To Build or Not to Build? That Is the Question

13 Jan 2016  |  by Simon Fletcher

Find out why buying a solution off-the-shelf carries more benefits than building a solution yourself.

I compile therefore I am. Let’s not get all philosophical about software. But hang on a minute! does software actually exist in this world of transient virtual environments? If a tree falls in a wood and nobody's around, does it make a sound?

Gone are the days of being able to touch, feel and sweat over the software we used. We used to type things into a computer and hope that it wouldn't crash, now we reach out into the cloud and if we are lucky something happens and may even stay there for a while. I have to admit "cloud" seems pretty appropriate given that sometimes we may feel like it blurs the picture, more like fog! Why didn't we call it SKY? Beautiful clear, fresh, infinitely beautiful and exhilarating?

For years I have visited businesses caught up in the politics about the best way to deliver a solution. "Do we buy off the shelf software or develop the tools ourselves?" "Should we implement an on-premise solution or outsource the hosting?

The opinions of IT and Marketing

The IT department can swing either way but quite often has an opinion. The opinion can be skewed by the need to provide a safe or expected choice, or promoting the view that what they can build will be better and will be more suited to the business’s requirements. It also keeps teams of existing developers and project managers busy.

The marketing team want a solution and don't really mind how it is delivered, as long as it works and is fit for purpose.

Off-the-shelf solutions.

As I work for Apteco you would naturally expect me to say buy it “off-the-shelf” and I do, but why? Why do I so often hear that a self build project hasn't been delivered or hasn't provided the expected benefit? Below, I have tried to point out some of the considerations anyone should take into account when deciding which path to follow. I will also caveat that this is written purely from my experiences and from an Apteco perspective.

Build it yourself

Positive Reasons

  • The company has full control of scope, resource and delivery.
  • Existing resources (costs) can be utilised on the project.
  • Specific niche requirements can be catered for.
  • Collaboration between departments can be tight and give benefits.
  • Politically within the business it’s the right thing to do.


  • Can take a very long time overall.
  • Development is costly and requires resources and management.
  • Skill, expertise and experience are lacking specifically for the discipline.
  • Resources get pulled onto other higher priority projects and delays are common.
  • Risks of failure may be higher in this scenario.
  • The risk of under achievement is higher.
  • Longer term the tool suffers from lack of development focus due to cost and inertia.

Buy it

Positive Reasons

  • Subscription based licensing models can provide flexibility.
  • Available immediately with known implementation timescales.
  • Support infrastructure in place and skilled.
  • Users benefit from the long term skill and experience of the provider.
  • Ongoing maintenance and development is not your problem but you do benefit.
  • Wider functionality is available and can benefit your business by driving innovation.
  • User community helps steer developments.


  • You have little control of development or quality.
  • Reliance on third-party or even several parties.
  • Adoption of tool may suffer if not implemented well.

In summary I would be a strong advocate of buying. There are risks but overall your business should benefit from a stronger, speedier solution built by experts who spend their time thinking about what is required for the product. We wouldn't want to be operated on by a family member who went to catering college!

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Simon Fletcher

Business Development Director

Known to everyone as Fletch, Simon is an experienced business manager, a data driven marketing advocate & IDM graduate in Direct & Digital Marketing. We have recruited over 70 partners since he joined Apteco in 2002.

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