To buy or to build, that is the question. This puzzle has scratched the heads of businesses since the dawn of time. In the modern age, the phrase is generally used about software, which is what we will be discussing today.

As things change, the software available to an organisation can become insufficient at an alarming rate. When this happens, it’s decision time. Do you use the resources at your disposal to build a new tool from scratch, or find someone to do it for you?

For the sake of argument, let’s say that your business has an issue with lost property. What would you do?

Dealing with your specific problem

A lot of the time, custom-built applications can seem like the logical option. After all, they’re built to spec, taking into account your exact requirements. An out-of-the-box solution is likely to be uniform and rigid, unable to handle your specific case. Right?

Not quite. Your company’s problems are almost certainly similar to many others. There might be some variations, but the central issue of ‘people keep leaving their stuff on my premises and it’s a pain to return’ will be consistent. 

Even if you have an idea of how to solve it, the chances are, it’s not the best way. Third parties do it every day. Thousands of hours of dev work and troubleshooting mean that SAAS solutions have already ironed out the kinks, meaning you don’t have to

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Do you want ownership and flexibility?

So let’s say for the sake of argument, you’ve built your own lost property management tool. Congratulations. One of the advantages here is that you now own this software. You can make updates easily, and when your situation changes, you can adapt this new tool as you see fit.

However, the chances are this will prove a costly and time-consuming task. Legacy issues like developers and product owners leaving unanswerable questions are all too common and can hamper progress with your shiny new tool. Similarly, buy-in from stakeholders might begin to fade, making resource allocation a challenge in itself. 

With SAAS platforms, the entire product is built to change. Updates are regular, with new features based on customer requirements. If you need something specific, they will often be built for free as long as there is wider value. Certainly beats doing it yourself.

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Does buying or building software save resources?

One obvious advantage to buying vs building software is the resources you put into it. It’s easy to pop down to Tesco and get yourself a cake, but baking it will take a while. If you want something with a minimum of effort, you don’t make it yourself.

Ok, but buying a cake in-store will cost more than making it yourself, so at least there’s that. Unfortunately for the bakers out there, this is where our cake/tech comparison starts to crumble.

When it comes to software, developing a tool from scratch can take months, if not years. While the issue persists, continued problems could come in the form of unhappy customers, blaming you for their inability to keep hold of their phones.

Similarly, your staff will likely be spending time dealing with enquiries. If you could break down the cost of all the wasted hours this incurs, it would almost certainly be less than the license fee for an out-of-the-box SAAS product.

 

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Case in point

You may have heard, but we recently started working with TFL. NotLost is now managing the lost property process of one of the world’s largest transport networks, and we’re not afraid to shout about it.

 Once upon a time, TFL had a self-built tool called Sherlock. It allowed the brave souls of their lost property department to look for any misplaced items and match them up with enquiries. When it was built, Sherlock was almost certainly the most advanced tool of its type.

However, it reached a tipping point. Legacy issues meant that after a while, they couldn’t add more features. As customer expectations grew in the digital age, TFL’s Sherlock was no longer suitable. So, they came to us, the lost property experts. Now they have a market-leading solution, giving them time to focus on keeping the capital moving smoothly.

So, when should I build software over buying it?

The only time it makes sense to build your product is if it will add, real, long-term value to your business and you have the capabilities to do it right and on time.

When done properly, it can even be licensed out to other organisations and provide another revenue stream. However, doing this with an annoying but secondary problem like lost property is not the right choice. If you do, you’re essentially a lost property solutions provider with one client.

The moral of the story? Leave it to us.

Find out more

If you’re interested to find out how NotLost can help your business, visit our website, or drop us an email at .