To be precise, they differ quite a lot from each other. While generic or general purpose software refers to ready-made COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) software that serves sundry purposes, Custom software (also known as bespoke software) is the type of software that is developed to serve a specific purpose (or organization). Examples of Generic Software include CAD (Computer Aided Design), CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture), Spread sheets, Word Processors, etc. Examples of common Custom Software, on the other hand, constitute ATMs, MS Office and Supermarket Checkout Scanners. Why, a Website is also an example Custom Software since it meets the need of some specific user group.
While companies are investing increasing amount in IT systems in order to streamline business process, the question of buying generic off-the-shelf or tailored bespoke software raises it head in no uncertain manner.
Needless to say, the bespoke system will win the race (provisionally) as it is tailored to the exact requirements of the user company and so can perform best under all circumstances that includes abiding by legislative rulings and other functional parameters related to the business and the area where it is operated. Scalability is yet another plus point with the bespoke system as it can evolve with the company, matching with it at every step of development. This, incidentally becomes real since most bespoke systems are designed, keeping in mind the long-term IT plans of the user company. And as such, it seldom sucks.
But despite all the privilege points that are associated with custom or bespoke software, they lack in popularity because of some of the following issues.
To begin with, the cost of this type of software is much higher as compared to off-the-shelf generic types since several teams of experts are needed to produce the software for a solo user. The teams often constitute experts such as analysts, programmers, hardware/software specialists as well as tech writers.
As can be seen, the time and manpower that go into creating the software adds up to the costing. The crux of the matter, incidentally, lies in the fact that all this is done for a single user/customer. Had there been sundry lot of customers, the cost would have been distributed and as a result brought down. But alas, no two users can have the same requirement or similar working conditions.
Yet another drawback often encountered during creation of custom software relates to not-so-clear perspective of the user company’s long-term IT policy, as a result of which the support provided in the software obviously becomes lop sided, too.
The compatibility issue also often causes problems with bespoke or tailored software. Unless it matches with the existing system, operational difficulties would surely arise.
But does this all mean that tailored or bespoke software is no good for anyone? No; not at all. These are ideally suited for large corporations where all departments jointly help the programmer in creating the perfect software.
However, generic or off-the-shelf software have none of the problems, even though these may not prove so effective like the tailored ones. But years of experience in their development more than compensates the usual shortcomings. Besides, these are associated with histories about working with numerous users who have contributed to their development in no uncertain way. Moreover, as of late, this type of software caters to such vast range of services that most almost all known industries are benefited by these. In some cases, minor changes are also effected to suit any particular requirement.
Judging from the tremendous progress being achieved by shrink wrapped off-the-shelf software as of now, it would not take long for the ready-made software to be turned into instantly tailored programs ready to perform duties as per the order of the user.