Build vs Buy: Three myths about building your own software to ignore

April 4, 2016 Oi Hua Lee

In our last blog we explored and debunked three of the most prominent propositions made for buying commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software. The build vs. buy debate is challenging debate that arose from the rapid evolution of software development techniques, the move towards open-source software and the wealth of software packages from vendors available around the world.
This blog will explore the three myths to ignore when considering building your own software.

The arguments
Along your journey you will definitely encounter arguments to support or disprove both sides—here are three main arguments for building software you may encounter:

Build arguments

  • Building is a better option because you’re not locked in with a particular vendor
  • No products are available that match your needs, so building is better
  • Vendors always overstate their product capabilities and delay new features, so go with in-house resources that you trust
These arguments definitely hold their own in the build vs buy arena, however they are not without their flaws either.

Build Myth #1: Building is a better option because you’re not locked in with a particular vendor
When buying COTS, proponents of the build option often say that relying on builder software leaves you at the mercy of the vendor when it comes to upgrades and enhancements. The truth of the matter is that whether you choose to turn to a vendor or your internal IT team you will always find yourself at the mercy of whoever has built your solution. With this said however, one should not discount the fact that in today’s hyper-competitive software market, vendors have to be much more responsive to the needs of their customers than they have in the past.

Build Myth #2: There are no suitable products
Individuals who favor the build option often argue that because COTS packages can never match the end users’ needs exactly, which is why the build option is best. This argument may derive from a logical place, where paying for features that are not believed to be necessary may not seem worthwhile. We’re firm supporters of logic, after all it’s hard to argue with it—however, while you may not find the need for additional features at the moment, you may find that as your organization grows and changes that having them available will come in handy.

Build Myth #3: Vendors overstate their capabilities
This is an interesting argument because it implies that vendors and in-house teams are motivated by the same things. And as such, you should approach vendors with a healthy dose of skepticism—especially when it comes to their stated products functionality and capabilities.
This argument implies that vendors overstate their capabilities, but in-house teams do not, which is simply untrue. When it comes to overstating capabilities, vendors have as much to lose on not delivering as an in-house team would. What’s more, although internal technology teams aren’t driven by profit or market share, they are still expected to impress and deliver a successful project as a vendor would.

When it comes to deciding between building and buying, you’ll always be met by strong opinions for both sides. But as long as you carefully weigh all the arguments without squashing one or the other right out of the gate is a sign that you’re moving in the right direction. In the end, exploring the issues that concern your organization and ignoring rhetoric is the best bet to making the right decision.
 

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