Guide

5 Factors to Consider in a Build vs. Buy Software Decision

Are you struggling to quantify the value of building software in-house versus purchasing an external SaaS platform? Evaluate these 5 key factors before you decide.

1. Control

Buy

You can (and should) evaluate SaaS platforms to understand how each option meets your requirements. And you may get close to 100% of what you’re looking for. But, you’ll never have total control of the SaaS platform’s product roadmap. You can always give feedback, but it’s not guaranteed to give you the desired features.

Build

You have 100% of the control over how software functions when you build it in-house. Period. However, with that control comes a great deal of responsibility. You make ALL the decisions. If you’ve ever built a custom home, you know the unique fatigue of choosing a plethora of details in a short time.

2. Monetary Cost

Buy

The SaaS platform of your choice owns all costs associated with building and maintenance and charges you a subscription fee for ongoing access. Because the SaaS vendor gains efficiencies across a large customer base, they can often charge a lower amount than you would pay to support a one-off application

Build

The software builder (that’s you) bears the entire cost burden of homegrown software. That includes paying for the initial buildout, ongoing support, bug fixes, upgrades, platform migrations, and keeping up with software industry trends. All of these costs can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions!).

3. Maintenance

Buy

SaaS vendors handle all the maintenance behind the scenes and roll the cost into your subscription fee. Their staff will help launch the platform at your organization, manage maintenance going forward, and push out product upgrades.

And the SaaS company has already done it hundreds of times, so they come equipped with best practices based on a wealth of direct experience.

Build

You’re on the hook for all maintenance related to your newly-built software. That means managing the launch, bug resolution, user training, password setup, compliance with industry standards, and building new functionality.

And all that maintenance likely requires increased bandwidth or even extra staff.

4. Opportunity Cost

Buy

Purchasing SaaS software takes opportunity cost right out of the equation. You can continue to focus on your core profit-generating activities, while taking advantage of the SaaS platform’s already-live functionality in a much faster time frame.

It’s a win-win.

Build

Building software in-house can steal precious internal resources from high-profit opportunities.

Let’s say you’re in the business of selling bread. How much more bread could you sell with the resources you’re dedicating to building software? And how much market share could your competitors gain if you divert your attention to a non-profitable activity?

5. Time to Value

Buy

Buying a SaaS platform shrinks your time to value drastically. Your time investment is reduced to the time it takes you to evaluate SaaS platforms, decide on one, and launch it internally. A SaaS platform purchase provides the fastest window to connecting your goals to actions.

Build

Think about the goals you want to reach using newly-created software. If you build it internally, how long will it be before you can make any headway toward those goals? Even just building a version 1.0 of a well-functioning, user-friendly platform can take at least 6 months to a year. Can you afford to wait that long?

The decision to build in-house software vs. buying an external SaaS platform can be fairly complex.

Make sure to evaluate relevant factors like control, monetary costs, maintenance, opportunity cost, and time to value. Armed with these inputs, you can make an informed decision for your business.

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