Should we build in-house or buy a custom software solution to help grow our business? This is a question we hear a lot as a geospatial consulting company on engagement calls. Most growing companies face this question. Should you build an in-house solution that sort of fits your needs, or should you pay more for something custom-fit to your business?
There are pros and cons to both, but companies need to think first if a) their team has the expertise to develop the software, and if not, how long would it take them to learn it. And b) does the in-house team have other higher priority business projects that need their attention?
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Now, how do you decide whether to build in-house or buy custom software solutions?
To make the best decision, you’ll want to consider the following six questions:
- What are the must-have features for the software? Write them out and then determine if an existing product can get the job done. Or, could your team easily configure a software solution to meet your needs? If the answer is “no” to both questions, it might be time to look for outside help.
- Are there financial limitations? It’s important to think about your budget. The costs related to developing custom software may be why some businesses avoid choosing this option. However, it’s essential to know that many consulting companies can leverage their expertise and build custom solutions in a cost-efficient way. The goal is to help your company grow while working within your budget. We have found that companies save money by hiring outside experts.
- What’s the timeline? Think about the time it will take your internal development team to focus solely on the project. Consider the other business projects they need to work on. Would they be able to complete the software solution quickly? Also, take into account other last-minute factors that can pop up unexpectedly.
- Is your team skilled enough to meet the project’s requirements? If your software team is not strong enough in the necessary skills to develop a custom software solution, it would be smart to look for others who are.
- What’s the ROI? This is the biggest question you need to answer: Will this solution increase revenue or profits enough to justify its costs? Could you resell the solution to others in your industry, or will it streamline operations, in turn saving money? Sometimes, these answers will push you toward building a custom software solution in-house or seeking outside consultants. If you don’t see an ROI, think back to question one again and re-evaluate and prioritize the features until you have a solution that will positively impact profits.
- Does your current process provide a competitive advantage? Are you known for something special within your industry? Do customers love your portal, or do you give them real-time alerts on services? If you can’t think of at least a couple of competitive advantages, it might be time to look at your business processes and software.
- Is future flexibility to change necessary in your business? Software needs to scale as companies grow. Refer back to question one, where you wrote down your must-have features. Now, think about your wish list! Write that down, as well, and put down an ideal time to add these features. Can your internal team do it, or would it be better to hire others? If the team can easily do the must-have items, maybe it can make the wish list of capabilities happen. If you’re unsure if the team can do what’s needed, consult others as part of your planning process.
Custom software can be worth the resources it requires if you are expecting to build a growing business at scale. The questions above will help you decide if you should have internal teams or outside experts develop your custom software solutions for your business. Ultimately, having custom software that meets your company’s needs with a focus on scalability and performance can mean the difference between offering a standard service and offering a highly adapted one at a better price.
If you need help thinking through your choices or have decided to take the custom software route, please reach out. We’re happy to talk through the questions with you.