Build vs Buy: The When and The Why to building your own software

2020-03-29T14:27:51-06:00 By |

The cloud is an amazing place.  The amount of software options that are available to businesses are somewhat overwhelming and everything is as-a-Service today.  In this environment with so many options to choose from, why on earth would you ever build when you can so easily buy?

Think of the processes that run your business.  You have to pay people, so that’s a must.  You’ve got to be able to perform general accounting tasks.  You really have little or no flexibility to do these processes “your way”.  There is no special sauce in your payroll process.  It’s a highly regulated process where you have to follow the rules, and it gets complicated quickly.  Likewise, if you get too creative with your accounting process you are going to have other issues as well.  These kinds of processes are not candidates for the “Build” argument.  You definitely Buy (or Rent, in the case of services) payroll and accounting.

But there are other processes that differentiate your business.  Maybe its how you sell your products, or how you monitor inventory.  Generally in today’s mobile economy, if you need an app to sell your product, you will need to build that.  One client needed a system that would help with their event planning.  They were trying to consolidate their multiple spreadsheets into a single tool that would help them streamline their sales process.  It was a very specific need in a niche market so there wasn’t any software available that would do this.  We worked with this client to build a simple mobile app with a website to enter and maintain data for under $20K.  This little system allowed the sales team to have every bit of information at their fingertips, from the current budget for each event down to the calorie count of each food item.  This cut down on the amount of time it took to plan each event and allowed the sales people to work with more customers on a daily basis.

Or maybe your business process isn’t particularly unique, but the way that you do business would be prohibitively expensive to license.  We worked with one particular client who believed everyone should have access to the data they needed.  The information had to be the latest and greatest version, it had to be accessible from anywhere.  Perfect use case for a document management system…. Except that every vendor they spoke to wanted between $1M and $2M in licensing per year.  They did not intend to use the majority of the features available that were “value adds”.  It just wasn’t worth it.  So the answer became clear that they needed to build their own software to control cost.  In the end, they have spent somewhere inside the range of a single year of licensing costs proposed by the software vendors – spread out over a period of 5 years.

Another major change in the Build vs Buy scenario is the advent of cloud platforms themselves.  Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and Oracle all have their platforms that allow developers to rapidly build new products using tools in the platform.  Gone are the days building everything from scratch.  In many cases today’s hot new applications are really just a user interface that stitches together the necessary services on the backend.  In the case of the business discussed earlier, their original application was not born in the cloud – it was only hosted there.  Now our team is taking this application to new levels by integrating cloud-based services such Azure Search and Azure Cognitive Services.  Building things like OCR into an application is ridiculously cost prohibitive and time consuming to do from scratch.  Cloud platforms allow developers to do it in days or weeks.

In the end there are a lot of factors that can influence the build versus buy decision.  If you have been struggling to find a right sized and cost-effective solution for your business problem, we can help with a free consultation.

About the Author:

As an entrepreneur and technologist, I am always looking for ways to apply technology to common business problems. I actively seek out solutions that result in increased efficiency or real monetary savings.