Build vs Buy: How to make this critical decision

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Build vs Buy: How to make this critical decision

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Planning to get a new software solution for your organization? There have always been debates about what an organization should get, an off-the-shelf software solution or get a custom software solution built for your organization. It is necessary to evaluate different software options that hope to save time and help your organization to have more control over the overall ecosystem.  

The key is to get the right software solution/application for your organization which would eventually increase productivity, reduce the operational cost, improve user satisfaction and also give product differentiation. 

According to Gartner, the forecast of the Worldwide IT spending is projected to be a sum total of $4 trillion in 2021, an increase of around 4% from 2020. The IT spending in 2020 was expected to be around $3.6 trillion, down 5% from 2019. 

It is a vital decision that you must take regarding building or buying a software solution for your organization. The decision to opt for an off-the-shelf software solution or to hire a custom software development company to build a custom software solution for your organization lies in your hands. 

Also read: 7 tips to choose a top custom software development company

Remember that there is no right answer. What might work for others may not work for you and vice versa. In the end, what works for your organization is the way to go. Your decision should depend on how you prioritize the following points. 

So let us dig deep into the factors that we need to consider while facing the decision to build vs buy. 

1) Compatibility & Technology 

Integration is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to buy or build a custom software application for your organization. Some solutions fit like a glove and some do not. 

With off-the-shelf solutions or third-party apps, the ease of integration varies. However, one can assess with POC (Proof of Concept) as most of the off-the-shelf solutions offer to perform a POC before buying them to get an idea of their integration capabilities. 

When you opt for a custom build solution, integration and compatibility will not be an issue as it would specifically be built for your business processes. However, your IT team would have to find a way for the custom solution to connect with different data sources. 



  • Pre-tested with integration capabilities
  • Available with packaged integrators/connectors 
  • Prototype or POC easily available


  • Developed for complete compatibility
  • Have the source code of the solution 
  • APIs are not required

2) Features 

When deciding on what features to incorporate in your software solution, you need to ask yourself 4 questions. 

What must you have? 

What feature is crucial for your business? Which feature is so important that you would fail in business without it? 

What should you have? 

What feature is important but your business can survive without it also? 

What could you have? 

Which feature is desirable but not mission-critical? Which feature can you get afterwards without stressing too much presently?

What won’t you have? 

Which feature is the least important or you can get it in the long run?

When considering an off-the-shelf solution you must look beyond what the software is capable to do. For example, if your solution is capable of giving you proper business intelligence analytics but does not give you an option to download the analytic sheet for it. This scenario will now require you to get a different tool to convert the analytics into a downloadable format. This will not be the case with a custom solution. 



  • Comes with recommended best features
  • Features request and bugs have to be handled by your developers


  • Gives you the option to have all the features that you need and reject the ones you don’t need
  • Gives you the ability to prioritize what feature you require the most 

3) Performance

A solution is as good as its performance. If the solution is incapable to meet the performance requirement of your business, then what’s the use of it. 

It is vital to have a benchmark of what kind of performance you are looking for currently, what could be the need for the future and how you would address those future needs. 

There are various characteristics on which you can evaluate the software solution. You have to be certain if the solution that you have opted for is the right fit and would be up to the mark. You can’t race a derby on a tortoise. 



  • Performance is tested with established benchmarks
  • Comes with SLA (Service Level Agreement)


  • Total control over the architecture and performance of the solution
  • Software updates are available to enhance performance when needed

4) Design

There are two cases that you would face, a designer who would develop your reports or a developer designing the report using the software solution. In the case of a designer developing the reports, you will need a very intuitive interface and in the other case, you will need some pre-built templates. It is advised to have both so that anyone can use the solution. 

An elaborated and well-designed report would help you have the right information to make important decisions. However, documents that have to be sent to the customers, must have the company’s branding, professionalism and style. The solution should be capable of giving you reports that do not need rework to beautify them. So a solution that gives out well-designed reports is a blessing. 



  • Best practices and standards are in-built 
  • Has a variety of in-built flexibility, design and control 


  • Settings and connection could be hardcoded
  • Design functionality could be user-specific

5) Training, Support and Documentation

The capability of the software solution also lies in the hands of the user and his ability to learn the solution and get the desired outcome from it. 

Software solutions are often complex with lots of parameters that you have to get familiar with. Working with datasets is not a cup of tea for everyone. Most users rely on different tools to eliminate errors and increase overall productivity. The thing with these tools is that they would have their unique user interface with different approaches. This makes it difficult for the user to master all tools. With a custom software solution, this will not be the case. 

Training, support and documentation is an integral part of the success of the solution. Often these three elements are overlooked or underdeveloped components of the complete software solution. Providing ongoing support can consume more resources and time than writing the code for the solution. 



  • Training is included in the package
  • Support is provided by the vendor


  • Training and documentation is developed around the user
  • There’s total control over response, prioritization and support 

6) ROI & Cost 

Whatever you may choose, off-the-shelf or custom software the aspect ROI is very crucial. The solution that you opt for must be under your estimated budget. You should keep in mind the various scoping parameters, sizing the solution, POC and prototyping to get the solution that you need in the budget that is suitable for you. 



  • Cost is usually fixed for these packages
  • Development cost is usually less
  • Shortens the ROI timeline


  • The cost usually depends on the scope of work
  • There is no subscription or service fee


Choose build or buy depending on the above-mentioned factors. For some buying would work and for some, building. Whatever the case the decision is always yours. So choose wisely when it comes to custom software for your organization. 

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Author: Nora Winkens

Nora is a copywriter and content writer who specializes in custom software development blogs, ghost blogging, email marketing campaigns and sales pages. She works closely with B2C and B2B businesses providing digital marketing content that gains social media attention and increases your search engine visibility.

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