What is Build versus Buy?
The ‘build vs. buy’ debate has long been at the forefront of decision-making when it comes to implementing a software solution. Should your company invest in developing a custom solution, or purchase an existing commercial product? This discussion is particularly pertinent when considering Salesforce solutions. Salesforce, known for its flexible platform and extensive ‘AppExchange’ marketplace, offers both paths, adding unique dimensions to this decision.
Build: developing a custom solution from scratch
Buy: purchasing an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution from a third party
It’s a complex decision, with numerous factors at play. This classic dilemma requires careful thought and consideration of several key factors. In this article, we’ll examine a framework of factors—implementation complexity, business requirements, budget, and solution scope—to help you understand, after weighing both sides, which approach suits your business the best.
1. Implementation complexity
The complexity of the project is an important consideration when deciding between building or buying a solution. Custom-built solutions are appealing because of the high level of tailoring they offer from the start, especially when non-standard processes need to be accommodated. In short, you can build a custom Salesforce solution for your unique needs. However, this comes with its own set of challenges. Creating a custom solution from scratch involves a certain level of complexity itself. Building a solution requires not only expertise in Salesforce, but also a clear understanding of your unique business processes and how any new solution can impact your wider Salesforce implementation. As you start developing your application, the complexity can easily multiply. Scope creep, unforeseen obstacles, additional testing requirements – these are all part of the building journey. And that only covers the additional build, let alone the ongoing maintenance of a solution, managing feature requests and Salesforce’s own upgrades!
Conversely, the complexity of an implementation can be greatly reduced when you buy an existing solution. The application has already been refined over time, tested, and proven successful in real business environments, providing you with a tried-and-true solution that’s ready to deploy anytime. By buying, you can benefit from the pooled knowledge of others – the solution’s team and other customers – and reduce the risks involved with a challenging build.
2. Business requirements
Every business has its own special requirements. Reading the previous paragraph, you might be thinking that buying an existing solution could never meet your specific, complex needs. In other words, if your business requirements are unique or intricate, building your own solution provides the flexibility to create precisely what you want. It enables you to manage and develop a solution that grows and evolves alongside your company. However, it’s crucial to differentiate between “unique” and “commonly unique.” Many businesses believe their processes are unique when, in reality, they share many similarities with other organisations in the industry.
Pre-built solutions are created based on industry best practices and common requirements. They cater to a wide range of needs and are continuously improved based on user feedback, ensuring their relevance and effectiveness. Although building allows you to create a solution tailored to your exact specifications, it might not necessarily be the best approach. There’s a reason that ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions have been built the way they have been! Consider your requirement – perhaps buying could be a better option.
Budget is one of the most crucial factors in any business decision, and the ‘build vs buy’ debate is no exception. While ‘building’ might seem attractive since it offers financial control over a customised solution, it can easily turn into a money trap. Building a solution can end up being more costly due to the need for experienced developers, longer development cycles, and potential trial and error. Additionally, consider the long-term costs of maintaining, updating, and improving your custom solution, not to mention the time cost of writing and maintaining any onboarding and support documentation! If there’s one thing you remember, we hope you take home that the cost of building a solution always has an element of unpredictability.
On the other hand, buying a solution can offer more financial predictability. Licensing, support, and updates are all built into the price. In addition, the speed of deployment is significantly faster with a ready-made solution, allowing you to start realising return on investment much sooner. In essence, buying offers financial predictability and reduces financial risk.
4. Solution scope
Lastly, building a software offers a high level of customisation, but it comes with its fair share of risks. When the solution is live, it may solve short-term needs. However, what if the long-term needs for your business change over time and you are building a solution with the short–term in mind? The time and resources used to develop the software could have been wasted!
Buying a solution eliminates this uncertainty. Since purchasing an existing solution typically offers a quicker and simpler path to user satisfaction, time to value is significantly shortened with buying. You’re investing in a solution that’s been proven effective in real-world applications. You benefit from the learnings of the companies that used the solution before you and their feedback has driven continuous improvement of the product. You also benefit from ongoing updates and enhancements made based on feedback from a community of users, ensuring the solution remains effective, relevant and futureproof.
While the ‘build vs buy’ decision ultimately depends on your organisation’s unique circumstances, considering these four factors presents a compelling case for buying. In the Salesforce ecosystem, buying a solution offers reduced implementation complexity, a solution tailored to common industry needs, predictable costs, and the long-term confidence of a proven solution.
In many cases, purchasing a Salesforce solution isn’t just the easier path, it’s the smarter one.