In the 21st century, our life is beset with choices more than it has ever been in human history. Fish or chicken on the plane, the beach or the mountains on vacation, card or cheque when buying furniture, blue or pink as a wallpaper color for the bedroom… The advent of digital technologies hasn’t alleviated the throes of choosing. Rather the contrary – the IT industry augments the list of options almost every day: iOS or Android, desktop or laptop, in-house development or offshore outsourcing, native app or PWA.
For an entrepreneur, the list of choices is even longer than those confronted by an average person. Alongside purely business puzzles each of them has to solve, high-tech dilemmas penetrate into their working routine as well. Among the latter, the build vs buy software poser is one of the most crucial for the effective functioning of the company and its ability to generate maximum revenues.
We at IDAP are sure that acting on a hunch concerning such mission-critical decisions is out of the question. That is why we offer a concise build vs buy software analysis to let you gauge all pros and cons of each approach and make the ultimate choice armed with awareness about either option.
Build or Buy Software: Factors That Condition the Choice
The point of departure in your considerations about selecting build vs buy software should be getting to grips with terms.
Purchasing a ready-made digital product (aka boxed or canned solution) you get a mass consumption item that is geared to be employed by an average consumer. Such off-the-shelf brew typically contains features that are in the greatest demand by most users and can be launched into operation on short notice. You may take the opposite way to get a desirable IT product and commission bespoke software that will be tailored to meet unique requirements of yours.
What questions should you ask yourself to make the choice easier?
- How much money can I fork out? Oftentimes, the size of your purse determines your further actions and effectively rules out the other alternative. Why? Because custom-developed software is much more expensive.
Yet, it would be a blunder to go by sheer numbers on price lists of canned solutions offered by various vendors. As often as not, they rely on scalable pricing options that depend on some basic indices such as the volume of your database or the characteristics of processors. When these factor in, the initial bid can mount noticeably.
- How soon do I need it? Naturally, when you buy anything, you can start using it once you have got hold of the item you paid for. And finding a developer, formulating your preferences, and waiting for the company to implement them is sure to take much longer. However, the time issue is quite tricky in trying to figure out the build vs buy software problem. How come?
First of all, deploying some boxed solutions (for instance, SaaS products) is not a one-day endeavor that can sometimes last for a month or so. Secondly, the growth of your organization may necessitate upscaling software in a couple of years, which is usually unachievable with off-the-shelf solutions that have to be entirely replaced by a more powerful one. By contrast, bespoke software conventionally serves for at least five years without any upgrading and the latter can be accomplished according to the client’s wish whenever you need it.
- Do I have an in-house team to develop software? The absence of competent manpower at your disposal leaves you with the buy choice. Yet, you can delegate software development to a high-profile outsourcer, which still keeps the build choice in the game.
- What do I expect to get from the software product? If the needs of your e-commerce venture are quite ordinary, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel and rack your brain over a state-of-the-art solution that will revolutionize the industry. Especially if there are dozens of canned items with the required functionalities available on the market.
Once you have clear answers to all these questions, it is time to discover the merits and demerits of build vs buy software. In fact, the advantages of one software type are the shortcomings of the other, and vice versa.
Benefits of Buying Software
What makes acquiring ready-made solutions worthwhile?
1. Lower Price
Bespoke solutions are never a bargain-price issue. To order even the most modest ones, you must be ready to pony up anything between $3,000 and $10,000 whereas some feature-rich products will cost you around $40,000. Boxed software manufacturers’ prices are much lower since they can afford to earn their living by the quantity of sold items.
However, being penny-wise may turn out to be pound-foolish. Actually, you buy not the product but the license to use it. Any license has an expiry date after which you will have to renew it (and pay again). Also, there are different license types and you should choose the most cost-effective ones (preferably, per-server or per-user kind). And watch out for the extra payments contracts may have in store for you.
2. Faster Access
Off-the-shelf software is yours to operate as soon as you buy and install it. With bespoke software, the entire process may take up to a year. And sometimes, after this period of anxious waiting is over, you may own up to the fact that it is out of date already or out of touch with your present-day needs since your business objectives might have changed.
3. Manufacturer’s Updates and Community Support
Producing a mass sales commodity, manufacturers take care of brand reputation and see to it that their boxed solutions receive regular updates (not for free, though – a support fee must be paid to install them). Plus, being tried products available to the public at large, off-the-shelf software usually has sizable user communities where you can apply for assistance or advice.
The described benefits seem to make canned packages an almost perfect option. Almost. Until you hear about the fortes of custom software.
Benefits of Building Software
Here are the reasons that can make you opt for tailor-made digital products in the build vs buy software dilemma.
1. Absolute Control
Being a code-owner is a tremendous asset. You can customize the product to fit your unique needs and make it compatible with other software and hardware employed by your organization. The compatibility challenge often gives users a headache when they have to perform a configuration ordeal in order to make the newly acquired boxed solution fit into their existing ecosystem.
If the application conditions or your requirements for the product change, the modification and updating of bespoke software is a cakewalk. License period restrictions stop being an issue and you don’t have to allocate a certain sum each time the expiration looms ahead.
Moreover, having paid a pretty penny for building this pricey item you can eventually end up in the black by selling it to third parties, turning custom software into a profit-generating piece.
Entrepreneurs always have far-reaching plans that include company expansion. If such plans come to fruition within a year or two, you are sure to quickly grow out of your old premises, market, staff, and – notably – software. That is if you have been using a boxed solution. In this case, you will have to buy a new one and, who knows, in a couple of years yet another one. This sequence of buying things a size larger than the previous never happens if you are insightful enough to commission custom software with room to grow.
3. Prompt Issue Fixing
In case something goes wrong with the functioning of an off-the-shelf product, you can’t expect the vendor to fix it at once. After you have submitted a ticket at their site, you have to wait. Your plea will stand in line to be considered, then they will emulate the problem on their hardware, and start looking for ways to dispose of it. But the bug patching will happen only in the next update that may take them months to release. And all this while you will be employing crippled software which hamstrings your business efficiency and compromises data security.
Custom software owners are free from such tribulations since they just get in contact with the IT department that puts their nose to the grindstone at once. Or they inform the outsourcers that developed this software and (in case maintenance and support has been previously agreed upon) the rescue team steps in to solve the problem.
Tips on Making Buy vs Build Software Decision
Before opting for a certain type of software you should take a close look at your business. If you are a budding startup on short commons with no development staff of your own, a boxed solution is what the doctor ordered. But when your firm has passed the kickoff stage of its existence and stands firmly on its feet, it is time to consider building custom software that will grow together with it and give your brand a competitive edge.
Or you can have the best of both worlds and think hybrid. To do this, you can acquire an off-the-shelf product and hire developers to customize it in order to get rid of deficiencies and augment its functionality.
Whatever your choice might be, IDAP as a seasoned company with considerable experience in the realm can assist you in obtaining top-notch software that will impress you with high-quality implementation and affordable cost of delivery.