An off-the-shelf solution won’t cut it.

If you’re looking for a unique user experience or workflow automation tailored to your business needs, you’ll need custom-made software.

We should know.

At Devize, we specialize in bespoke custom software tailored to your specific needs. (And we do it 3x-5x faster than other development companies.)

Along the way, we’ve learned the ins and outs of bespoke software development.

In this article, we’ll cover who should look at bespoke software, how much it costs, how long it takes, the advantages and disadvantages, and how to choose a development partner.

Here’s everything you need to know.

When to choose bespoke software

Not every business should invest in a custom software project.

In our experience, bespoke software is the best fit in these two scenarios:

1. You’re looking for a competitive advantage

Off-the-shelf software solutions don’t provide the unique features for a client-facing tool that will set you apart from competitors. Custom software will provide that competitive edge.

Businesses in this category are usually looking for specific functionality they can’t find in off-the-shelf products.

Or, they want to deliver a more user-friendly customer experience, and the generic options their competitors are using won’t cut it.

Common use cases include portals, dashboards, platforms, and other client-facing tools in industries like warehousing, solar, healthcare, or property management.

2. You’ve outgrown your existing systems

The internal tools you use just aren’t working anymore. In order for your business to grow, you need to upgrade to a tool built just for you.

Usually, these businesses are being held back by outdated tools that just don’t deliver the efficiency gains they need to succeed.

Common use cases include project management, customer relationship management (CRM), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools across virtually any industry.

While startups benefit from bespoke software, we’ve found they get the most value from developing in-house. Software development services are best for organizations with an existing market outside of the software.

How much does bespoke software development cost?

To develop a custom software solution at a traditional development company, expect the final product to cost between $50,000 and $350,000.

At Devize, we can build custom software for closer to $10,000 and $20,000.

For a deep dive into the costs behind bespoke software development, and the innovations Devize uses to stand apart, read our guide on the total cost of custom software.

How long does bespoke software take to build?

The typical timeframe for application development at a traditional firm is 4-9 months, and frequently takes over a year. That extended turnaround time is why many companies choose to stick with off-the-shelf solutions.

At Devize, we can deliver the same quality software in 4-9 weeks.

For more details into why traditional agency processes take so long, and what Devize does differently, read our guide on custom software development timeframes.

Advantages of bespoke software

1. Solve your unique business needs with a tailored solution

The biggest advantage of custom software is the most obvious: you’ll have a solution for your unique needs.

Most off-the-shelf software applications are built for the lowest common denominator. They have broad functionality that applies to every business.

But with bespoke software, there’s no need to compromise.

2. Save time with automations

Custom software can provide the precise automations you need to grow.

Because it’s built for your business processes, you can optimize each step to save time for employees and yourself.

With standard software, you’ll need to work with the automations you’re given. In a custom software solution, the automations you can include are limited only by your imagination.

3. Improve the user experience for features you care about

A few features probably matter most to you.

But most one-size-fits-all software applications have dozens of features you don’t need (but still pay for). And they only prioritize the features you care about when enough people complain.

With a custom solution, you’ll only pay for the features you need the most. And they’ll be the best-developed, most intuitive parts of the app—not an afterthought.

4. Competitive advantage that sets you apart

If most of your competitors are using a generic SaaS web application to connect with their customers, bespoke software can provide unique value that helps you stand out.

5. Perfectly meet customer needs

Imagine delivering a sleek, one-of-a-kind customer dashboard that nobody in your industry has seen before—uniquely tailored to your business requirements and your customer’s needs.

That’s the power of custom software.

6. Eliminate compatibility and integration issues

If you’ve ever had to shuffle around data by importing and exporting to spreadsheets, you know the hassle of integrations.

With a custom solution, you’ll be able to integrate with all your most important data sources and software applications.

Eliminating integrations can save your team time and frustration, and remove the scalability blockers that have been holding your business back.

Disadvantages of bespoke software

1. High initial cost

Let’s be honest: custom software isn’t cheap.

In the long run, custom software can deliver far more value than an off-the-shelf alternative. But at the beginning, any custom software solution will be more expensive. (Even if you go with an outsourcing firm.)

