Bespoke Vs Off-the-shelf

There's an odd thing going on in the software market, which rarely gets commented on a great deal.

Here at igeek, we're fond of talking about the differences between off-the-peg (one size fits all) software, and the bespoke offering we specialise in.

The oft-quoted line by the bespoke software vendor is that if every line of code is made-to-measure; it'll fit the organisation, whatever its type or purpose.

And while this is true, what many businesses don't realise is that when they buy readymade software (Salesforce, SAP, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics 365, to name the largest platforms), they are in fact undertaking a bespoke software installation.

Strange but true: the ERP customisation industry (enterprise resource planning software) is bigger than the ERP industry itself, in terms of turnover!

What happens, very often, is that someone high up in an organisation with a significant sum to invest in business software will choose one of those big names, say, Salesforce.

After handing over a cheque that would make Croesus himself wince, what now swings into place is the consultation, installation and customisation process that takes the wildly expensive off-the-shelf product, and then changes it so it does something bespoke to the client.

And of course, professionals who work in the customisation industry don't come cheap. £1500 per day (+VAT) for changing the software that's already been paid for isn't uncommon. Comb the average IT employment agency's open roles, you'll see SAP, Oracle and Salesforce customisation roles by the dozen.

Some may consider this type of process to be money well spent; after all the enterprise-standard software vendors have a certain market position for a reason, and investment in SAP (say) is an investment similar to buying gold – it's a safe bet.

But, further down the line, when updates roll out from the "standard" software vendors, what happens to all those carefully-crafted customisations? Cue the arrival of the experts, once more, in order to make sure your code still works with the new "improved" version.

So, an investment in a one-size-fits-all solution is not only not a standard product, nor is it a cheap one, nor is it a single investment. In fact, the initial eye-watering cheque is just a down-payment.

The truth is that the big players in the business software world employ more marketers than developers, and the latter are often working on a software core that's twenty years old.

But, as the luxury goods market shows, putting a high price on something (even software) imbues it with worth, apparently. And just because something's expensive doesn't mean it's good.

An old adage in computing said, "No-one ever got fired for choosing IBM." In today's business software world, no-one ever gets fired for choosing NetSuite, but then, no-one really gets rich either – apart from NetSuite, of course.

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