Is commissioning a bespoke software solution risky?

20 April 2020 | Blog

This is the final part in our series of blogs answering the top questions we are asked as specialists in delivering bespoke software solutions. In this installment we are talking about the perceived risks associated with having your own bespoke solution developed.

It may seem obvious, but the first point we want to raise is that any change to your business carries risk and it is not specific to bespoke software development. If you are looking for a new solution, be it off-the-shelf or bespoke, there are potential pitfalls that may impact the outcome.

For off-the-shelf solution, this includes:

  • Can you commit to the time and cost of the implementation process?
  • Have you allowed for the time and cost involved in setting up a trial of each possible solution, using meaningful data and running through key use-cases?
  • Can you adequately evaluate all the possible candidate solutions to find the one that best meets your requirements in terms of such as features, performance, security etc.?
  • If your needs change, will the supplier be responsive and willing to accommodate you?
  • Is the proposed supplier’s business stable and do their long-term objectives align with yours?
  • If the supplier is bought-out how will this affect you?

Of course, some of these risks also apply when developing bespoke software. However, the main risk with off-the-shelf, of being able to get exactly the solution you need, is fundamentally mitigated when going bespoke. Our earlier blog post on how to choose a software development partner also explains how choosing the right partner can help minimise some these risks.

One of the other biggest risks that people perceive with undertaking a bespoke solution is being able to steer the project to a successful outcome in terms of budget, functionality and timescales. The primary key to success here is having a complete understanding of your requirements at the outset. This means having a thorough grasp of the many variants of each process that your business executes and knowing how these variants affect data, outputs etc., and understanding the capabilities that users require to achieve all the tasks they are responsible for. This statement can hide a surprising amount of detail and complexity and therefore it is vital to undertake a proper requirement gathering exercise, involving all users that have knowledge of what’s happening at ground level.

A comprehensive set of requirements is vital to the successful implementation of your new system, whether its off-the-shelf or bespoke, but in the bespoke scenario it will properly inform the developer so they can design a solution that precisely meets your needs, as well as providing an accurate assessment of budget and timescales. Having a detailed set of requirements also facilitates the assembly of a good project plan and these two elements together should provide a foundation for a good project management process that will be the next key to success.

There are many approaches to managing a solution development project but vital to all of these is having a consistent feedback process that allows the budget, functionality and timescales to be continually assessed by both customer and supplier on a regular basis. No matter how good the requirement gathering process, it is inevitable that further existing requirements will come to light and new requirements will be generated during the development process. The way that these events are managed is also key to keeping the project on track, either by excluding them from the initial project or by allowing the project to be extended to incorporate them, which requires all parties to deal honestly with the impact on timescales and budget.  The fact that matters are likely to change via new requirements or new understanding is daunting, but by planning for this from the outset and allocating extra time and money can mitigate possibly the biggest risk faced by any bespoke development project.

By definition, a new solution will not have been used before and therefore needs to be thoroughly tested before it can be deployed in a ‘live’ scenario. The project plan needs to allow for this and as the recipient of the new solution, you should allow extra time for your team to carry out acceptance testing, parallel runs etc. Failing to do this properly may lead to serious problems in your key business processes and consequential damage to reputation and customer experience.

In summary, the key points to remember are:

  • Conduct a thorough requirements capture process
  • Allow enough time for your team to be involved throughout the process
  • Budget for additional work to arise during the project
  • Plan for a thorough acceptance testing process

If you take the above steps, you will be able to mitigate the risks of going down the bespoke route and reap the many benefits of taking this approach rather than opting for the limitations of an off-the-shelf solution.

Our previous blogs in this series may help address some of your other concerns, they are available to read here:

If you want to find out more about the process of designing and building a new bespoke solution, we are happy to talk to you without any obligation. We will also be happy to introduce you to some of our satisfied customers who will be able to tell you what it is like to work with KLOC through a major implementation. Get in touch with us today.