Bespoke vs COTs

Bespoke vs COTs

by Alex Gates April 04, 2019

Almost all businesses of every size use technology to better run and manage their businesses. SMEs and growing companies are investing an increasing amount in IT systems/solutions to streamline, automate and simplify business processes. Most people will conduct research on some b2b directories and search engines to buy an off the self-software for personal use. They can be both desktop and SaaS solutions which are used by thousands of users. These solutions serve various industry verticals and solve general pain points which are faced by thousands of businesses. 

However, established mid-size and corporate businesses often face a challenge of making a decision whether to develop a bespoke software or buy a COTs (Commercial off the shelf solution). There are number of factors which businesses should consider when making this decision. Some of them are:

  • Reason for buying the solution (why is the software required?)
  • Will it help employees with performing their roles efficiently and build a rapport with clients?
  • Is the solution going to help you achieve long term goals of your business?
  • Are you looking to grow business, increase productivity and reduce operational cost?
  • Budget available to buy 

You should consult and take input from your senior management team to gather requirements for the software before you start approaching vendors. There are several advantages and disadvantages of both off the-shelf and bespoke software. 

The advantages of cots are:

  • The software is cost effective and doesn’t cost much to buy. You can buy the cloud-based software immediately as pay as you with no upfront cost.
  • You can buy premium features and additional add-ons of the software when and if required according to needs of your business
  • Most softwares are user friendly and give intuitive user experience based on continuous feedback given by thousands of users using the platform.
  • You have access to support team and training resources to facilitate onboarding.
  • Integrated with same major platforms which makes data flow easy and reduces repetitive work.
  • No cost of training and deployment of software unless basic customisation is required.

The disadvantages of Cots are:

  • The software will have a design and workflow which may not compliment your organisations present processes and work flow, meaning you will have to alter your entire operations delivery framework.
  • There will be some features which your team may urgently need to execute their roles but are not available in the software and can cause delay in delivery of the projects.
  • Some features available may never be required by your team. This will start unnecessary queries and cause distraction in training and staff onboarding. What is the purpose of this feature? Why are we not using it etc.
  • The software will offer generic user experience for wider user base and there will also be a compromise with usage.
  • When support is required, you will have to follow a standard SOP of reading the FAQs section or raise a ticket hoping someone gets back to you immediately
  • Feature request will be only fulfilled if it is asked by many users and can take a considerable time
  • If you ever want to move to another software for whatever reason, there will always be an issue of data migration and you will have to ensure it is erased from the system to stay in compliant with data protection policy
  • As the software is being used by many businesses in your sector, serving the same target audience, you will not gain a competitive edge by offering something different to your clients such as great user interface or seamless service experience
  • You will never get the same attention and customer service which a bespoke software developer will provide.

Bespoke Software 

Bespoke software in contrast to COTs is designed and developed specifically to your business requirements. The business analyst liaises with your business to identify pain points, challenges faced by your team and gather requirements to develop a solution to solve those problems. The design of software will be in align with your wider business needs which is not available on the COTs software solutions.

Advantages of bespoke software:

  • The software is designed solely for your business according to your requirements. Your staff don’t have to change their current way of working.
  • Staff will find it easier to use the software due to not having features and tabs which they will never need to use for work.
  • You have full control over your data.
  • The software can be integrated with other standalone solutions you are currently using to streamline work processes, reduce duplicate work and increase workforce productivity
  • Bespoke software is easier to modify if changes are requested by your team. Minor changes are normally made within days in contrast to feature request made to COTs provider.
  • SLAs (service level agreement) normally have a provision of keeping the software well maintained and up to date bug free.
  • Usually there is no license fee per user, meaning you don’t have to worry about ad-hoc cost of per license if you scale your team.
  • The bespoke software can design a unique interface and you can display your logo/trademarks enhancing your corporate image and brand building
  • The software code used to develop the software is yours (Cloud Stem provides you with the code) meaning you can use it, change and monetise by selling if you can.

Disadvantages of bespoke software are:

  • The initial investment is much higher than buying a COTs solution. Getting off-the-shelf solutions will always seem like a cheaper option. Many businesses question whether it is a right decision to buy a bespoke software. They should consider life time cost of the software when making this decision. For example, cost of bespoke software vs COTs in 5 years’ time, cost of altering current business workflows to use the COTs (training, disruption, impact on productivity)
  • Bespoke software development will take longer than implementing COTs but it will be worth in long run as you are getting it developed according to your business needs.
  • If you don’t own the code, you are vulnerable and dependant on developer if things go wrong in the future. Hire a software company which gives you the software code on delivery of the project. It gives you complete control and you can hire other developer if necessary, for on-going maintenance.
  • If you are not using a technically sound developer, the end product can be unstable, have bugs and not fully functional. This normally happens when you are tempted to go with the software house which quotes the lowest price. When deciding to hire a software house, ask them question if they follow industry standards and have case studies to share. Don’t use cost alone as a benchmark to hire someone.


If you ask yourself questions mentioned in this blog when deciding to buy a solution. You will realise that most important asset for your business is your workforce and the valuable time of your resources.

While the COTs software has a role to play in the market, it is well suited for micro and small businesses which require generic functions to assist their employees. For a mid-size business and a corporate enterprise, it can be complex to use COTs, having functions which business doesn’t need to use and not having core features which business requires for day to day running of their operations.

It can also hurt your business branding by displaying COTs vendors in your correspondence with your customers. You will be required to retrain staff, alter the way they work in order to fit in with the way the commercial off-the-shelf software that has been designed to operate. This will cost both time and money and can cause disruption in short term which will have impact on customer service, delivery of operations and your long-term goals.

For established business with proven ways of working, bespoke software is the ideal choice. It will bring significant commercial benefits and competitive advantage because it is uniquely designed to improve on your organisation’s existing methods of working rather than making organisation adopt new methods of working.

A bespoke tailored software solution help business increase productivity of their staff by automating routine administrative tasks, reducing manual workload and taking away need to do duplicate tasks. It will also solve the core pain point faced by your business which has caused the need for you to look for a technology to solve this problem.

If you are facing a business challenge and wondering whether it can be solved through technology, feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements. We will listen to you, address your questions and provide impartial information to help you make an informed decision which option best for your business challenge.

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