So you’ve identified an area of your business where technology could make your processes more efficient and effective.
Now comes the big question: Do you solve your problem by buying commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software or custom-build a software solution yourself?
As with most things in life, there are benefits and drawbacks to both buying and building. What this decision comes down to are your business needs and ambitions.
Going down the wrong route can be costly. Industry figures vary but a single hour of IT downtime can cost between US$1 million and over US$5 million, according to Information Technology Intelligence Consulting. Gartner puts this figure between US$100,000 to US$540,000 per hour.
What does build vs buy mean?
Before we delve into the reasons you might choose one option over the other, let’s get clear about what we mean by build vs buy.
Building software requires IT and development skills. A build solution is flexible and allows you to adapt the software around the needs and processes of your business.
Buying software means purchasing a ready-made solution to solve a particular problem. Buy solutions require no additional development and, in most cases, can’t be customised.
7 questions you should consider
- Am I looking for a quick and easy fix?
If you’re looking for a quick way to resolve an urgent business problem, opting for an off-the-shelf solution is likely to be the easiest option.Your new software will be ready to start using immediately and you don’t have to worry about tricky issues such as security because the service provider will be responsible for that.If you don’t mind a one-size-fits-all solution and don’t require your software to do much beyond solving your immediate problem, then buying your software is likely to be the right solution for you.
- Do I need my software to be customisable?
One-size-fits-all solutions are designed to solve common problems for a large cross-section of businesses, which means they’re not built to easily accommodate customisations, integrations and future updates.If your business problem is multifaceted and you’re seeking to use your software solution as part of a wider, more long-term digital transformation strategy, then you’re likely to be disappointed by the limitations of buy solutions.As off-the-shelf solutions aren’t adapted to the existing needs and processes of your business, you will have to adapt your workflow around your new software instead of adapting it around your workflow. The software may not integrate with your existing systems, which can cause frustration and data silos that affect data quality and inhibit cross-departmental collaboration.If you’re looking for a customisable, flexible solution that supports and integrates with your existing processes and has more long-term benefits for your business, then building your software is the right way to go.
- How many stakeholders will need to use the software?It’s important to remember that with off-the-shelf software you are likely to have to pay license fees proportionate to the number of users. This can make what initially seemed like a good value solution quickly become expensive.If you only need the software to be used by a limited number of stakeholders, then off-the-shelf still makes sense. However, if it needs to be accessed by a high number of users, then a custom-built solution will be more cost-effective in the long run.
- Will my chosen solution make things more complicated in the future?Businesses that choose to go down the buy route often end up having to purchase multiple different software solutions from different providers.As mentioned above, these rarely integrate so managing these disparate tools can be complex and negatively impact interdepartmental collaboration due to the creation of data silos.It’s also worth bearing in mind that if and when you do decide to leave your off-the-shelf provider, you might lose your data with them too.With a custom-built solution, you’ll be in control and won’t have such issues.
- Do I have access to the necessary resources and capabilities?Building your software can have three key drawbacks: cost, time and resources. Making something of value takes effort and it can be a disruptive process, especially if it’s not done well. You need to decide if the effort is worth the reward for your business.A report by Synopsis and the Consortium for Information & Software Quality estimated that the cost of failed development projects in 2020 was US$260 billion.Equally, research by Couchbase reported that nearly four out of five digital transformation projects faced failure, delays or scaled-back plans, putting the cost of failing to launch on the first attempt at US$ 5.5 million per enterprise.
Then, it’s about considering whether you have the required budget, time and, most crucially, skills. Developing your software in-house can be a risky affair unless you and your team have the right experience and capabilities.Risks include software failures, legacy system problems and cybercrime. You need the right skills – or partner – in place to avoid such risks.
Outsourcing to a partner like Amdaris allows businesses that don’t have access to the skills they require to benefit from a wider pool of tech talent from markets outside of the UK, including tech hubs in Eastern Europe.
These experienced and motivated specialists are ready to get started on projects quickly, without the delays caused by lengthy in-house recruitment processes. By opting for a software development partner, you can benefit from the flexibility of outsourcing and avoid the HR hassle of managing your new team members in-house.
The current challenge most businesses face is not only the challenge of finding new tech talent but of developing and improving their team’s existing digital skills. Outsourcing to a strategic partner can support this by providing experts to train and work alongside your in-house teams.
74% of the organisations we surveyed said that they saw outsourcing as a way to help them improve and adopt better software development practices, such as Agile delivery and quality auditing.
- What is the scale of my ambition?If you want to forge ahead of your competition and lead from the front, you can’t just use the same off-the-shelf software solutions as everyone else. Instead, custom-built, innovative technology is the way forward.
- Am I looking to commercialise my offering in the future?This is an important question to ask at the beginning of your project. If there are even remote plans to commercialise the designed, developed and tested IT solution, then having IP rights will have many benefits – as well as become a revenue opportunity.Ultimately, a custom-built solution, if orchestrated well, will enable you to not only keep pace with your competitors but to forge ahead.
So… which option is better?
The answer is that it depends.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy fix, then buying off-the-shelf will be the best option for you.
However, if your ambitions are bigger and you’re thinking more long-term, then build software which can evolve as your business does.
Partnering with a strategic software development outsourcer like Amdaris will not only ensure that the solution you build fits seamlessly around your internal processes and solves your business problems, but it will also allow your in-house team to gain knowledge and training.
You’ll also be able to commercialise your offering in the future. Ultimately, a custom-built solution, if orchestrated well, will enable you to not only keep pace with your competitors but to forge ahead.
Find your perfect software development partner at amdaris.com