The Great Build vs. Buy Software


There will come a time in your business when you will need new software. This could be to update old applications, to improve efficiencies, to expand your business, or for myriad other reasons. Whatever the reason, you will have a choice that has been faced by thousands of people before you – should you build a custom solution, or should you buy an off-the-shelf product?

There are benefits to both, but which is best for you? Software is integral to the running of your business, but getting the right software in place can also help to future-proof your business, or enable it to expand in the future.

The Case For and Against

One of the main benefits of buying a ready-made software application is lower cost. This applies in a lot of situations because developing custom solutions is often more expensive. Add to this the fact that there are fantastic off-the-shelf applications available, and buying ready-made becomes an attractive solution.

Buying software does present problems that custom solutions can overcome, though. Here are the main benefits of building your own application:

It is bespoke – it doesn’t matter how good the off-the-shelf application is, it is unlikely to meet all your needs. The best software companies make their off-the-shelf products with features that meet most of the needs of the majority of their users. That means you will get things you don’t need, while things you would ideally like will be missing. This is solved by getting custom-built software – it will include everything your business needs.

It will be flexible – off-the-shelf solutions often cannot be easily modified to fit your business processes, requirements, or ways of working. Bespoke software gets this right from the start, and offers the ability to change it in the future.

It will be compatible – you run the risk that off-the-shelf software will not be compatible with other applications or equipment. With a custom build you can ensure that everything works together.


Outsourcing is the Solution

The build versus buy debate usually boils down to a simple equation: cost versus functionality. Buying software is cheaper but you will have to make compromises on functionality. Building software gives you the functionality that you need, but it is more expensive.

A lack of in-house expertise and/or time is also an issue when building software, so most companies look to outsource the development.

When done right, outsourcing actually provides a solution in most situations to the build versus buy conundrum. Outsourcing to a trusted software developer allows you to get a bespoke application that meets the needs of your business. You will get the expertise that you need, and the allocation of in-house resources is not a factor.

Finally, if you outsource the development to a nearshore or offshore developer you can often make considerable savings compared to using a developer in your own country. This can narrow the gap in costs between buying and building to a point where it is negligible.