Outsourcing Development Part II: Build vs. Buy

So you’re preparing to outsource software development. But do you need custom software? By that, I mean building something new from scratch as opposed to procuring existing software. We call that a build vs. buy decision, although “buy” can be misleading. The existing software could be open source or commercial, free or paid, SaaS or on-premise; regardless of the details, the developers have a starting point.

Now, I have performed many, many build vs. buy decisions in my career, and I made most of them as a development lead who liked nothing more than green field development. That’s where you get to pick any technology you want – any toy in the toy box. With that incentive, I came into each decision heavily biased toward building. Would you like to guess what percentage of the time I recommended build over buy? 50%? 80%? Well, it was zero.

People are often confused by that, but here’s why: when you get to the point where you have a viable alternative to creating new software, it will always win. In large part, this is because software packages are becoming software platforms. They’re highly configurable, extensible, and customizable. They provide APIs to make it easier to integrate with your other systems. That customization and integration is software development, but it has a huge head start: the years of development time invested in the core platform.

So talk to us (or any experienced developer you trust). Tell us what you’re trying to build and we’ll see if there isn’t something out there that will give you a big head start and save you a bundle. Maybe not! Maybe you’re truly innovating. But let’s not assume anything.

By the way, I can tell you now that if anyone suggests building an ecommerce site from scratch, they are (at best!) very inexperienced with ecommerce. That’s about as crazy as building a blog from scratch.

If the web is part of your strategy (and odds are it is), read on to learn about choosing a web framework.

Part III: Choosing a Web Framework