Software Engineering
April 9, 2024

Navigating the Challenges of Supporting Bespoke Software with a Small Development Team


Bespoke software has become an invaluable asset for organisations seeking tailored solutions to address their unique needs. However, supporting and maintaining bespoke software can be a formidable challenge, especially when the responsibility falls on the shoulders of a small development team. In this blog post, we'll delve into the intricacies of this scenario, exploring the challenges faced by organisations with only 1 or 2 developers tasked with supporting bespoke software.

The Lone Developer Dilemma:

  1. Limited Bandwidth:
  • One of the most glaring challenges is the limited bandwidth of a small development team. With only 1 or 2 developers, the team's capacity to address multiple issues, implement updates, and provide ongoing support is stretched.
  1. Knowledge Silos:
  • A small team often results in knowledge silos, where specific aspects of the bespoke software are known to only one team member. This lack of knowledge sharing can become a bottleneck when addressing complex issues or implementing changes.
  1. Resource Scarcity:
  • The scarcity of resources, including time and manpower, can lead to delays in issue resolution and project timelines. The team may struggle to keep up with the demands of both daily support tasks and larger-scale development projects. And this assumes that the team sticks around – good developers often want to work in larger teams where they see offering more opportunities and variety, so retention can be a real problem.
  1. Dependency on Individual Expertise:
  • Bespoke software often has a unique architecture and coding style. Relying on the expertise of one or two developers can be risky, especially if those individuals are not available due to vacations, illness, or other unforeseen circumstances.

Balancing Act: Support vs. Development:

  1. Support Takes Centre Stage:
  • When the team is small, supporting the existing software often takes precedence over new development. This can impede the organisation's ability to innovate and adapt to changing business requirements.
  1. Inadequate Testing:
  • Limited resources may result in inadequate testing procedures. A small team might struggle to thoroughly test updates or changes, increasing the risk of introducing new issues into the software.
  1. Scaling Challenges:
  • As the organisation grows, the demands on the bespoke software increase. Scaling the software to accommodate a growing user base or evolving business processes becomes challenging with limited development resources.

The Benefits of Seeking External Support:

  1. Diverse Skill Sets:
  • Engaging external support allows access to a diverse range of skills and expertise. Specialised knowledge can be crucial for addressing complex issues and implementing best practices.
  1. Increased Bandwidth:
  • External support provides additional bandwidth, relieving the burden on the in-house team. This allows for more efficient issue resolution and enables the internal team to focus on strategic development initiatives.
  1. 24/7 Availability:
  • If required, external support can offer around-the-clock availability, ensuring prompt responses to critical issues and minimising downtime. This level of responsiveness may be challenging for a small in-house team.
  1. Risk Mitigation:
  • External support provides a safety net for unforeseen events, such as the sudden unavailability of an in-house developer. This mitigates the risk of a single point of failure in the development process.

Conclusion: Striking the Right Balance

While the challenges of supporting bespoke software with a small development team are evident, organisations can overcome these hurdles by carefully considering their support and development strategies. Balancing in-house efforts with external support can provide the agility and expertise needed to navigate the complexities of bespoke software maintenance effectively. As businesses continue to rely on tailored solutions, finding the right balance ensures the longevity and adaptability of bespoke software in an ever-changing technological landscape.

Evolved Ideas has years of experience in supporting bespoke software created by other companies and can provide flexible support to meet each customer's needs. This can range from augmenting an in-house support team to taking on the complete support and development lifecycle of a bespoke application.

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