Technology Platforms for Businesses: To Build or to Buy?
Technology platforms have the power to automate and streamline key business functions, freeing you to focus on high-value tasks. The question then becomes, should you build your own in-house platform or buy from a third-party vendor? Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons to each, along with a few important considerations to take into account.
Building Your Software
Building your own technology platform makes sense in certain scenarios. For example, if you’re in a niche industry that isn’t well served by existing tools or if you find that out-of-the-box products don’t solve your problem. Or, perhaps you run a technology business and you have the in-house resources to design and code your platform of choice. In those cases, building your own software is a good option.
There are, however, several reasons why you may not want to build your own software. If you don’t have the expertise, then you’ll need help from a software development company, which can be costly. There are also training, maintenance and upgrade costs to consider.
Today’s technology platforms must also be developed with security in mind. Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving, and an unsupported system can quickly become a liability.
Buying Your Software
If your business is less technology-focused, buying software may be your best bet. Cloud computing has transformed the way we purchase software, saving small-business owners time, money and time. Just about any business function or need can be fulfilled with cloud-based technology platforms — from accounting and marketing to payroll and productivity apps. Plus, all the management, maintenance, security and feature upgrades happen seamlessly in the background, at no extra cost. And because you can access your data and systems from anywhere, your business can operate with greater mobility.
Cloud purchasing models are also cost-effective. Rather than investing huge amounts of capital expenditure in building your own platform, you pay a simple monthly fee based on the number of users. If you need to customize your platform, look for cloud providers that offer low-code or no-code options. These allow you to tailor the software to your needs without having to hire developers.
Buying your software from a cloud-based provider isn’t without its disadvantages. Possible downtime due to internet outages can limit your access to systems and data. Security is another concern. If you’re in the business of handling sensitive financial or consumer data, verify that your technology provider is doing everything they can to protect that data.
Customer support is another consideration. What level of support do you need? Is email-based support sufficient, or do you need 24/7 phone support? How will this impact your budget?
Don’t Overlook Data Integration
Whether you’re building your own technology platform or buying an off-the-shelf solution, don’t overlook data integration with existing systems. Will data flow easily from one system to another for a complete and connected business? If not, be aware that this can limit insights, actions and even your customer experience. In an ideal world, your accounting, e-commerce, customer relationship management and other platforms should be less of a collection of software and more of a connected set of tools that drive your business forward.
If you are building your own, be prepared for the complexities of integration. If you purchase a cloud solution, look for platforms that simplify data integration through plugins — a relatively easy way to connect one application to another.
To Build or to Buy
Whichever path you choose, be clear about your goals and make sure to do your research. Once you go down either path, it’s harder to go back. Remember to pay attention to the user experience, both internally and externally, and you’ll be on the right track.