To Buy or To Build: Making the Right Software Decision for Your Company


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Elizabeth Diloreto
Sep 22, 2020

If your company has long-term goals for growth, it’s vital to have the right technology to support your business. The purpose of implementing a solution, regardless if it’s bought or custom-built, is to solve a core business problem. Choosing the right software has the power to solve your business problems, regardless if it’s solving a small tactical opportunity or completely transforming how you operate digitally with your customers.

In the pursuit of digital transformation, companies are faced with a difficult question: to buy or to build? It can be a hard decision whether to invest in existing software or build a custom product or solution from scratch. At Spire Digital, we know every business has unique needs. We put together a guide that can help you evaluate your software needs and lead you to the right choice for your business. Our guide focuses on four key considerations when evaluating a buy versus build scenario:

  • Software Cost
  • Software Needs
  • Timeline
  • Business Goals

Software Cost 

Implementing new software can be costly, but it’s simply a matter of what kind of investment is right for your business. Choosing an off-the-shelf software could be more budget-friendly at first but end up being an expensive long-term investment. Off-the-shelf software typically comes with subscription fees or an additional cost of yearly renewals. However, due to the lesser upfront cost, off-the-shelf software is often a great digital solution for companies with smaller budgets. 

Building custom software that’s tailored to your companies’ needs is typically a larger upfront investment. However, if your business is able to budget for custom software, it can lead to long-term savings for your business. With custom software, you aren’t subject to licensing or subscription fee increases. This means that having the budget for a large upfront investment in custom software opens doors for your company that many others don’t have access to. Additionally, you can have more control over your budget when you are an active part of the product roadmap. Spire Digital uses simple, regularly updated roadmaps that list what’s being built, the timeline, and what it will cost. This eliminates surprise expenses down the road and allows for full transparency into our process.

CapEx v.s. OpEx

 

  • If you’re working with a large capital expenditure budget, spending upfront on custom software will ideally lead to profit and create benefits in the future. 
  • If you’re lacking a large capital expenses budget, and need to do more with an operational budget, your money may be better utilized on an off-the-shelf solution.
  • Buying off-the-shelf software is an expense that will help your company manage short-term costs and expectations, however, it isn’t necessarily going to reap long-term benefits the same way that custom software does.

Business needs

It’s highly unlikely that bought software will be able to perfectly cater to every business’ needs. Like a square peg in a round hole, you can’t force something to work that isn’t a good fit. For some companies, opting for off-the-shelf software is enough to accommodate their needs. Some companies don’t require much customization. If off-the-shelf software is currently meeting the needs of competitors within your industry, that software could likely meet yours too. As another example, if you’re looking to solve a typical business problem, chances are it’s common enough for there to be an off-the-shelf solution that gets the job done.

Other companies may require much more customization depending on the goal or industry. Having a one-size-fits-all software solution often doesn’t accommodate more specialized needs, which can create inefficiencies and hurdles down the road. For example, your business may need to integrate your new software with legacy software, or other tools in your technology stack. If this is the case, building your own software allows for integration with a broader range of APIs and greater compatibility with other programs. Whatever your software goals are, working with a team to create custom software can be the best way to actualize your vision.

Timeline

If your company is looking for immediacy, off-the-shelf software is the quickest to implement. Having something that is ready-to-go may be best for some companies working with tighter timelines. Since it’s being built from scratch, custom software requires more time than simply purchasing an off-the-shelf software. 

Minimum viable products (MVP) are also a shorter-term custom software option. Companies can request an MVP to solve a need quickly, test a product, prove a concept, get feedback, or secure additional funding in the meantime. Considering the first-mover advantage, moving quickly and efficiently to an MVP is crucial to beat out competitors. This is a great option for early-stage startups or new ideas within an enterprise organization.

If your company can afford to invest a few months of time, it allows for the creation of a software solution that is catered specifically to your business. The Spire Digital team works quickly yet meticulously to build your dream software. Using SpireLean methodology, the team is focused on continuously and rapidly delivering value to the customer and in return, receiving value back to the business. The average custom build can take anywhere from three to eighteen months based on the complexity of the project. It may require more patience, but the payoff of having an impeccable, one-of-a-kind software solution is worth the wait.

Business Goals

It’s important for companies to have up-to-date software that evolves with them. If your company is looking to scale, custom software can make space for your business to grow. It’s imperative that your digital presence is impactful when looking to scale. Having outdated, hard-to-use legacy technology can result in negative user experiences and drive business away instead of towards your company. 

Additionally, as your business and industry grows and evolves, it’s important to be able to shift gears in a timely manner. Having an expert custom software team that is ready to quickly make adjustments and scale with you is crucial. Off-the-shelf software is much more rigid and difficult to change or customize. Not having the ability to make adjustments to your software as you scale can be a hurdle for your business.

If your company is looking to increase productivity and efficiency, having software designed specifically to streamline your functionality will be well worth it. If your goal is to stand out against competitors, custom software can set your company apart, giving you a leg up. Whatever your goals are, custom software can be built for you to achieve them.

Conclusion

Regardless of your choice to buy off-the-shelf software or have custom software built, it’s important to weigh your options. If you choose an off-the-shelf option, make sure to take the time to research the right service for your unique needs and consider the long-term outcomes. If you opt for custom software, make sure you invest your time and money into a top software development company you can trust. 

If you want to learn more about how Spire Digital can transform your business, check out our case studies to see the innovative custom software we’ve built for clients.

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