Buy or Build?

6th April 2022

Should you build your technology stack or buy?

The builders say that to ensure you have the right stack for your business, you should build custom applications which are tailored to the business needs, and therefore more effective. When it needs to be improved, it can be in the right way for the business.

The buyers say that most companies' needs are very similar to theirs and so it's a better idea to adopt software already built, maintained and upgraded by other people. Not all new features will be for them, but that's OK.

As with all things, technologists should take a more balanced view. A smart technologist should know that building an architecture that serves the business well won't be cheap either way. Buying enterprise software and adapting to it, or building it custom, both come with their expenses whether it's build and maintenance costs, license fees or anything else.

In the end, it's preferable that you will have a mixture of both: some technologies bought, and some built. For many areas of technology, buy is an obvious choice because it's a solved problem. Email marketing, for example. For other businesses, such as disrupters in certain marketplaces (e.g. digital car selling) some custom work with the backend makes sense. The balance of this buy and build approach will be different depending on the company. For retailers, you could argue you'd be 90% buy. Other industries, much lower.

A good CTO or CIO should know this: having a strong technology group in any business is a must. Running technology with a lean team that is always heavily relying on partners and software providers is a recipe for higher cost and poorer decisions. There are few businesses in this world where technology is not a core competence.

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