November 14, 2023

Technology choices: Build vs. Buy


In the realm of technology, decision-makers are often confronted with a critical predicament — should they build a customised solution tailored to their specific needs or buy off-the-shelf products to implement within their operations? Evaluating the pros, cons, and practical implications of both choices can help in making the right decision.

The Case for Building 

Custom building your technology allows for a greater degree of flexibility and customization. You can tailor-make a solution that resolves your specific pain points and integrates seamlessly into your existing processes. 

One significant benefit of choosing to build is the opportunity for a competitive edge. When you're crafting bespoke software, your finished product will be unique, setting your business apart from competitors using off-the-shelf solutions.

Furthermore, ownership is a significant advantage when it comes to building your tech. You own the intellectual rights to your software and have complete control over updating and modifying it. 

However, building is not without its downsides. It typically demands more time, resource commitment, and specialised talent. Bugs, glitches, and unforeseen hiccups may prolong the development process. The cost of managing and maintaining the software, in the long run, may eventually eclipse the initial investment as you will need development resources to make even the smallest changes.

The Case for Buying 

Choosing to buy off-the-shelf solutions brings its own bucket of perks. It's often faster and cheaper upfront, mainly because the research, design, and development costs are spread across numerous customers. 

Moreover, with a pre-made solution, you can usually rely on a support and maintenance package from the provider which can offer peace of mind. Commercially available software is also often regularly updated, with new features that can help keep your business technology modern and competitive.

However, the trade-off is the absence of customisation. Pre-built software may not fully cater to your unique needs and integrating them into your existing systems could pose challenges. Additionally, you're relying on the software provider to update and maintain the product — if they decide to discontinue it, you'd need to find a replacement.

Finding The Middle Ground 

Given the considerations attached to both ends, organisations often opt for a hybrid approach— a blend of bespoke and commercial solutions. They build where it adds value and buy where it's more practical. 

The rise of APIs and microservices has made this approach more feasible, allowing for better interoperability between various tech pieces. Furthermore, the advent of low-code/no-code platforms such as Webflow has somewhat blurred the line between building and buying, enabling businesses to create customised solutions without the need for extensive coding.

Technology choices are ultimately pivotal to an organisation's operations and growth. Whether to build or buy isn't a one-size-fits-all scenario, but one that must be considered case-by-case. Balancing the cost, time, resources, need for customization and long-term goals can help in making the right decision. Ultimately, what matters isn't the route you choose, but whether the choice empowers your organisation to succeed in their business objectives.

Technology choices: Build vs. Buy