Bespoke is a term I’ve heard a lot about this week. I first heard the term in connection with agile development that contrasts requirements developed through the process with the a priori requirements bespoke by the business. In this context bespoke are what the users say they want and the need to implement those requirements as spoken.
That idea has expanded to refer to custom developed software – which I heard people talking about bespoke systems. This is in contrast with commercial or package systems. For example, “we have many bespoke systems that are out of date and need replacing”
Latter this week a headline article in the Daily Mail in the UK discussed a medical breakthrough in the treatment of cancer using DNA information to create bespoke treatments – ones that are tailored to specific people and specific cancers. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1236483/The-bespoke-cancer-cure-British-scientists-decode-DNA-lung-skin-cancer-cells.html
Finally, I was on a call with a candidate guest speaker for the 2010 CIO Leadership Forum in London on April. She also used the word bespoke in terms of custom or specific requirements.
I may be out of the loop, but it seems IT has a trendy new word to use. It sounds funny to talk about bespoke, but it does capture the notion of creating things directly from the words people said. So new buzz word or one that is becoming broader in use.
Second is this. When people were using bespoke in IT conversations the term was pejorative in nature. Bespoke systems were problems, things that were a weakness to be replaced by package solutions, etc. Bespoke systems are the legacy that will be removed and replaced with information services.
The pejorative view of bespoke systems is a shame. Thinking of custom developed systems as a weakness limits technology’s ability to create competitive advantage. Competitive advantage remains defined as providing unique functionality that matters to customers and is difficult to duplicate. A packaged system, by definition has the ability to address one – functionality that matters to customer – of the criteria of competitive advantage.
Where IT processionals can benefit form the idea of ‘bespoke’ systems is in recognizing the limitation of user generated requirements – particularly requirements generated in focus groups or interviews independent of an interactive dialogue. This form of requirements should fade into the background, particularly as package software and existing systems cover much of the things users will think of and talk about.
Agile development techniques and other forms of iterative development have it right when they talk about discovering or surfacing requirements through working with users in the context of their work. These approaches involving interactive styles of requirements generation and design are necessary to create competitive advantage through technology.
The work bespoke crossed my radar screen over the last two weeks, particularly as I have been visiting clients in Europe, so it seems to be a new term to add to either your lexicon or list of words when you play ‘buzzword bingo”.