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IT Service Management: Build vs Buy? Here’s 7 Reasons You Should Buy Software Rather Than Build it

With so much talent available in a lot of IT departments, and a burgeoning low code / citizen development trend, the build vs buy question is often asked in the boardroom. Unlike say, Marketing, many IT departments already have the internal resources needed to build a software solution to solve whatever business needs the company might have. Even though the capabilities are there, the question becomes, should they? I think in most cases, it is far better to buy than to build. Here are 7 reasons why…

Set Feature and Functionality with Faster Implementation Time

For most business needs, there is at least one, if not several commercial software solutions available for purchase. Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but if you can utilize an off-the-shelf solution, you’ll know exactly what features and functions you’ll get, and in comparison to building your own, the time to implement will be much faster. The difference could be years. Even if you have lots of software development resources at hand, sitting idle, if what you need isn’t within your employee’s expertise or knowledge, building your own solution will take a lot longer, especially if you don’t have an airtight project scope. Software development is like an iceberg, when you’re sailing the ocean you only see a little bit of it, but there’s a whole lot more under the surface, just waiting to be accidentally discovered. Which brings us to my next point…

No Development Risk and Scope Creep

It goes without saying that if you buy software rather than build it, your development risk and scope creep issues are greatly reduced. It’s a well-known fact that in-house IT projects often exceed their scope, budget and timelines, turning into octopuses with tentacles heading in every direction. According to McKinsey Digital, over half of “IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted. Software projects run the highest risk of cost and schedule overruns.” And if you think that is some pretty bad news regarding in-house software development, they go on to say, “17 percent of IT projects go so bad that they can threaten the very existence of the company.” In other words, a few wrong turns and you could drive your company into deficits or worse. That off-the-shelf software solution looks a lot better right now, doesn’t it? Ideally, if you can find a commercial software solution that is flexible and easily modifiable to make it work for your unique business needs, you’ll be much better off than trying to build your own.

Complex Features and Functionality at the Fraction of the Cost to Build

When you buy software, all those development costs; planning, building, testing, get spread through the purchases by many, many customers. The average labor rate of a software developer is upwards to $700 a day. In comparison, the average cost of software license is under $50 per user per month. Thus, in general, you’ll likely get more features and functionality for a fraction of the cost it would be to build those same features for only your company to use. With off-the-shelf software you also often get industry knowledge and expertise as well as the technology. For example, a commercial software solution likely has out-of-the-box reports available with common metrics your employees should be looking at and basing decisions upon. And as industries, market capabilities and roles evolve and change, oftentimes, the technology will lead the way, or at the very least, keep up, so your employees don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Predictable Total Cost of Ownership and Less Upfront Costs

Most commercial software products today are offered as a SaaS solution, meaning, you’ll have less upfront costs, and the cost to use is spread out over the length of time that you’ll use it. Buying software also has a more predictable total cost of ownership, with set license, maintenance and support fees. As mentioned in point two, software projects tend to have the highest risk of cost and schedule overruns. If you’re trying to save money, building your own software solution is usually not the best route to follow. It can be very hard to predict all the costs associated with a software project when it’s basically an unknown entity, which if you’re building a net-new software solution, there’s probably a lot that goes into building functionality that you’re not aware of. Moreover, there’s the cost to develop the ancillary items, such as product training and support, which often aren’t accounted for, but just as important to include when considering whether to buy or build software. Which brings us to my next point…

Dedicated Support and Community

A commercial software solution often has either established support team  and/or a dedicated community of users who can help you when employees have issues and things go wrong, which inevitably they will. When you build software yourself, you’ll have to provide this support and information to the employees, they won’t be able to just google it. Moreover, in our modern times, employees come and go, and there’s a real possibility that all the skills and knowledge regarding how something was built, or why, or how to fix it, will walk out the door when the employees do. When your business is reliant on selling and supporting a software product, there are formal processes and documentation in place to avoid this kind of situation. One-off software builds tend to be a little more loosey-goosey, in general. Finally, when you put something self-built into your IT environment, you really don’t know the impact this will have. Not only do commercial developers spend time testing for these types of issues, but if something does happen, you’ve really got no one to turn to. Every issue could become a fishing expedition, always spending time searching for the cause and resolution, and no ability to rely on the knowledge of those who came before you, or better yet, the software vendor.

