Business Software: When Buying Is Better Than Building


To build or buy business software? That is the question. My previous blog post explored the circumstances in which it would make the most sense to build a system including when there is nothing currently on the market that meets your needs and when your in house technical team have the skills to build a cost-effective solution. This post will take a closer look at the scenarios where buying an existing solution would be the more effective decision of the two. 

When sourcing business software, you will be faced with hundreds if not thousands of solutions to choose from all claiming to meet your exact needs. There is also the opportunity to build your own software which, in theory, will meet your exact needs.

But, before making your decision, it is crucial that you know precisely what you need the solution to achieve. This includes necessary functionality and technical specification alongside budget considerations.

It can be extremely easy to get hung up on the bells and whistles but by focusing on the essentials it will make your job of deciding whether to build or buy a technical solution much simpler. 

Choosing whether to build or buy software

Choosing whether to build or buy a software system is not a decision to made lightly. Many considerations need to be made with all key stakeholders involved in the decision making process. 

Crucial questions to be answered include:

  • Is there an existing system on the market that will do what you need?
  • Is the only option a completely bespoke solution?
  • Has return on investment been considered? 

For further details on making your decision download Build vs Buy eBook.

There are many advantages to both methods but the way that suits one business may not be the right way to go for another. We explore the key reasons to buy an existing solution. 

Advanced technology has permitted the availability of a large variety of business software solutions available at affordable prices. Many businesses often opt for software as a service (SaaS) or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products as the implementation of this software is much faster and ROI is easier to measure.

It also means investing in highly developed technology that has been built by industry experts. The key differentiator when comparing software suppliers is their level of specialist knowledge and experience.

Reasons to buy existing software 

Support and guidance 

Getting expert advice from a supplier who has long-term experience in your industry is necessary when your company may lack the technical proficiency required. Find a vendor who has years of experience, not just months. Establish if there are any similar companies that the supplier works with or any organisations who operate in the same way as you. This will be extremely beneficial down further down the line!

After purchase support is equally if not more important than when exploring system functionality. Support can be provided in a variety of ways including a technical support helpdesk (not just an online ticketing system) and a dedicated Account or Customer Success Manager who can provide system best practice to ensure maximum return on investment is achieved.

Recommended reading: Customer Service: What to Look For In a Software Supplier

It’s also worth checking what resources are available. Is there a help guide on the software, do they offer help guides, user videos, customer forums and training days and webinars?

Telephone software support

Check out these FAQs which will be a handy checklist when speaking with vendors. 

Limited time and budget

Buying an existing system is a much more cost effective solution and offers much faster roll-out when compared to building your own system from scratch. Rather than having to implement the software with purely internal resource, the supplier will provide implementation assistance including training and may even input your system data for you.   

If you have a limited budget and need to implement the system in the short term, a pre-built solution is probably the most realistic option for your business. 

Superior software is already available

Software suppliers have a dedicated development team on hand who have been refining their product since its inception. Product teams are also constantly working on new features and enhancements based on customer suggestions and usage. 

Thus, it is important to ensure that you find a responsive system that is continually being updated and maintained. This means it is more likely that your supplier will be able to adapt as your needs change and take a flexible approach.

As software suppliers constantly have their finger on the pulse with industry trends and ongoing customer needs they can continually adapt and enhance system features which are usually provided as updates free of charge.


6 reasons to buy business software rather than build

The key advantages of purchasing software as a service (SaaS) or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products rather than building a bespoke solution include: 

1. There is a vast variety of solutions to choose from

2. Regular feature enhancements - check with suppliers how often they make system updates

3. Buying a system is usually significantly less expensive and your requirements can be reassessed annually rather than making a long term commitment

4. System roll-out is a lot quicker meaning ROI is achieved a in a shorter timeframe 

5. You will receive advice from industry experts gained from real life experience 

6. A supplier with a flexible approach will be able to support and adapt to your requirements for a scalable solution

The debate: Build vs Buy

The simple answer to the build vs buy dilemma is ‘only build when there is no option to buy’. This is due to the large capital investment involved with building a system and the delay in retrieving ROI.  

Another key consideration is how much time and resource you have available to implement a new system - buying will be quicker than building.

If you have made the decision to buy an existing software solution, then you need to ensure that you find an appropriate supplier. Download our software buyers guide for tips to help guide you through this process such as:

  • Factors to consider internally before purchase
  • Tips on searching for the right software supplier and what to look out for
  • The importance of receiving a demo before deciding on a product to ensure that it suits your company's needs 
  • The 6 most important post-demo questions that you should be asking to make a well-informed purchasing decision

Good luck with your decision!

Download Build vs Buy eBook for a complete overview of the pros and cons of both options. 

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Other related articles include:

How Not To Buy An LMS You Can't Stand

Business Software: When Should You Build Rather Than Buy?

Ensuring A Smooth Transition To A New Business System

Originally published  , updated 06 Nov 2018.