Bespoke Software Development

There was a time when mass-marketed software threatened to destroy the market for custom-made software. Individual developers struggled to make their case against companies with advertising budgets and significant sales teams. Neither side won but the packages made serious in-roads.

Bespoke Software: The term comes from a story about a wealthy man who could afford a custom-tailored suit instead of a suit made to standard patterns. Ready-made solutions are being seen as buying "off the rack." It is moving from being seen as choosing the popular to choosing the ordinary .

The idea of Bespoke Software is that the business or management gets to tell a software developer exactly how they want the application to look, operate, and feel. They want it to fit the business perfectly, much like a tailored suit fits a person perfectly. Such applications are presumed to be more user-friendly and more effective to the business since they are designed for that specific business's needs.

There are other terms for the same concept: Semi-Custom Software and Custom Software . These two terms are often frowned at because the word "custom" relates to "expensive", but Bespoke Software is a new and modern industry term/buzzword for custom software. It has escaped the negative connotation.

Necessity of Bespoke Software

The first question that often comes up: Why not use the off-the-shelf solutions? There are many reasons for this:

  • The software needs to meet the business's requirements, needs, and processors exactly, instead of requiring the business to conform to the software.
  • It has no useless - or unused - features to confuse or distract the staff.
  • When business processes evolve to handle new customer needs, the software can evolve to match.

These are the main reasons that most businesses use some form of Bespoke Software in their enterprise. This kind of software flexibility allows businesses to optimize procedures and processes so they can get the most of out of their profit margins. Without this flexibility, human procedures have to be developed to compensate which add overhead, decrease the businesses profit margins.

Almost all new software being created today is Bespoke Software. Consider the following.

Example: Company Website

The business wants to the website to have the same color, logos, and other branding components as the rest of their marketing. They also want an e-commerce interface and some kind of customer portal.

The business contacts a company, or the internal IT Department, and states exactly what they want it to look like, how they want the customers to experience it, and what they want to have saved in their systems.

Example: Mobile App

Most of us have used bank apps, or are at least familiar with how they work. This is the classic example of a custom developed application. No one bank allows itself to use off-the-shelf software because they want to make sure it matches their branded interfaces, nor do they want to share how they do things with competitors. They may start with an existing core package but they will push toward gutting and rebuilding most of it. They will focus on trying to make the software fit their business functionality for the best client experience.


As developers and administrators of existing Bespoke Software applications in our MultiValue environments, we know there are many advantages.

  1. Your Company's Personal Solution
    Every business has different requirements. Only about 80-90% of processes and procedures are shared by different businesses. That leaves 10-20% of those processes that define the difference between a business and competitor.
    This difference may be how something is manufactured, designed, or how the business interacts with the customer. Custom software allows a business to do things their way instead of having to conform to an industry standard that may cut into profit margins.
  2. Updates
    The business has full control over upgrades, fixes, and deployment. Custom software can be updated or fixed on the business's time frame, instead of an application provider's time frame.
    If there is an enhancement needed, it can be done quickly instead of having to wait weeks or months, or even being told that the enhancement won't be done.
    The business can also decide if they want to invest in a feature, rather than receiving a feature that might confuse or contradict that business's processes.
  3. Security Assurance
    Using a common application can be risky since you don't know what has been programmed into it. Nor do you typically have access to the code, which causes your company to be locked into a specific vendor or provider.
    Your company, or software, may need extra security measures in order to do business. Custom applications allow those security measures to be implemented quickly so business can continue to be done.
  4. Gradual Production
    Custom software can evolve with the business. Most business systems evolve out of the standard models or into other models over the years. This is considered "Organic business practices."
    Custom software allows new models to be implemented when they are needed instead of when they are not required.


  1. Time and Energy
    People are not always aware of the needs of their business, until that need has been uncovered. Creating custom software from the ground up without a starting framework can cause features to be missed without realizing it until much later.
    Off-the-shelf solutions are good because of their versatility and they have features that one business might have requested that you are unaware was needed until the time comes.
    This means that some custom software will look like it is always being maintained or worked on, versus the feature already existing or being added during off-the-shelf software updates.
  2. High Upfront Cost
    It may seem that buying a hundred licenses for a year is cheaper than developing your own solution. And it truly is. The upfront cost is relatively high, but what if you have to extend the number of users, plus the support price, plus the price for, let's say, three years and you'll see that tailor-made programming is much more attractive in the long-term perspective.
  3. Less Possibilities
    Off-the-shelf software is designed for covering the needs of the masses. In the terms of a developing business, it is a great opportunity, since it will already contain some features that you may not realize you need.
    With Custom software, any new feature has to be researched, designed, and then coded, rather than just having it available.


Almost every successful business has some form of Bespoke Software in their enterprise to ensure their continued profitability: Website, excel macros, Mobile Application, EDI Interface are several examples.

Depending on the company, some stick close to the off-the-shelf software and just add people to address the shortcomings of the packages. Other companies will implement custom software solutions to keep company overhead lower and allow the business to do what it is good at, instead of what the software requires of it.

Look at your business systems, and you will likely find at least three Bespoke Software modifications, even when using off the shelf software. Bespoken Software is a requirement for modern business whether you realize it or not.

Nathan Rector

Nathan Rector, President of International Spectrum, has been in the MultiValue marketplace as a consultant, author, and presenter since 1992. As a consultant, Nathan specialized in integrating MultiValue applications with other devices and non-MultiValue data, structures, and applications into existing MultiValue databases. During that time, Nathan worked with PDA, Mobile Device, Handheld scanners, POS, and other manufacturing and distribution interfaces.

In 2006, Nathan purchased International Spectrum Magazine and Conference and has been working with the MultiValue Community to expand its reach into current technologies and markets. During this time he has been providing mentorship training to people converting Console Applications (Green Screen/Text Driven) to GUI (Graphical User Interfaces), Mobile, and Web. He has also been working with new developers to the MultiValue Marketplace to train them in how MultiValue works and acts, as well as how it differs from the traditional Relational Database Model (SQL).

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