Development debunking: Myths of bespoke software

Myth 1: Bespoke software development is too expensive

As soon as you mention “software development” to anyone outside of this industry, they are sure to tell you how expensive it is.
And for the most part, that’s true. It can be expensive , but it does not have to be.

Generally speaking, if the people working on the project are passionate about what they do and love their work then there should never be an instance where a project is put out at a loss just to keep the customer happy.

Quite often we find that bespoke software projects run into trouble when approached by Manchester companies who want cheap software development and cheap software developers. A perfect example would be architecture firms who approach us with a requirement for our services and instead of coming up with a fixed-fee proposal, we quote them a price and they proceed on the assumption that we’re talking about an hourly rate.

We end up giving them an extremely competitive estimate based on our actual rates, but of course this is of no interest to them as they were expecting to get it for less than half of what we quoted. And so begins the negotiations, demands for free work and unreasonable expectations, all of which can be avoided by simply doing your homework before you approach a software development company.

Enterprise architects who have worked with us in the past appreciate that we provide quality software development services at prices that are drastically lower than the market average.

Going back to my earlier point, if you want cheap software development then chances are you will get what you pay for. If you decide to go with some cheap and unqualified development company then you will end up paying more later on either in terms of rework or system inefficiency.

Myth 2: A bespoke approach takes too long

Does bespoke software take a long time to develop? One of the enduring mysteries in the world of mass market packaged product software development is why so many companies insist on writing their own code when it’s quite obviously not necessary. There are lots of good reasons for using custom code – especially if you have unique business processes or data that don’t fit into existing patterns – but just saying ‘we want something that fits our needs’ isn’t really enough justification.

There’s nothing wrong with writing your own code of course. The problem arises when someone needs to maintain that code, or worse still – write new features for it. It’s the latter of these two issues that really causes problems because bespoke software is often slow to develop and hard to implement.

This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes projects are so small or straightforward that they can be turned around quickly without complications or hiccups along the way. The trouble with this approach is that it sets a precedent; very soon you start to expect all your projects to take as little time as possible even if their scope warrants much more work.

The effect on staff morale is very negative as well, especially if there’s already an emphasis on squeezing out costs at any cost:
As well as the time factor, the hidden costs of bespoke software projects are harder to quantify. For example there’s a price to pay in terms of company morale. Many companies work on an assumption that writing your own code is cheaper than buying off-the-shelf systems and this can lead to staff demoralisation when they start work on a project and realise how much more effort is needed than expected.

And I’m sure we don’t need to explain just how negatively this impacts work relationships:
Another negative aspect of bespoke development is that it often leads to bad feeling between employees working on different parts of the same product. If programmers think their colleague has spent weeks doing his job, while he thinks they’ve been sitting around waiting for him then it’s hardly surprising if there’s friction.

Bespoke software projects are notoriously difficult to estimate too, the secret of success in any bespoke software project is good estimation and this is something that every company should aim for. A development team that can turn around an accurate time and cost assessment will win more work than one that performs badly on both counts.

Myth 3: bespoke software constantly needs updating

Does bespoke software constantly need updating? A common question among clients is whether bespoke software needs updating as often as off-the-shelf software. The answer is no, they do not need to be updated as often. In fact it is usually the other way around: if an organisation changes its processes, it may have to update its system so that those changes can be accommodated.

Bespoke software has a number of advantages over off-the-shelf packages and these are the reasons why many companies opt for a custom built solution rather than buying one from a supplier. One of the main reasons for choosing bespoke software is because it closely matches the business processes. It reflects how things work in practice and users know exactly where they are within those processes when they use the system.

Another benefit which delivers competitive advantage is that bespoke software can take into account business intelligence not available to its competitors. This may be data relating to the competitive environment, customer value, market conditions and so on which are used to prioritise issues or opportunities. It also means that it can be regularly updated with the latest information which ensures accuracy and relevance of data analysis for decision making purposes.

Customised software will often provide improved speed of response since there is no time spent waiting for IT departments to re-program systems in order to accommodate changes; this means faster speeds of response which correlate directly to better levels of customer service. Also because changes are easier detailed tracking ensures that any process faults can be quickly identified and resolved before they become a major problem.

Bespoke software is designed to provide users with what they want and to make their jobs easier by streamlining business processes. This improves staff satisfaction which can contribute directly to increased revenue since employees are motivated and contented in their work environment. With a bespoke solution you get exactly what you require without any additional bells and whistles which do not add value, helping your finance department to reduce costs through the reduction of wasted time rather than through spending on unnecessary software features or licences.

Myth 4: the risk involved in bespoke software is too high

Why do some people think bespoke software is risky? Is it true that the risks associated with custom-made software are high? Or, in the words of an expert in cryptography and security, “Can non-standard applications really make a difference?”. Bespoke software refers to software created for one specific company or department rather than being purchased off the shelf. The package created is unique to its users because not many companies would have exactly the same exact needs or use cases as another company. Customisation of this type requires programming skills, which means getting someone on board who can programmer well enough to create new functions/features of interest. These programmers are not cheap but they definitely worth every cent if something goes wrong.

Customisation, however, is not the only issue with bespoke software; there are also security risks to consider. Security threats increase as more and more people have access to the source code of the application being used. In a company where everyone has equal rights or permissions, it would be difficult for one individual or group of people to keep track of what information they have looked at and whether or not they have modified anything – even if nobody means any harm by it – which can lead to huge security risks down the line. This risk may be lessened through a rigorous auditing process that is in place with a strong IT team overseeing it all but this doesn’t mean that there still isn’t a lot of work that goes into ensuring that the customisations made don’t conflict with other parts of the system. If a new feature or update is going to make an impact on the stability of the application, it would be prudent for people to test its effects before implementation, but this doesn’t always happen.

In addition to understanding and managing the risks associated with running bespoke software, businesses also have to consider whether they really need bespoke software on top of all that effort and expense since most ”off-the-shelf” applications come equipped with every feature one needs in a particular type of business. Having said that, there are still many cases where using customised software does make sense: when nonstandard requirements cannot be met by existing off-the-shelf software; when customised features can be created to address specific business needs (e.g. an insurance company that has unique reporting or claims processing requirements); and where standard applications cannot be integrated with existing systems used by the business. On the other hand, some argue that custom-built solutions are often clunky and more difficult to use, thus creating new operational problems for Manchester businesses trying to implement them (e.g., poor training of employees who need to make use of new software).

So before you go ahead with a bespoke software development project, think about whether or not you really need it first. Make sure there’s adequate documentation available so that developers have all they need in order to produce code without interruption. An in-house person (or team) with the responsibility of undertaking the development should be assigned, and this person needs to be well versed in customisation technologies have good project management skills if the bespoke software development project is non-trivial in scope. Contact Manchester Apps for an in dept knowledge of bespoke software development.

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