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  • Writer's pictureKeith Phillips

Your industry is going digital… so, where should you invest your budget? Should you Buy or Build?

  • You know that spreadsheets are not providing the type of insights, visibility, access, and control that you need in the future.

  • You can see GLOBAL.G.A.P. and other compliance schemes moving online.

  • Your team have challenges getting to customers. Social distancing, and restrictions on travel due to Covid 19 are a growing issue.

  • Your boss is saying’s time we start to think about some kind of proper software solution.

It takes a lot of time to research and decide which is the best way to invest your funds and where to invest them. When you are flat-out delivering audits, leading teams and creating reporting, it’s hard to get your head around the key considerations and how to decide what to do.

Auditors looking at a computer screen.

So when you do your SWOT analysis, take into account the current environment, where the industry is moving, and how fast.

And don’t forget to include these critical factors into your business case.

When should you build your own custom software, and when should you buy?

1. Opportunity Cost

It takes time to sit down and understand what needs to be built.

Build your own Custom Software:

  • Do you know what you need?

  • Does your organisation have the time to free-up experienced team members so that they can identify all of your requirements and create the 'use cases' needed to represent all of your needs?

  • Are you able to spread the large investment cost across a large number of clients?

Use a Commercial Solution:

  • Do commercial software options already offer you most or all of your requirements?

The Best Approach

You probably need your team to be working in the business, looking after your clients with the least distractions?

Software that is already in the market place has had hundreds of hours of work in development already done.

A good software company will be continually developing features that will be useful to you, based on the feedback and needs of their customers. Proven commercial software which has been designed, developed and tested to meet the needs of your industry is the opportunity that will cost you less.

2. Time-to-Value

It’s critical not to rush into a decision and make a mistake, but it’s also very easy to be so busy that you get left-behind.

Most business' can’t afford to get left behind.

Build your own Custom Software:

  • How long will it take to build the new software?

  • Will it still compete with the rest of the market by the time it's delivered?

Use a Commercial Solution:

  • Are you looking to get ahead of your competition - trying to pick-up business before leading software solutions become standard industry-wide?

  • Do you need to ‘catch-up’ with your competition in order to offer what they offer and stay competitive?

Auditors discussing an audit and looking at a tablet

The Best Approach

Commercial offerings are a tested solution that can give you and your team quick access to most of your requirements in a very short timeframe.

How you use the software can give you an advantage over your competition. You can also make your own customisations.

Need to to quickly catch-up with the competition? Commercial software is the way to go.

3. Competitive Advantage

What is the critical advantage you will get?

Build your own Custom Software:

  • Will building your own software give you a large enough competitive advantage over your competitors?

Use a Commercial Solution:

  • How many of your requirements can be met by a commercial offering?

  • Is there already software out in the market you can buy now that will do the job?

The Best Approach

As a general rule, if commercial software delivers 60% or more of your requirements, it’s the way to go. Get a demonstration so that you can quickly experience what the software has to offer your organisation. Better still, have a trial with some of your team.

You may not have full control over the product roadmap, but a good vendor will work closely with customers when designing and improving their products.

Consider investing in some customisations to the software that are only for you, so that you can gain a lead over your competitors.

You can also use commercial software as a 'test-case' for building your own solution.

4. IT Technical Investment

Do you have the skills to build, maintain and future-proof your investment?

Build your own Custom Software:

  • Who will build this for you?

  • Do you have an experienced internal development team that have the time, skills and resources to deliver a solution of this scale?

  • Does your team understand your industry?

  • Do you have the skills to design intuitive, user-friendly screens?

Use a Commercial Solution

  • Commercial offerings have already invested in the creation of a skilled team that have already proven their ability to deliver.

  • Commercial software has already been reviewed and tested. Investment has been made into the best technology to deliver what's required - often over many years.

  • Less bugs! Maintenance and updates are outsourced, and the software is already in use, backed-up by testimonials from current customers; so you know it works.

The Best Approach

If you already have a dedicated development team integrated into your company that has the time and resources, building your own solution may be a good approach. However, for most organisations, software development isn’t one of your core functions, in which case, focus on delivering your own expertise and not spreading yourself too thin.

A commercial product provider has already invested a lot of time and money into the development of a future-proofed system that meets industry expectations.

If they have an issues, they are raised quickly, and solved quickly.

Auditors discussing an audit

They are focussed on dealing with unexpected issues like Google Chrome updates, and have the experience to ensure that secure database storage solutions are in place.

This gives you the opportunity to take advantage of group knowledge, and relax whilst someone else keeps the software running for you.

5. Commitment & Appetite for Risk

How long do you want to commit to the software?

Build your own Custom Software:

  • Building your own software requires a financial commitment to both the initial build, and making ongoing updates. Your investment will be long-term, and your return will be long-term.

  • The risks are high. Software projects are famous for running over time and over budget.

Use a Commercial Solution:

  • You can drop a commercial solution when you are ready to change software or build your own. There is no long-term commitment.

  • The risk is low because the software has already proved itself. The solution is delivered to you.

The Best Approach

Building a system from scratch always takes longer than planned and unforeseen issues or requirements will expand your budget.

The good news is that there are already solutions that have gone through this process and spent the time and resources to develop the software themselves. It’s also already available so you won’t have to wait, especially if you need a solution now.

Do you know the cost of using a commercial solution? It is far cheaper than the total cost of investing in building your own system because 95% of the work has already been done. The system is in place, it's tested, it's working, it's been future-proofed and it's already being developed with new functions and services.

The best part about commercial solutions is that you don't have to commit long-term. If the solution is offered as a 'software as a service' (SaaS), then you also lower your investment risk. This means that if the solution isn't right for you in the future, you can unsubscribe and try a different approach. You can try it out and use it as a temporary solution.

6. Interconnectivity and Shared Data

How easily can you connect data and share information to gain insights?

Build your own Custom Software:

  • When you build your own system, you can build what you want, but it won't connect to anything else. You will need to build APIs to connect to your other programs and systems.

  • Building your own software can create an 'island' of information that you can't connect to other 'outside' data.

Use a Commercial Solution:

  • Commercial solutions can build the APIs to connect to your current systems.

  • Shared solutions can more easily connect information from your business partners - growers, suppliers, co-operatives, exporters and retailers - so that you can share information and analyse it (if and when you want).

The Best Approach

Using commercial software designed to help you work closer with your supply chains can gather collective intelligence and create benchmarks and insights for improving business.

Don't delay your plans and then feel forced into making a quick decision that doesn't work for you.

When your time is critical, and you need to get a good solution in place quickly, signing-up for proven commercial software is a faster and cheaper approach.

And the better the solution you choose, the faster you will get a return on your investment.

You can also customise the system specifically for your organisation using the know-how and skills of the vendor company.


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