On this week’s episode of Exceedra Byte, Jon Shuttlewood, Head of Product Marketing explains the differences between SaaS and Bespoke software solutions, and what that means for software project implementations and for our customers.
Firstly, what is a SaaS software? SaaS stands for Software as a Service, so rather than buying a one-off piece of software it is something that is provided to you on an ongoing basis and that constantly updates and improves as part of the product offering.
Think of the software on your phone, it will update and change and adapt based on the new trends, new requirements, new security settings and new technologies coming to the market, meaning you are always on the latest options and technology.
As a tradeoff, you are on the same version as everyone else, which can be a good thing if that is perfect for you or can make it a little more challenging if you want something very specific.
This is where bespoke software solutions come in. Bespoke software is a custom-built solution just for you and your use case. You have sat down with the developers, worked out exactly what you want each screen and function to do, and then someone has gone away and built exactly that for you. It is great when you have a very niche need, a very specific set of requirements and processes, but it does tend to come at a much higher cost, both initially to set up and then to support and maintain whenever you want any changes or issues resolved.
So, these are the differences between SaaS and Bespoke. But what does that mean to our customers when it comes to installing and using these different types of software solutions in their business?
Typically, bespoke solutions have a very high initial cost, involving all the various design, set up, custom code building and then documentation required to support the ongoing implementation, along with medium to high costs ongoing based on the level of complexity and specific support required. SaaS on the other hand tends to have lower initial costs due to the more “standard” nature of the products and software, with a medium to low cost of ongoing maintenance based on the level of roadmap updates, continuous improvement, and engagement from the business / vendor.
SaaS products are typically configuration only, meaning that you run through the options available and pick the closest to your requirements and the way you want to use the product. In some cases that may be exactly what you were after which is obviously great news, but in others there might not be an exact fit and you will have to find the next best option. Bespoke solutions, assuming you work with the vendor and design to your process accurately, will typically be much more specific and much more in line with the way you plan on working and is one of the biggest strengths of bespoke solutions, but you will be the only customer on that version as you look towards the future.
A bespoke solution will typically be a one-off deployment – once it is built and deployed that is the limit of its functionality without an upgrade process or separate project to build on top of the now custom code base. This is one of the biggest reasons you still see businesses running software that is 20 or 30 years old – it is so custom, and they do not have the resources or the knowledge to upgrade or enhance it. With SaaS style solutions, updates and improvements are all part of the service that is being offered. The product is continuously being developed and improved, normally via customer feedback and requests, so quite often customers find they can log in on a Monday morning and over the weekend their system has updated, and new features and functionality is now available.
Due to the more standard nature of a SaaS solution, it is far easier to get consistent feedback and have discussions with fellow users in the community regarding how best to use the product and the features within it. Maybe that is through online help functions, directly reaching out to users, maybe it is even online videos such as these. SaaS solutions typically have a much stronger set of materials to help users learn, adopt, and improve with the software. Bespoke solutions typically have a much smaller support network, as they require very specialized and specific knowledge to be able to identify issues and challenges and overcome them. When an issue is found, or a process needs to be changed, typically it can be done very precisely and exactly as the user wants, but as we said earlier all that custom work typically drives cost.
Comparing Bespoke and SaaS style solutions within the software world, one is not necessarily better than the other. They both need to exist to deal with the different challenges, processes and unique circumstances that all different clients have.
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