Should You Build Software In-House Or Buy It From A Vendor?

Chances are, you’re aware of problems at your school that need to be solved. The idea of solving them with technology has been in the back of your mind. One question you may be asking yourself is: should you build the software in-house or should you purchase a solution from a vendor?

Both options have their pros and cons. Choosing between building a solution in-house and buying one isn’t always easy, but by understanding the pros and cons of each you can make an informed decision when the time comes.

In-House Pros

The core argument is that having creative freedom and ownership over the software allows you to customize the solution to align perfectly with your school.

  • Tailor the solution to address your problems: In all likelihood, no one understands the problem your school is facing better than you and your colleagues do. Building the solution in-house lets you guide the process to fully address it.
  • Cost savings: Because you’d be paying your IT staff to build the software, you wouldn’t have to take money out of your budget to pay for new software. 

In-House Cons

While creative freedom and complete control over the system is great, creating a solution in-house requires an allocation of resources like staff, money, and time that could damage productivity in other parts of your organization.

  • Taking IT staff (and potentially other staff) away from current responsibilities: By asking people in your organization to build the system, you’re asking them to prioritize this project over their current responsibilities. And if you tell them they can work on it “when they have time,” then it could take much longer to complete the project.
  • Software maintenance: Not only does your in-house IT team need to build the solution, but they’ll have to dedicate time and energy to monitoring the system’s performance and maintain it. Updates might not be called for as frequently, but the systems will need to be maintained to stay up to date and usable with current systems.
  • Slow project completion: Asking IT staff to build the system from scratch means it could take a long time to finish. Between creation, testing, and ironing out bugs, the entire process could take months.
  • Skill proficiency issues: There’s a chance your IT staff may not have the specific skills needed to execute the project successfully. Defining the scope of the project with your IT team and making sure it has the ability to build the system you desire is a crucial step before deciding between in-house or a vendor.
  • No designated support team: During the process, if anything goes wrong, you won’t have a support team to turn to.

Vendor Pros

There are many advantages to purchasing a software system from an external vendor. The bottom line: external vendors specialize in creating these solutions.

  • Start implementation immediately: If you buy a system from a vendor, that system will be ready to go implement away instead of waiting for your IT staff to build it.
  • Support and training: An external vendor will provide training to make sure that your staff is comfortable with using the system and will have a support team that you can contact at anytime incase you don’t understand something or something goes wrong with the system.
  • Proven to work: External vendors have teams working on these systems around the clock, meaning their solution will be more efficient, polished, robust. Vendors are also most likely servicing other schools and have seen and dealt with a wide variety of issues — some that you may not have even thought of!
  • Customization: Because vendors have worked with many schools, there’s a good chance that their solutions come with flexible customization options so you can tailor the solution to fit your school’s needs.

Vendor Cons

While buying a software system from an external vendor has its advantages, there are a few downsides to take note of.

  • No ownership: Not owning the solution means that you won’t necessarily be able to dictate the decisions that the vendor makes about the system.
  • Updates or desired capabilities may take longer to implement: Because you won’t have control over the vendor’s product roadmap, the updates you might need could take longer to roll out.

While these downsides are possible, it’s also realistic that the vendors will work closely together with your school to meet your needs. Timelines for updates may actually be right on time with yours, and the vendor may actually accelerate development if necessary to fit your needs. They value customers’ feedback and want to keep them happy.

After weighing the pros and cons, it’s clear that the major factors determining if you should build or buy a software solution are timing, expertise, and cost of allocating resources. It’s important to fully understand your problem and its severity, plus the capabilities of your internal team, before deciding whether to build a solution in-house or purchase one from an external vendor.

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