Purchasing vs. Custom Code Development: How to Decide on the Best Approach for Solved Problems
While custom software development is a primary MercuryWorks offering, we realize that sometimes it makes more sense to rent or buy software than to build it. There will are inevitably times when you are dealing with a solved problem or a domain problem and it is possible to buy your way out of it rather than committing time to custom code development. How should you decide which way to go? While not a thorough treatise, here are some dimensions to consider.
You can (and should) evaluate third-party modules and SaaS platforms to understand how each option could meet your requirements. You may get close to 100% of what you’re looking for, but you’ll never have total control of the external solution. How important is that in your situation?
You have 100% of the control over how the custom software functions when you build it in-house. However, with that control comes a great deal of responsibility. You make ALL the decisions. If you’ve ever built a custom home, you know the unique fatigue of choosing a plethora of details in a short time. What other cognitive load do you have in your project? Would this be a big liability?
The SaaS platform or third-party software vendor of your choice owns all costs associated with building (and maintenance in the case of SaaS) and charges you a fee. Because the vendor gains efficiencies across a large customer base, they can often charge a lower amount than you would pay to support a one-off solution.
The software builder (that’s you) bears the entire cost burden of homegrown custom developed software. That includes paying for the initial buildout, ongoing support, bug fixes, upgrades, platform migrations and keeping up with software industry trends.
In a SaaS option scenario, SaaS vendors handle all the maintenance behind the scenes and roll the cost into your subscription fee. Their staff will help launch the platform at your organization, manage maintenance going forward and push out product upgrades. The SaaS company has done it hundreds of times, so they come equipped with best practices based on a wealth of direct experience. How valuable is this to you?
You’re on the hook for all maintenance related to your newly-built custom software. That means managing the launch, bug resolution, user training, password setup, compliance with industry standards and building new functionality. All that maintenance likely requires increased bandwidth or even extra staff. How does that effort and cost compare to the cost of a “bought” solution?
Purchasing SaaS software takes opportunity cost right out of the equation – you can continue to focus on your customer and solving their domain or wicked problems while taking advantage of the third-party already-live functionality for what is in fact a solved problem.
Building custom software in-house can steal precious internal resources from high-profit opportunities. Buying your way out of a solved problem brings time for those opportunities. Could you exploit that opened-up opportunity on your team?
Time to Value
Third party solutions shrink your time to value drastically – you no longer needs to wait for the sprint(s) it would take to develop the solution to a solved problem. A third-party solution often provides the fastest window to connecting your goals to actions. Does your project need that speed injection?
Think about the goals you want to reach using newly-created custom software. If you build it internally, how long will it be before you can make any headway toward those goals? Even just building a version 1.0 of a well-functioning, user-friendly platform can take sprints. Can you afford to wait that long?
When faced with a solved problem or domain problem, it’s important to carefully consider whether to invest in custom code development or purchase a solution. There are many dimensions to consider, such as cost, time, resources and long-term maintenance. Ultimately, the best approach will depend on the specific needs and goals of your project.
By weighing the pros and cons of both options and considering the various dimensions, you can make an informed decision that will help ensure the success of your product. If you’d like to learn more or talk through the best option for your business, contact us.