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The Build vs Buy Software Debate (or Both?)

Build or Buy Software - How to Choose Your Software SolutionOne common challenge business owners face is the build or buy software debate. Which solution is best for their business? Many companies are currently dealing with an inefficient collection of spreadsheets, databases and programs that do not work well together, but are unsure of which software solutions will best meet their needs. The build vs buy decision process presents a unique challenge to business owners who are already making many critical decisions each day. There are countless software solutions available, but the pros and cons of each aren’t always straightforward.

When new software is required, an efficient system needs to be strategically selected that is scalable with the growth of the organization. Let us help your business with the build vs buy analysis….

To Build or Buy Software?

When a company is in need of new software, there are many questions that arise in the build vs buy decision process… Which option is best for your business? Should you buy new, “off-the-shelf” software? Is a custom software option more practical? Is there a solution somewhere in between?

When searching for software options and solutions the question often becomes…“Should I build, buy or both?”   

When To Buy Software For Your Business

There are a number of ready-to-use software options on the market to help a business run more efficiently. Because these options are targeted to a larger audience, often times these software solutions offer extensive training modules. These can help key staff to hit the ground running. If there is a need to implement a solution quickly, buying an existing software is a good option.

Benefits to Buying Off-the-Shelf Software:

  • Quickly set-up software solutions
  • Implement industry best practices through the software
  • Training & support
  • Less expensive solutions
  • Automatic updates and enhancements
  • Significantly less risk than building

One drawback of buying software is that it can be one-size-fits-all.  These solutions will only get you 85% of the way at best.  Off-the-shelf software can also be a drawback if you have market differentiators in your operation.  Let’s face it, Amazon would not be Amazon if they implemented off-the-shelf software.

You need to consider which problems the off-the-shelf software solves and which ones it doesn’t. Then, make a business decision based on cost, timeline and features included. 

When To Build Software For Your Business

Many off-the-shelf solutions don’t fit the unique business needs of a growing company. If you cannot find a system to buy that fits your business needs, you may need to develop a custom software solution.

When considering a custom software build, start with a checklist of what the software needs to accomplish. This list will be a tool to help you determine what features you need included in your custom software solution.

Questions to Consider Before Building Custom Solution:

  • What business problems will the software solve?
  • What are my market differentiators?
  • How is my business going to grow over the next 2, 5, 10 years?
  • How does my software need to grow to support my growth?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you map out the exact features needed for your custom software product. When considering these, you may also think of other questions or necessary capabilities.

Benefits of Custom Software Solutions:

  • Built for future growth
  • Complete customization
  • Build in competitive advantages & differentiators
  • Flexibility and freedom

Custom software can be built to connect various processes in your business; from lead generation to fulfillment to follow up. Building software that is custom to your operations will help you eliminate inefficiencies and improve communication company wide.

There are also cons of building your own software. These solutions require significant upfront costs and time to create the product. There is also some risk in investing a lot of money and time.

When To Do A Little Of Both

Build and Buy…

Often times, companies need a little bit of both…off-the-shelf software, combined with custom solutions. Creating an option of both build and buy software offers the flexibility of a custom solution with the rapid turn around time of a ready-to-use option.

Building in custom integrations to pre-built software transforms a decent software product to one that fits your company’s needs exactly and helps close that 15% gap.

Team integration is extremely important for all companies, but each team has a different software solution. A “both” approach allows for “best of both worlds” software to be implemented. For example, a company might want to use an existing CRM and sales tool, with a custom core operations system and an existing accounting back end. 

The Bottom Line…

Knowing when to build or buy software can be a challenge for many businesses owners. The build or buy software debate as many factors to consider…

Buying ready-made software can provide you a new solution quickly, while allowing you to implement best business practices. If you can’t find something to buy off-the-shelf or if your business has unique processes, needs or market differentiators, building a custom software solution is better.

Often the build or buy decision process leads you to the solution of “both”. Building and buying (both) is great option when you want to create a best of breed platform for your business. You are able to combine the pros of each solution (build and buy) to create a software tailored to your needs and budget.

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Tom Swip

Tom Swip has been developing and streamlining business processes for over 20 years. Tom's expertise lies in business process automation, software and application design and network infrastructure. In his spare time, Tom likes kayaking, mountain biking and other outdoor activities.

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