Should You Buy or Build Software? 5 Questions to Ask Before You Make the Call


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If you’ve ever contributed toward a collective business goal, you’ll quickly recognize one of the key pain points faced by any organization that wants to grow. That pain point involves the issue of internal resources versus external investments.

The reality is that although most organizations hire and structure teams with growth goals in mind, there is usually an ever-growing list of tasks, responsibilities, and functionalities that are beyond internal capacity. Many times, this results in a crucial business question—should you buy or build your next software solution?

As more companies become dependent on technology advancements and focused on reliable data, the question of software development is critical and can make or break rapid business growth goals. In this post, we’ll explain why this dilemma happens and how you can approach it strategically.

People, time, and resources

Despite the large investments that companies make in recruiting and headcount, staff turnover is a real issue. In regards to software, developers may come and go as new career opportunities arise. Research shows that the cost to train new employees is about $1,200, but depending on the business and location, onboarding costs could be even greater.

Once open positions are filled (or backfilled in the event of an employee’s departure), teams must then confront the issue of available work time. When working with software, there is a nearly endless list of tasks to perform, and senior developers often have several subordinates to manage. Software developers also experience a high rate of burnout, which further limits their capacity to build a custom solution from scratch, especially under a quick turnaround.

Organizations must weigh the pros and cons of using internal developers and IT teams to execute operational needs. Stakeholders must look carefully at whether a business can afford lots of trial and error, or whether a dependable, tested, and secure solution is needed right out of the gate.

Questions to ask before deciding to buy or build

The list of questions below is designed to provide a roadmap as you and your organization consider whether to rely on internal resources or outsource a pre-built software solution. Remember, it’s a good idea to apply these questions from both a micro and macro perspective.

From a micro standpoint, think about the team that would be responsible for building. Then, expand outward to your organization as a whole. While some questions may apply only to the level of direct responsibility, other answers could have a ripple effect across your entire business model.

Have we developed this type of solution before?

Occasionally, internal software solutions are within a company’s existing wheelhouse. When this is true, it’s less difficult to make the jump and create the necessary changes.

When a team or organization has never stepped foot into a certain software territory, that assurance is missing. For example, if your organization has never developed a custom web form application or data collection system, it would take more time, trial, and error to get up to speed on industry standards, best practices, security, and compliance.

If the foundation to build upon doesn’t exist, in-house solutions may fall short of industry standards and company expectations.

Do we really have the time to devote to this project?

As ambitious business professionals, many of us are eager to jump headfirst into a new project or undertaking. When developing software, however, it’s important to ensure that there is time, expertise, and good priority-setting.

In most circumstances, implementing a product that’s ready to go will be the faster solution. However, it’s important to choose software that leaves room for customization should you need to make any adjustments.

Can we guarantee security?

Particularly in the realm of data collection, strong security practices are paramount. As you consider building a software solution, don’t ignore questions about security and compliance.

For many organizations, the risk of developing an insecure, unprotected solution simply isn’t worth it. When you choose a solution like FormAssembly, you’re automatically backed by the highest industry standards and certifications and free to experience the peace of mind that comes from a tested and reliable software solution.

How much will it cost to build and maintain?

If developing an internal solution sounds appealing initially, remember that software projects are rarely the kind that you can “set and forget.” Maintenance, updates, bug fixes, and other adjustments will continue to bog down opportunity costs.

Although it’s always beneficial to crunch the numbers, make sure that your decision is truly economical. This means looking beyond the short-range savings and considering the long-term effects of a costly, time-consuming software development project.

Do we want to focus our time and attention elsewhere?

A talented group of professionals can usually produce some seriously impressive results (especially when it comes to new technology). The key factor in this question is whether you want to use that brain power on software development, or if you want to save your team’s time and energy for other key initiatives.

Is there a bigger mission that your team wants to focus on? Are there broader goals that the organization wants to achieve in a short time? If so, outsourcing may be the best way to help your team focus on what really matters.

Choose a solution with proven results

At FormAssembly, we’re proud of the ways that customers leverage our data collection platform to help them achieve the goals they’re aiming for.

Consider the story of Frostburg State University, a higher education institution in the state of Maryland. IT staff members at Frostburg State found themselves constantly burdened with cumbersome data collection processes. When other departments needed a lift, the Web and Mobile Applications team was always responsible to lend the extra hand.

That is—until FormAssembly came along. When staff switched to FormAssembly during a migration to Salesforce, they were not only able to replace outdated manual data processes, but they were also able to empower other teams and departments with the powerful functionality of integrated web forms.

“FormAssembly was a nice stepping stone in making our team more efficient, demonstrating that there’s an easier way of doing things. [FormAssembly]] makes people happier, too, because they feel like they can take care of it themselves. They don’t have to deal with bureaucracy to get things done,” said Reid Bluebaugh, Director of Web and Mobile Applications.

To buy or to build? You make the call.

If your team is currently comparing options for software solutions and needs more information on how to decide, our Buy vs. Build guide linked below can help. In this resource, you’ll learn more about the perks of ready-to-use software, particularly as it relates to secure and reliable data collection.

Don’t just collect data
— leverage it