Frequently asked questions

Is bespoke software better than off-the-shelf software?

Not necessarily. For some businesses, off-the-shelf software may be much more appropriate. For example, if you have very basic administration procedures or working practices and don’t mind adjusting the way you work to fit around an off-the-shelf package, then it may be the best option.

However, bespoke software can often benefit even the smallest of businesses by automating business processes such as invoicing, stock control, accounts, sales and marketing, leaving you and your staff free to concentrate on fee-earning work rather than spending time on administration.

Can I afford bespoke software?

Bespoke software usually involves a one-off cost, and when it has been delivered (fully tested) you will own the licence. This means that there are no ongoing software licensing fees. But the main benefit of installing bespoke software is that it will drastically reduce the time you spend on your day-to-day business processes, because it has been designed to work exactly the way you want it to. With the time and cost savings you introduce to your business, your return on investment can be rapid and significant, with the software paying for itself over a very short period of time and actually contributing to the growth of your business.

Many businesses try to save money by purchasing an off-the-shelf software package, and then spend their original budget many times over (on top of the software licensing costs) hiring specialist consultants to make it work the way they were originally told it would!

What if something goes wrong?

All our software goes through rigorous system testing as part of our development process and only then is it made available to the client in a user acceptance testing (UAT) environment for approval before it is deployed in a live environment. Consequently, it’s very rare that things will go wrong. However, if the software does develop a fault then we are on hand to ensure that it is rectified as soon as possible. And because of our in-house coding standards, any of our developers will be able to help.

Wouldn’t buying an off-the-shelf software package provide a more reliable after-sales service?

It’s certainly true that package vendors and resellers provide technical support lines but often these are only geared up to deal with fairly rudimentary issues. You might even find that there is a cost associated with the level of support you were expecting to get for free. Furthermore, because the packages are sold on a “stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap” (and possibly not so cheap) basis, the chances of getting the package amended in some way are pretty remote. On the other hand, our office number will lead you directly to someone who can help you. That might mean investigating an issue you have or organising a change to your software to accommodate a change in requirements.

What if I change the way I work, or my business gets much bigger? Will my bespoke software still work?

The short answer is yes. Any company that has grown significantly knows that a change in size brings its own issues, whether it’s moving to bigger offices or just finding that it’s taking half an hour to get the brews in. The tools and technologies that we use to build your software are the same as those used by some of the biggest Internet companies, like Facebook or Yahoo!, so your software will definitely be able to handle the growth. However, you might find that your requirements change as a result of that growth or that we need to move you onto a more powerful server. So, there might be some costs associated with your growth but rest assured that our software will grow with you and you won’t need to migrate to a new application.

I sell my products online and there are plenty of websites I can use to do this for me. Why should I pay to have my own e-commerce site?

There are websites which will let you sell your products on line. There are also several packages that you could buy and install on your own website that will adequately let you sell your products online. If you: are simply experimenting with e-commerce and don’t want to make a large commitment; have limited funds and need a cheap solution; don’t expect to have the level of sales that would justify a bespoke e-commerce site; don’t have any styling, branding or functional requirements, then these may be appropriate for you.

However, if you: have a strong brand and want a website which reflects your identity; have requirements for cross-selling and up-selling that won't be met by a package solution; want to build business processes into your software to ensure your e-commerce runs according to your company's standards and procedures; have multiple staff working on the site with different access requirements; need to integrate with your other business software packages, such as Sage or Mail Order Manager, then a bespoke e-commerce site will be more appropriate, and this one-off investment can mean the difference between the success and failure of your online sales venture.

How do you know what I need my software to do?

Before we think about writing a single line of code, we make sure we know exactly how your business works from the bottom up. We speak to the people who’ll be using the software, we find out what they do and how they work, we look at your business processes in great detail and discuss how your software can improve them. We get a real feel for your business before we commit fingers to keyboard, and only when we are all (developer and client) completely happy with what we’re proposing will we start to develop your bespoke software. We consult you throughout the development process to make sure you’re happy with progress, but because we know how your business works almost as well as you do, we won’t need to bother you with silly questions.

But I don’t understand anything about computers or software – how will I know what you’re doing?

We don’t speak in jargon or discuss complex coding issues with you (unless you want us to!). We’ll explain what we’re doing at each stage in everyday language, and if you have any questions at any point then we’re more than happy to go through them with you so you know exactly what’s happening.

I read about IT projects going over budget all the time. How do I know I won’t end up paying much more than I budgeted for?

Here at Meantime we strongly believe that there is no need for IT projects to go over budget or take longer than originally planned. It simply shouldn’t happen. Before we embark on any project, we write a detailed specification which tells you, the client, exactly what we’re going to do, when it will be done by and how much it will cost. When we’re both happy that what’s detailed in the specification is exactly what you want, we make a firm commitment that your software will be delivered on time, on budget and exactly as it is in the specification. We have never failed to do this with any of our clients. The reason we can be so confident that we will deliver what we promise is that we work out exactly what is required before we start work.

I’m still not sure bespoke software is for me. How can I decide if it’s going to be good for my business?

Start by having a look at our case studies and see how our clients have benefited from bespoke software. But the best way to decide if bespoke software will benefit your business is to ask us to come and have a look at your current systems. If we don’t think it’s for you, then we’ll let you know. We have too much pride in our work to create a system that won’t help your business, so if we think an off-the-shelf package would be more beneficial, we’ll let you know. But if we think we can help you to streamline your processes, automate your business systems, free your staff from repetitive administration tasks and, ultimately, help your business to grow, then we’ll explain how.

Because everything we build is bespoke, you might not see exactly what you need. If that’s the case please get in touch. We'd be happy to discuss how we can help you to take the first step to cutting costs and growing beyond all expectations.