Product Evolution, Add-ons and Common Integrations Often Included

Since the software vendors’ reason for being is to get you to buy their software, they are constantly evolving their product, taking advantage of new technologies, and building add-ons and common integrations that will fulfill the needs of their customers. It stands to reason that if you build the software yourself, you’ll also have to develop add-ons, any integrations you might need and of course, evolve with technological advances to stay relevant and competitive. Sure, everybody in tech has a story of a company that didn’t keep up with technological advances and lost market share or went bankrupt, which just proves why you should buy rather build. The pace of change and technology evolution is such that it has become a major effort to stay on top. Especially if it’s not the bread and butter of what keeps your company and employees afloat. As other technologies evolve in your environment, you’ll have to continually invest in your one-off software solution. There’s no “build it and forget about it” when it comes to software.

You Know it Works Already

There’s really two ways to think about this point. If you buy a solution off-the-shelf, it may have a few bugs, and some known workarounds, but you know that it fundamentally works already. However, what if you buy a software solution thinking that it will resolve a problem, or meet a business need, but it turns out not to be the solution that you thought you needed? Well, then you can just end your subscription, try a different product or set of features and so on. If you build your own software, and it doesn’t meet your needs, well, that’s more of a problem. Sounds strange? But it’s been known to happen.  If your average one-off software build takes at least a year, a lot can change in that year. Not only will building the wrong software solution result in wasted money and time, but it can impact your growth and processes, delaying the resolution of whatever issue you’re trying to solve by building the software in the first place. In general, there’s just a lot less risk involved in the purchase of a commercial software solution than building your own.

So, with all these great reasons, why would anyone ever choose to build their own software?

Often, it’s because there is a belief that your problem is unique and that an off-the-shelf solution isn’t customizable enough for your specific needs or internal processes, or the feature/functionality you need isn’t available. There are many more arguments on both sides of the equation, but for ITSM solutions, we’d like to take a moment and brag about the greatness of our products ServiceTeam® ITSM and Provance® ITSM, which offer the best of both worlds.

Conceived in Microsoft Power Apps, ServiceTeam ITSM runs in either Power Apps or Dynamics 365 environments, while Provance ITSM  is powered by Dynamics 365.

As a Power App, ServiceTeam is already built with flexibility, letting our customers easily configure and adapt ServiceTeam for their specific business requirements and processes—without the need for specialized skill sets or expensive outside resources and consultants. Out-of-the-box, you get a ready-to-use ITSM solution, complete with ITSM best practices and processes. The best of both worlds.

Power Apps, is a technology Microsoft created that lets citizen developers and software engineers easily build low-code business apps, specific for their business needs. Of course, it would be extremely difficult to replicate all the features and functionality of ServiceTeam, which has been professionally engineered. We built ServiceTeam with our considerable knowledge and development experience regarding ITSM, and what features and functions IT needs to smooth out operations, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction. No one’s going to be able to build ServiceTeam in one night with a pizza and a beer. We know. We tried plying our own expert developers, but people can’t live off only pizza and beer for years!

ServiceTeam can also easily connect to other Power Apps and has built-in gateways to many Microsoft technologies. The platform benefits of Microsoft Power Apps and Dynamics 365 is baked into the ServiceTeam DNA, making extensibility quite easy, when necessary.

Provance ITSM extends the powerful and intuitive Dynamics® 365 platform, providing a cost-effective IT Service Management solution that will help you deliver more agile, flexible and exceptional services. Provance ITSM leverages all three of the Microsoft Intelligent Clouds (Dynamics 365, Office 365 and Azure) to enable IT to overcome disparate business applications and data silos to meet the evolving needs of the business. Optimized for use with Microsoft management and productivity tools, Provance ITSM lets you leverage your existing investments and skillsets, while also digitally transforming your IT services for the modern world.

I hope you’ve been sold on why you should buy software rather than build it.

Now we’d like to sell you on why you should try ServiceTeam and Provance ITSM. Watch our Webcast: Provance ServiceTeam ITSM – Modern, Flexible ITSM born in the Microsoft Power Platform. Read about the benefits and capabilities of ServiceTeam. Watch our Provance ITSM webcast. Read about the benefits and capabilities of ServiceTeam.


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At Provance, we go out of our way to bring you great service. That’s in our digital DNA. Your IT success is our success.

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