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Should you buy or build your own tech? 4 questions to ask yourself before deciding

Busy man on laptop making decision

Deciding to buy technology or build your own is not only an important decision, it can be a difficult one. There are pros and cons to both methods; understanding which solution is best for your business is paramount to ensuring your company’s needs are met.

Building your own technology can help incorporate the specifics that you require and put your “personal touch” on the final product. While this is great in theory, it will require a lot of time and expertise to build, test and ultimately implement. If you’re willing to invest the time and money, then building may be right for you; if not, then buying it may be a better solution. Before you make the call, ask yourself these questions:

1. How Much Customization Do You Need?

When you buy tech, many features come already built. This makes it quick and easy to implement—unless you require a long list of custom features. Adding customization can quickly escalate the costs associated with buying tech solutions, so make sure you get a complete quote before you commit to a provider.

You’ll also want to check to see how much customization is possible and make sure the functions you require are possible to add. If you have enough expertise in-house to do your own customization, buying tech that allows you to add on to it can be a good solution.

2. How Long Will You Be Using It?

The initial investment of building your own tech can be enormous. It can take a long time and a significant budget to implement. But it’s important to consider not only initial costs, but cost over time. If you’re paying a monthly or annual fee to a service provider, that cost will continue as long as you’re using their service. But if you’re building your own, the costs will go down sharply over time. If you’re planning to use this technology for many years to come, building may be a better option.

3. How Much Expertise Do You Have?

There’s nothing worse than getting started on a complex project only to realize, halfway through and thousands of dollars in, that you don’t have the necessary expertise to complete it. Avoid this pitfall by doing an honest analysis of your team’s tech skills before starting out. If you have the brainpower and the subject knowledge on hand, go for it! But if you’re not confident that you’ll be able to pull it off, it might be better to buy.

4. When Do You Need it By?

Is this a project that needed to be completed yesterday? Or is it something you’d like to do sometime down the line? Building your own tech can be incredibly time-consuming, and it can usually take a lot longer than the initial estimate. If you have lots of time to complete your system, building is a great option—but if you’re working on a tight deadline, buying is the safer choice.

If you still want to build it but you need things done fast, one way to do this is to incorporate open APIs to implement existing software into your own projects. APIs can be a critical piece to helping you blend both custom-built and borrowed technology. They speed up development significantly while decreasing the legwork required to get things built.

Incorporating new technology is an exciting way to grow your business, but before you jump into a commitment to build or buy, make sure to take a thoughtful look at which one is a better choice for you. If you have a laundry list of customization requests for your specialized business, want a tool you can use for years and have the know-how to get it done, building your own tech is a great option. But if you just need something simple and straightforward that you can use for a little while, or you don’t have a lot of tech expertise in house, buying will likely be better. Ultimately, your time, budget and skill constraints will determine what solution works best for your company.

Feature image: SFIO CRACHO / Shutterstock.com

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