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    Business Systems

    Bespoke or Off-The-Shelf, which is the best option for you?

    In a digital age with a “one size fits all” culture, it can sometimes be hard to see the benefits of a more bespoke approach. This is as true for buying software and business management systems as it is for shopping for a new suit. Unfortunately, however, it’s far from being a cut-and-dried case that makes decision-making easy, as both options have their place in the world of business.

    Let’s look at the off-the-shelf option first, as this is generally the approach that more businesses tend to explore initially.

    The advantages, and disadvantages, of off-the-shelf

    Whether it’s intended for e-commerce or to run a business more efficiently, you can be confident that a great deal of work and development has gone into creating a solution intended. Best of all, you can effectively just place your order and have it up and running with a minimum delay.

    There’s also likely to be a set of standard training procedures that will enable your staff to get to grips with using the system, and there may even be a generic-style troubleshooting guide if things aren’t exactly going like clockwork.

    Then there’s the cost. The chances are that there will be a single set-up cost with licensing fees then payable according to how many people are using it. This is likely to be considerably lower for relatively large organisations than developing a system from scratch.

    But, and it’s a fairly big one at that, the ready-made solution will have been designed as a generic one, capable of being used by a wide number of businesses, possibly also across a number of different sectors. Any business owner or operator will readily acknowledge, no two organisations are the same or have the same needs.

    So, this means that compromises will need to be made to use the system. It’s also highly likely to contain many features and elements that will never be needed in many applications. Incidentally, this may also make the system slower and more cumbersome to use.

    Could bespoke be better all rounds?

    Now, let’s turn our attention to bespoke systems. It goes without saying that these can be built to precise specifications, which can even change during the development process. This might be driven by anything from research and feedback to changing business needs. It’s even possible to future-proof these systems to accommodate projected growth and changing priorities.

    There’s also the option to own the system outright instead of just being a licence holder – so you will be free to let as many, or as few, employees use it as you like.

    It’s not all plain sailing, though. For any bespoke system to be worth the investment, it’s vital that you have a very clear idea of precisely what you need it to do and an awareness of what is not also needed. This is how you’ll be able to give a clear and comprehensive brief to whoever is developing the system for you.

    Then there’s the question of the cost. Inevitably, this will involve a far higher investment than a system that has already been designed and is ready to be deployed.

    So, this leads us straight to the age-old dilemma – whether it’s better to pay more to have something made to your specific requirements or to save money with an off-the-shelf solution which, while not being precisely what you need, is near enough. It’s a conundrum that’s as relevant to business management systems as it is to buy a suit; both approaches have pros and cons.

    However, there is one critical difference – you buy several suits over your working life but probably just one business management system.

    We’re here to share our expertise

    So, as it’s such a major purchase, here at Cefar, we would very much come down on the side of the bespoke approach and here’s why.

    Every business is unique with its own systems. For some businesses, that is its staff who run the company, whereas others need a system. So, given that a management system aims to increase efficiency and build profitability, we believe this can only be achieved by developing a bespoke system.

    That’s why whenever a client approaches us with interest in building a system, our first step is to get under the skin of their business to understand their way of working, their long-term goals and any peculiarities or issues they typically face.

    We also strive to get an understanding of the corporate culture and the context into which the system will be introduced.

    The advantages of doing this are obvious – we create systems that not only help our clients achieve their goals but can also be designed to mesh seamlessly with existing ones and methods of working in ways that off-the-shelf software could never achieve.

    It’s something we’ve done for a number of clients in the past, so we have managed to refine and enhance the process along the way. This has also given us lots of experience that we can pass on in the process of improving other systems.

    At the heart of this is the ability to test and refine systems as we develop them using lots of people from our team at every stage. So, unlike off-the-shelf systems, which tend to include bugs even in their finished form, this gives us the ability to identify and resolve them long before the system is deployed and up and running.

    We’d have to leave that to our clients to comment on whether this is a principle that works, but we’ve plenty of evidence to suggest that it does.

    So, if you’d like us to start creating a made-to-measure software solution for your business, just get in touch today.