2. Rapid development

Typically, customising pre-made software can be quicker than developing bespoke software, because that solution requires building everything from the ground up and going through the software development process. This could take months – maybe even a year - depending on the size and complexities of the development.

However, by choosing an off-the-shelf platform that closely matches your requirements, adding customised add-ons, or tweaking the existing functionality, development time is significantly lowered.


3. Competitive Advantage

With off-the-shelf software, you are waiting for the vendor to release updates, leaving you waiting for a particular function that’s important for your business to be released. You can be one step ahead of your competitors by developing your customisations and releasing them to your users while your rivals are still waiting for an update on their software.


4. Solves a Particular Challenge

One of the reasons you might have considered a bespoke solution is you couldn’t find what you were looking for off the shelf. By customising existing functionality, you can identify and meet specific business needs and challenges.


Examples of Hybrid Solutions


Our VISION platform is ideal for businesses looking for an easily customisable off-the-shelf business system. While our development team has experience working with multiple coding languages and frameworks, we have also used VISION to build bespoke software solutions for our clients. The system, which we use daily in our own business, was built with scalability and customisation in mind. Here are some of the bespoke systems we have developed through VISION.


Flamingo Group

Flamingo Group, one of the world's leading growers and suppliers of fresh produce and plants, needed an internal New Product Development (NPD) system to streamline their process of creating new flower ranges. The system needed to make complicated calculations such as finance and shipping, automatically generate product documentation and allow them to analyse sales performances of each range.

They have been using the system for their flower division for several years. Now, they’ve asked us to extend the system to be used for their plant division, and to be web-based.



“We have recently moved our entire spec system over from an Excel-based system and a competitor platform. We did this based on VISION giving us exactly what we need. It’s user-friendly, easily configurable and capable of integration with our MRP systems. We are very happy to be consolidating to a single system, and Vision suits our needs perfectly.

We have been working with PSP for many years. We have recently engaged with the team to upgrade and extend some of our systems. This has been, quite possibly the most painless process of this type we have been through! The team have been extremely accommodating, helpful and professional and has stuck to timelines and budgets entirely. A faultless performance. Thank you!” Gavin Gill, Group Head of Quality and Compliance


North Kesteven District Council



NKDC needed to move their time management from a spreadsheet-based method to a web-based flexi-time management platform.

They had multiple requirements for this project, and using our VISION platform, we created three modules to support the requirements. These were:

  • Flexi-Time Module: Allows user groups to be set and employees to submit their timesheets to their line managers to approve. Also allows users to log and record working hours, sickness, holidays and overtime. The system automatically calculates hours worked against a required target during a four-week period, capturing flexi-time hours.
  • Helpdesk Module: Users can create internal helpdesk tickets and assign them to users who can help resolve the query. Also allows for feedback against a ticket and sends out emails when a ticket is edited, closed, or updated.
  • Task Module: Allows employees to set their tasks and assign tasks to others. The system also creates automated tasks when timesheet records are sent for approval or rejected.



In Summary


Up until now, you may have thought the two options had to be pitted against each other to determine which one was better for your business. However, you can take a piece of ready-made software and tweak it to meet the needs of your business. By utilising the foundations of pre-developed software, you get a tailored solution in a fraction of the time it would have taken to build from the ground up.

Because the software at the end is bespoke to you, you still have full control over your software and have flexibility to scale up (or down) your software in the future.


Want to Find Out More?


We are a Microsoft gold partner specialising in application development and integration. Our project support teams work with you from the outset to define your requirements and design a tailor-made solution that aligns your People, Systems and Process (PSP) Do you need help taken a problem or vision and transforming it into a digital solution? Let’s talk.

Email letstalk@psp-it.co.uk or phone 01775 722377.

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