Fleet Software: To Build or to Buy? (Part One)

This is part one of a two-part series where we will share some insights around the consideration of building your own software tool versus partnering with a third party to have it built for you.

building or buying software

A hot topic of conversation amongst business professionals is whether to develop tools in-house or buy out-of-the-box solutions. With the evolution of SaaS and technology changing the way we operate, many companies are forced to make a decision to spend internal resources to build tools specific to their organization, processes and people or to invest in an out-of-the-box solution provided by a third-party partner.

Technology plays a critical role in any company, especially nowadays when technology is ingrained in most aspects of our daily routine. We depend on it for communication, data analytics, managing our customers and even managing our teams. Many companies feel like they have the internal resources necessary to build something themselves, but in reality, software application development done the right way is really hard.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Technology is constantly changing

Modern software has advanced dramatically and is written in a variety of different languages. They each have their own specific characteristics and functional outputs. New languages are emerging all the time and becoming more complex. This article highlights 10 of the best languages to know based on what you are trying to accomplish.

Keeping up with changes in how applications are written and in what language is incredibly difficult and time consuming. Don’t take my word for it… Try taking a few courses to see how quickly you think you could keep up (Code Academy and Udemy have some free courses). Continuous learning has to be factored into the overall cost of building your own solution.

2. Building for scale

Once you build it, what happens next? Outside of keeping up with changes in technology and evolving tools at your disposal, there is the question of scale and supporting any systems you have in place. There are infrastructure requirements - networking, connectivity, security, monitoring, storage and backup, etc. These aren’t negligible tasks but large, complex processes that need to be handled with care.

Further, software requires deployment processes, procuring hardware for storage, data center space, hiring new staff or training existing staff on how to support the system. The list goes on and on. Once you’re setup, you still have to manage the entire process and keep the “machine” running.

3. Consider the internal impact

There are certainly internal costs of developing software or dedicating resources to any project, but also worth considering is shifting focus. Let’s say your company makes widgets and decides that a new CRM tool is needed. You have two options: you can build your own CRM tool to your specific needs or you can purchase an out-of-the-box software tool that gets you the majority of what you are looking for.

While the costs may be different and having control over the development might seem highly attractive, is it really worth sacrificing focus on your core competency? Your company probably makes widgets really well. After all, it’s what your entire company is focused on doing every day, right? Well, Salesforce builds a really good CRM. They go into work every single day focusing on building a solid CRM for their customers. There is a reason really good companies are really good - focus.

4. Partnerships are valuable

Two heads are better than one. Many hands make light work. There are plenty of insightful quotes that suggest and support the idea that expanding your team can help get more accomplished. This should be no different in software. Having a good partner that delivers high value software products to support your business can be a valuable asset. While you focus on serving your customers and improving their lives, your partner focuses on the same for you.

Customer service is extremely important with any software, and having a good support team to call on makes a huge difference. With the SaaS business model, many times you won’t pay for upgrades or enhancements, meaning that your ongoing investment is reduced and again, not sucking internal resources away from their core competency and the company’s overall strategic objectives.

At the end of the day, buying or building software is a big decision that will no doubt have a major impact on your business. With this decision, there are many factors to consider and many people that should likely be involved in the discussion.

After all, software is completely useless unless people actually use it.

In part two of the series, we provide some specific ideas and things to look for when building or buying software to help you along in your journey!

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