For the businesses we work with, the value proposition makes lots of sense. For example, if you’re spending $1,000/month on a one-size-fits-all SaaS product, a custom solution from Devize can pay for itself in as little as a year.

But if custom software isn’t cost-effective for you, it might not be the right fit.

2. Can be time-consuming

As we shared earlier, building a bespoke software solution usually takes several months—often the better part of a year.

That may or may not fit in your current timeframe. Most businesses want to see results this quarter, not to start a year from now.

(If that’s you, consider Devize. We can develop a full-featured app in as little as 4 weeks.)

3. May have limited support

Existing software usually has a user base, dedicated support staff, and documentation.

A software development agency may help with that, or they may not. It depends most on the team you hire.

If you want to develop a custom solution, be sure to include training, support, and documentation as part of your request. Otherwise, you might end up with a great platform nobody knows how to use.

4. Maintenance can be difficult

The project isn’t over once you’ve had custom software built.

At some point, you’ll probably want to make some changes—add a feature, include a new integration, or improve the user interface.

But making those changes can be difficult. The development team might have chosen an unpopular or hard-to-use framework, or left a confusing mess of source code that other developers struggle to understand.

To maintain or upgrade your software, you’ll need to find someone qualified, or re-hire the same development team. This can be challenging, time-consuming, and expensive.

At Devize, we build your app in a user-friendly, no-code tool anyone can use. That means your in-house team can work on maintenance and upgrades without needing to hire a developer.

The bespoke software development process

At Devize, we follow a proven process to build your application. Most other custom software development teams will follow a similar methodology, though the steps might be divided differently or have different names.

1. Discovery: Understanding the requirements

First, your development team will understand your specific requirements. They’ll want to know details about what features are most important and how they’ll work, where your app should work, and design and branding information like your color scheme and style guide.

2. Planning: Designing the system and layout

Before writing a line of code, the team will plan things out. You may need to review and approve wireframes of the user interface, and the team will plan the architecture of the backend and databases.

3. Development: Building your software

Now it’s time to build! At many firms, you won’t see much of the work in progress since half-finished code might not work at all.

But at Devize, you’ll probably see prototypes of features as they’re developed, since we build in a user-friendly platform that doesn’t require coding knowledge to understand.

4. Testing: Making sure everything works

Up next, you’ll test and perform quality assurance (QA) on the final product. Usually, both the in-house and development team will work together, putting the software to use in a trial run of the business workflow.

This stage is usually an iterative process of testing, giving feedback, fixing problems, and testing again.

5. Deployment: Going live

If everything has gone right so far in the app development process, it’s time to officially launch. This may start with a gradual rollout to key stakeholders, or happen all at once.

6. Maintenance: Updating and improving

Most of the lifetime of your app won’t be during development. It’ll be in the maintenance phase that lasts from the minute the app is deployed until you change systems in the future.

Unfortunately, most development teams don’t adequately prepare you for this phase. When you want to add a new feature, integrate a data source, or make some other change, you’ll need to re-hire them or find someone else.

At Devize, we build in a no-code tool that you can use without a technical background. That means that when it’s time to maintain or upgrade your app, you won’t be shackled to a development agency that may or may not have time for you.

How to choose a bespoke software development company

Finding a company to develop custom software is a challenge.

Here’s what we’ve found is the most important when choosing a development partner:

  • Experience with your type of software. More important than industry expertise, look for experience developing the same types of apps. Building an e-commerce app for a different industry is a better sign than developing totally unrelated apps for the same sector.

  • Aligned with your budget and timeline. You’ll save yourself stress and hassle if you find a team that already meets your expectations on time and cost. Trying to convince an agency to change their terms usually ends up with neither party very happy.

  • Focused on your requirements. Quality teams need to know as much about your finished product as possible and will ask lots of questions. If the team seems to understand without asking enough, be wary.

  • Quality that meets your expectations. Look at the design in the firm’s prior work. If it’s not up to your standards, their product probably won’t be, either. This is especially true when outsourcing, as different countries have different design expectations.

The final word on bespoke software development

Bespoke software can be the most important step to take your business to the next level.

If there isn’t an off-the-shelf solution that will work, look into custom options. They can improve efficiency, give you a competitive advantage, and deliver scalability that standard products can’t.

And if you’re looking to develop your software in weeks instead of months, get in touch.