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Why bother developing custom software when there are so many out of the box solutions that will get you close to what you want to achieve?

The Debate is Build or Buy! The answer is not straight forward because there are pro’s & cons in both approaches. In this article we will look at both and leave you with a concrete idea of whether build or buy is the best option for you in your business.

So what exactly do we mean when we talk of Build or Buy in terms of software development?

It all started when software exploded onto the scenes and systems became the heart & driving force behind many successful businesses. It became clear that the efficiencies & time savings that were available from having effective systems were a must have for business owners across the globe.

So software development companies started to work with specific industries and set about solving the most important and pressing problems for a pilot group of businesses. They would then package this solution up and sell it on licensed basis in that industry as an “out of the box” solution

Businesses could then purchase licences (usually on a per user basis) and import all of their details into the system and start benefiting relatively quickly. Seems like a great model right? And it is - it is still very effective today and has left business owners spoilt for choice with options when it comes to making a decision.

What does the Buy Software process look like ?

Well, it starts of with an idea & some research online looking at all of the features & comparing prices of the various systems, seeing which one is the closest fit to your business. Hoping to solve all of your problems yet realising its likely going to be closer to 80 - 95% that will actually be solved. At some point though - You have to take a leap of faith and purchase a licence. This leads to the Install / Importing of your business into the system. There is usually onboarding available with these systems and training given on how to get up & running - costs of this service vary so be sure to check with the provider so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Once you have imported the business into the system, its time to find your way round and complete each of your daily tasks so you can measure what has to be done and gauge the effectiveness of the system in your day to day activities. Training is available with most of these systems and depending on the size of your business will dictate how much / how little of this will be needed. Again its on a per system so be sure to know upfront what this will look like.

Learning is the next part of the cycle. This is where you will ultimately find out whether build or buy is the best option for your business because in this phase you are discovering the limitations of the out of the box solution in your business. These are the tasks that are unique to your business and not carried out every day so weren’t included in the original scope of the project. So you go to the developers and put in a feature request. Theft will either accept or deny you proposal. If accepted the updates will be developed, installed and implemented in your daily routine.

If the feature request is denied for whatever reason, then you are left needing to find a workaround for the problem. Be careful here, its these workarounds that mount up and get more complicated over time causing resource strain on the business and can lead to inefficient processing and ultimately loss of profit.

So that’s the cycle for an out of the box piece of software:

  • It starts with an idea
  • Requires a leap of faith
  • Purchase a Licence
  • Install / Import The business data into the system
  • Training / Getting Familiar with the system
  • Learning how the system handless ALL of your business tasks
  • RequestingFeature Updates for unique processes
  • Installing Updates or finding work arounds for processes not handled

Advantage of this process is its quick and consistent in pricing.

Dis-advantage is its all encompassing, high Impact and rigid in implementation. Ie the system takes over the business instantly and staff must adapt quickly.

So what about a Build Software Approach … How does that differ?

It’s actually not as different as you might think. In a similar way the build approach starts with ideation. During ideation we holistically look at the entire business and document the day to processes doing our best to make sure we cover everything.

Ideation is a great opportunity to involve the whole company and get staff members input as to how they are currently doing things in the business and what could be done to make things run more smoothly

Once we have an overview of everything we can start to categorise the processes and prioritise some of the more obvious high impact tasks. This is important because we are going to create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) so that we can solve the most pressing issues first. We're looking for High Impact and low disruption. Maybe you’re beginning to see the benefit of that? It means that the system does not have to come in and turn the business on its head overnight. We can gradually implement the new system little bit at a time if we want to, meaning that the staff can get used to the new way of doing things at their own pace

But I digress, we’ve only decided on what the MVP is, we know the problems we want to solve and are ready for the leap of faith required to actually build it.

Once we have the MVP built we can implement that part into the business and measure how effectively its working. We get user feedback and implement any changes we need to at this stage as we begin working on the next set of problems. Sometimes we discover a better way of doing things at this stage and we have the option to pivot, hold another ideation session and build option 2.0 based on our new ideology. The point is we have total flexibility to make sure this system is fitting the business in the most effective and least disruptive way.

And the process doesn’t have to stop. As the business grows, the system can grow with it because thats how its been built, with flexibility to add on and future develop any functionality that your business needs.

So the cycle for a custom built software solution:
  • Ideation - designing the system based around the business needs
  • Leap of faith
  • Build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  • Measure how effective the initial product is
  • Learn from users how it can be better
  • Iterate improvements and work on new features
  • Pivot only if necessary
  • Continue to scale & grow with the business

Advantage of the custom built solution is it’s flexible, scalable, minimum disruption to the business and you own it!

Disadvantage is it takes longer and development costs can vary making it not as easy to budget as a licensed option

We said at the start of the article that we would cover the Build or Buy debate of software development, leaving you with a concrete idea of which would suit your business the best. Hopefully we have done that as we explored the 2 options and laid out the process. Just before we sign off though, I feel I would be doing you a dis-service if I did not at least mention a hybrid option that we’ve developed that sits in the middle of the Build or Buy debate.

At Think New, we believe that the system should fit the business and not the business having to fit the system. Therefore we took a modular approach to the problem and developed a templating system that gives you the best of both worlds. We’ve developed the most common modules and fundamentals of business software to give a smorgess board approach so you can pik and choose what you need. If the module does not exist then we can create it for you giving you all of the flexibility for a fraction of the cost.

The system is called ProfiTrack and if you would like know more please get in touch through the contact form here and we’ll get right back to you