Commercial Off the Shelf Packages Vs Bespoke Software Development

Commercial Off the Shelf Packages Vs Bespoke Software Development
30th May 2017 feelingsneaky
COTS v Bespoke Software Development

Commercial Off the Shelf Packages Vs Bespoke Software Development

The pros and cons of buying a “commercial off the shelf” (COTS) system versus building your own bespoke software solution.

Money Money Money

In our experience any company who wants a software solution that is 100% right for their needs and who want 100% control over future development and ongoing costs will need to develop a bespoke solution.  In fact it has to be said that in an ideal world every company would develop a bespoke system.   However bespoke software has much higher upfront costs and a lot of companies simply don’t have the budget for this type of investment which can run to tens of thousands of pounds.

There are many COTS systems that have been designed by experts in the particular market sector that will meet most if not all of your needs that are easy to use and easy to install.  With a COTS product you are ready to go out of the box, bearing in mind the configuration and integration into existing systems, and if the software meets your needs and it integrates well with your legacy systems then that additional cost of going the bespoke route is hard to justify.

Keeping Control

However, before purchasing a COTS package it is worth giving thought to how the investment in a bespoke, or hybrid solution could pay off in the long run.  Whilst the up front cost of bespoke software is obviously going to be greater, the on-going support and maintenance should be considerably less and should decrease over time.  This gives you greater control over your future operational spend and you cannot be held to ransom for licence fees increasing year on year or paying for updates that are not relevant to your requirements.  The scalability of a bespoke system means that you can scale up and down with the intrinsic growth and downsizing of your business giving you control of operational spend and allowing you to make cuts when needed, and obviously with no ongoing licence fee to pay.  Along with these savings, the increased efficiencies of having your own tailored solution, and lower training costs can also cut ongoing operational spend.  Consider also the possibility of creating an MVP (minimum viable product).  This way your up front cost is very low, you can get operational quickly and then use focus groups and user feedback as a way to develop the optimum solution for you and your customers.

The Cart leading the Horse

Whilst many companies continue to work happily with their COTS system for many years, many others report that they are working around the system rather that it working around them!  A bespoke system will be entirely in line with your needs and your understanding of the requirements of the market which could give your company an important competitive edge.  With a bespoke solution you are in control.  You can develop at your own pace creating your own roadmap only building as much functionality as you require or adding your own unique requirements as they emerge from your own ongoing user journeys.

Consider a Hybrid

A third consideration is a hybrid of COTS and bespoke which is especially suited to workflow or process driven requirements.  Here applying the 80/20 rule can be beneficial with the engine or administrative aspects of the application available as standard, but an additional 20% is configured to meet the exact customer requirements.  This compromise solution can be fairly inexpensive to implement with many of the benefits of a fully bespoke solution.

Better Safe than Sorry?

Finally, spare a thought for security. According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, software security is a serious risk of using COTS software. If the COTS software contains severe security vulnerabilities and can introduce significant risk into a company’s software supply chain. The risks are compounded when COTS software is integrated or networked with other software products to create a new composite application or a system of systems as the composite application can inherit risks from its COTS components.

Where do I Begin?

Depending upon the requirements, developing a bespoke software application will involve a team of system architects, developers, testers and quality controllers.  You will also need to spend time gathering and documenting your requirements and the more work done up front to identify what you need the better your end solution will be.  While this might sound daunting the team at Marrable will be there to guide you every step of the way.  We will work with you to identify your requirements avoiding  ‘analysis paralysis’  We will make sure you develop what you need for now with the right architecture in place to add functionality as you need it.  We will never build a super yacht when a tugboat will do, but we will make sure your tugboat can become a super yacht if that’s what you might need one day.  Our combination of Agile Software Development processes and the latest rapid application development tools can ensure you are up and running quickly significantly reducing your initial investment.