Build vs Buy – Innovation is required, but do technology service providers make more sense than doing it in house?

Huw George
Huw George

For many years the “build vs buy” question has been mulled over by business leaders to resolve the many challenges they face to run a smooth operation.

Pros and cons are weighed up as they try to find the most cost effective and efficient solution for their business. The difficulty comes in accurately assessing both the financial impact and potential long-term effects of this decision, often leaving those on the front line of the business dealing with the problem while they wait for the solution.

The pace of technical innovation is moving at an almost exponential rate making it difficult for internal IT groups to keep up with the pace of change in the wider market. Not only to software systems need to be created, they also need to be maintained and upgraded meaning the job is never finished.

Historically, building software made more sense, but the development of flexible mobile and cloud solutions that can be integrated has turned the tables more recently. Many global organisations in both public and private sectors that have invested millions of pounds in bespoke internal IT infrastructure are migrating to Cloud applications, dramatically reducing their IT overheads in the process, as well as reliance on internal staff for software development and support. In this environment, it is difficult for internal delivery to compete from both a visionary and cost perspective.

When deciding whether to build or to buy, three key points need to be addressed:

  1. What is the scope of the problem, and how complex does the solution need to be to fit the needs of the business?
  2. Do you currently have the capability internally to deliver the build, maintenance, support and ongoing upgrades for the solution?
  3. Is the solution required immediately or do you have the time to wait for scoping, development, testing and delivery?
When to buy

Ad hoc application for a specific business process.

The problem is unique to your business and no software exists in the market to adequately deal with your problem.

To solve a siloed concern that does not impact the entire organisation of your business

You have strong and well-resourced IT department with development capability that you can guarantee will remain with the business to support the application long term.

When to build

Use of the software is critical to the wider business operations.

You have a common problem that already has existing software solutions that have been adequately developed with flexibility to be customised to your requirements

The software will be widely used and integrate with other applications.

Your IT department does not have the resource or capability for build or long-term support of bespoke



Build Total control over specification and development.

Ownership of the Software Code.

Less likely other organisations will have an identical product within your market.


Ready made solution available immediately when you need them.

Greater flexibility from a tried and tested product with thousands of hours of R&D already invested.

Ongoing support and training with no additional burden on other departments (HR, recruitment etc).

Continuous and ongoing development of functionality and features through existing customer feedback that will anticipate the needs of your business rather than react to them.



Time required to determine requirements, configure, develop and test, integrate with existing systems and adapt to user feedback after deployment.

Train and support staff indefinitely.

Staying ahead of the competition. Can you ensure your development team will continually innovate and maintain an integrated solution that is better than your competitors?


Developer retains the rights to the software code.

Product functionality is determined by the product vendor and may not be a perfect fit.

Reliance on third party support to fix issues.

When it comes to customer service delivery, there are numerous examples of flexible solutions available making a compelling case for Buy rather than Build in the current environment.

Huw George

Business Development Manager

Huw George

Self-service Services Community Professional services