Bespoke software, often also called custom software, is software written for a specific purpose. Bespoke programs can be written by an in-house programming team, or ordered from a software house. Simple custom programs can be written by the user.
Broadly, there are three ways to achieve computer software:
commercially available packages (off the shelf software)
by configuring spreadsheets and similar tools
The word bespoke was originally a tailoring term and referred to a suit that was made to measure. Comparisons between tailoring and software are apt. The opposite of a bespoke suit is off the peg. In the same way, packaged applications are the alternative to bespoke software.
The cost of bespoke software can vary from a few hundred pounds to over a million. It is often perceived as being expensive. Perhaps this is because users are more aware of the larger systems. However Wikipedia in an article on custom software http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Custom_software suggests several reasons why bespoke solutions are not always more expensive than packages. Often, the costs of configuring off the shelf systems can reach those of a bespoke system.
There are several reasons to use bespoke programs. Typical reasons solution are:
No standard package fits the need
There are times when you need to deliver more than your competitors
You are not at the whim of the supplier's upgrade policy
Packages are updated frequently. This can entail training. Some suppliers (Microsoft is one of the worst offenders) change standards, too. This all increases costs.
Easier to negotiate conditions
Packages tend to be supplied by larger companies with standard conditions. When you order a bespoke solution, you can tailor the conditions as well as the actual programs.
In conclusion, although a bespoke solution will usually cost more than a packaged app, the benefits will be also be greater. Ultimately, a bespoke solution will develop more profit.