When a business needs to do something new or different these days, it usually involves implementing some kind of software to do it. The question is: should you build or buy off the shelf?
We help our customers do both. Or…sometimes a combination that includes a custom-designed mod of existing software. (We love to hack stuff!) Our goal is to come up with the best idea to solve your challenge, and sometimes, people have already been in your situation…and they built software for it. Sometimes it works great, and sometimes we can build it better. Our goal is to fully understand your challenge and give you the best solution for your situation.
Building Software Is a Massive Undertaking That Shouldn’t Be Taken Lightly
When we’re about to implement a piece of software we built for a client, I become fixated on day-forward, after implementation. What are the first things that will come up that we need to address? My mind ponders the technical minutia. Hey, even if we knock it out of the park with core requirements, we’ll still need to build updates to stay compatible with changing operating systems, databases, browsers, etc. There are so many things that could go awry.
After some mental hula-hooping with possible day-forward scenarios, I leapfrog back to the very beginning of the project…
You see, to properly develop a piece of software—and before you ever write a line of code—you need to analyze the business requirements, develop a scope of work, estimate the time requirements, assign costs, then get agreement internally on costs and scope. And doing all that requires a completely different skill-set than coding software…project management skills, accounting skills, and people skills! Luckily, we’re a multi-talented bunch here at Imaging Office Systems.
Next comes the development phase—when project management, change control, risk mitigation, testing, documentation, implementation, and training take center stage. Are you confident with the inputs? Especially if you’re branching out beyond your core business, do you know enough to know what you should be worried about, in terms of risk? What about ongoing needs for IT resources and day-to-day support of the software?
Modern software is dynamic because the demands of business and the world in which we live are dynamic. And creating dynamic software requires intelligence at the helm. And yes, some of that intelligence can be handled by A.I./machine learning approaches. However, a human must ultimately make the primary decisions that drive ongoing support and evolution of software.
When we really start to break down the concept of build vs. buy, it often goes from, “Could we develop this ourselves?” to “Do we want to develop this ourselves?” Building and maintaining a piece of software is indeed a huge, long-term undertaking for a company to manage.
The debate around whether or not to build or buy a software solution is similar to the discussion we have with a client about whether or not a backlog scanning project should be done internally or outsourced. Like with a software development project, it boils down to resources, time, cost, and risk. You need to have people that can do it, the hardware and software required, enough time available, someone who can manage the work, and a quality control mechanism. What you get back from the effort has everything to do with what you put into it, and you better make sure you have a good process and good controls, or it will cost you.
New Software Success Is Created Through Thoughtfulness and Follow-Through
Whatever you end up doing, you should commit to what you do, and do it really well. Also, focus and be thoughtful. Look at everything you could do, then pick what you should do. Try to set yourselves up to succeed; don’t sprinkle your path with pitfalls.
We don’t all get to cause a paradigm shift, but we can all create products and services that are competitive and highly regarded—and we can enjoy that success!
So what’s the answer? Should you build or buy? Seriously? Are you joking?
In the words of the great Master Yoda, “You will know when you are calm, at peace.”