Software Development

Five Things To Consider Before Deciding Whether To Build Or Buy New Software

One question many Houston-area businesses struggle with when making software development decisions is whether it makes more sense to build or buy.

At Transco Labs, we know that is not an easy question, and there is no one right answer. There are, however, some basic things we recommend all our Houston customers consider before starting or considering any software development project.

First and foremost, what are your core business needs?

This is the single most important step and the one most frequently dismissed or short-shrifted by business folks anxious to get up and running. It is easy to think you already know what you need, but it always pays off, in the end, to take the time to make sure you thoroughly understand what you are trying to do before moving forward. Is it fun? Not particularly. Is it crucial? Absolutely. A good Houston-area software development partner can be invaluable in guiding you through this process.

Here is what you need to look at:

• What business process do you need to automate?

• What is your business strategy?

• What business need will be addressed by the new solution?

• How soon do you need to have the solution in place?

What are your core technical requirements

This is another critical step that is often overlooked by business folks, much to every CIO’s eternal chagrin. Before you start thinking about whether buying or building new software, you should find out if there are IT security, disaster recovery or compliance requirements that must be met. This is another of those “find out now or pay for it later” situations.

What is your current solution?

If you have an existing solution you are looking to replace, the main things to consider are:

• How are you meeting this business need today?

• How well does your current solution meet your present needs?

• Is your current solution scalable to meet your future needs?

• Do you have existing data that will need to be converted?

Your IT department and/or Houston software development partner will be especially useful when it comes to those last two items.

Are COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) solutions available?

This is where it can get really tricky and for a couple of reasons.

First off, there is no such thing as out of the box when it comes to business software. Vendors are notorious for telling potential customers their software can do anything and everything.

Secondly, it is easy at this point to fall victim to Shiny New Object Syndrome. Existing wants turn into needs, entirely new wants and needs are discovered, and requirements can start to grow out of control.

Keep all of this in mind when COTS shopping and if you have a CIO and/or Houston software development partner, bring them along. Always make sure to ask COTS vendors the following:

• How much customization will be required to meet your needs?

• How much of that is configuration versus new development?

• How long will it take to make their product go-live ready?

• What is their process for data conversion?

Can your existing staff or software development partner support a new solution?

Knowing whether your in-house staff or current software development partner has the capacity and skills set to support a new solution is imperative. Expecting your IT resources to get up to speed on new software and database technologies while implementing a new solution is not realistic.

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