Deciding between building or buying software for business needs? Explore the build vs. buy debate based on budget, deployment, scope, customization, and more.
Deciding between building or buying software for email, calendar, and contact features for your website or application can take time and effort.
Depending on your organizational needs and larger IT strategy, several factors can impact your decision. While building could provide specific customization you’ve been wanting, buying can accelerate product velocity, save developers thousands of hours, and foster more personalized customer experiences.
This post will review the various considerations involved when choosing between building vs. buying software for SaaS and CPaaS operations so you can determine the best solution for your business.
“Build vs. buy” is a decision companies face when considering whether to develop a product or service in-house or purchase it from an external vendor. Both options have different benefits and drawbacks; your choice will depend on your resources, needs, and goals.
When building software applications, you must consider the resources required to develop and maintain a secure and reliable system. Designing a well-integrated system that meets requirements and regulatory standards may take significant time. There will also be ongoing costs associated with maintenance, and due to the nature of development cycles, desired features will likely be significantly delayed.
However, when buying software solutions, the maintenance cost will be much lower for businesses since the vendor or provider will handle this service.
Most buying solutions also offer scalability that empowers your business to onboard users without investing heavily in storage or other technical infrastructure. Buying software enables your organization to deploy new products or services faster, saving up to years of development time and costly resources that would otherwise be dedicated to building on your own.
Build vs. buy software Debate: what to consider
Here are some points to consider when determining whether to build or buy your next integration or platform capability.
There are upfront and ongoing costs of building and buying software. Weighing these costs against the potential return on investment and your organization’s specific needs can help clarify this decision-making process.
Building your own solution is a significant investment. It can take years to hire the right developers, designers, and IT staff — not to mention the additional time to start the building process. Organizations must invest time and resources into sourcing and employing the right personnel: individuals with subject-matter expertise, a deep understanding of security and policy requirements, and the ability to operate, monitor, and analyze the software.
However, even with the best development and tech teams, the constant development of new features and maintenance of old features requires more time and resources — and a potential loss in revenue. Slower feature deployment and technical debt from rushed projects can prove costly.
Buying an existing solution may require a sizable upfront cost (though not always), but it can be more cost-effective long term. There are little to no maintenance costs, so developers can focus more on building revenue-enhancing features. This approach results in a faster deployment time and greater customer engagement opportunities.
Building software can seem simple enough — until it unexpectedly spirals into a long-term project that takes months or years to complete properly.
Buying an off-the-shelf solution not only means quicker implementation times but can also come with the added benefits of technical support, regular updates, and patching. This ensures that newer versions of the product can be used without having to rework existing code or create integration points for additional schemas.
Organizations can use their time and resources to deploy new products or features to improve user adoption, reduce churn, and capture a greater market share.
Software scope & customization
When considering building or buying software, you must evaluate features, functionality, and integrations. The larger and more complex the scope is, the more costly it will become to build and maintain. Building software with unique features will take more custom work and effort to run effectively.
Still, some companies are concerned that a pre-built software solution won’t provide all the capabilities or customization they need. However, today’s pre-built platforms have endless integration and customization opportunities that take a fraction of the time to implement.
Defining the scope early will allow you to budget accurately for your chosen software type.
Market-leading software solutions will help manage your application’s privacy and security. These solutions also offer secure hosting environments and will handle necessary upgrades to keep products safe and compliant with industry standards.
When building a software solution, the control over the system can be tailored. But, it requires more resources to implement an air-tight system that must be continuously monitored. You may even have to invest in an external, expensive security solution.
Building your own solution might feel like you have more control over your platform. But in reality, it’s limited to what your developers can do in the time they have left.
When looking for a pre-built option that gives you more user control, consider a solution that offers:
The ability to access and modify the source code as needed
Existing code templates, SDKs, and CLI you can plug in with no custom code required
Cloud-based services with various levels of data storage and access options
Security measures that let you control who has access to your data, such as user permissions and authentication protocols
Easy integration with a wide range of other systems and tools
Build vs. buy software pros and cons
There are pros and cons to building and buying software for email, calendar, contacts, and other communications integrations. Here is a high-level overview:
Buying a ready-made software solution means you don’t have to pay for as much development time and resources. It’s also easier to switch from one software to another if you are unsatisfied with the service. This is not the case when building.
A pre-built solution can help you be up and running almost immediately, saving a great deal of time and money. Your organization can quickly respond to changes in the market and your customers’ needs.
Launching critical features quickly and securely translates to improved customer satisfaction and a more competitive market advantage.
Fewer resource requirements
With no need to dedicate staff or other resources to the development process and ongoing maintenance, buying a pre-built software solution requires far less personnel, time, and investment than building in-house. This enables you to focus on growing revenue and retention without losing functionality.
Pre-built software provides various levels of support from the vendor, from setup assistance to ongoing technical support, which can help your business minimize disruption. And because most vendors offer multiple packages, you can scale your purchases accordingly (e.g., buying additional licenses).
Dedicated customer support teams can help solve any problems or answer questions regarding the software solution or how it integrates with other programs within your business environment.
When you purchase software solutions from trusted companies, you can rest assured that all necessary security measures are being handled.
While building a strategic approach to cybersecurity can be expensive, the costs of a potential cyberattack are far greater. By 2025, cybercrime will cost companies $10.5 trillion annually. The best off-shelf solutions will have built-in security, meaning you’ll spend less time worrying about potential cyberattacks.
If your business requires particular functions, buying a software solution may reduce control over some features you may need and how they’re configured. However, powerful off-the-shelf software affords you customization options that can be deployed in a fraction of the time it would take to build them.
Some solutions have licensing fees that will be an additional cost. You often must cancel these manually if you no longer use the product.
You can implement features specifically suited to you that may not be available with off-the-shelf solutions. Customization allows for integrating existing systems and processes into a new platform. It also allows for adaptations to specific requirements and regulations from customers or industry bodies. You can implement features specifically suited to you that may not be available with off-the-shelf solutions.
However, building communications integrations, features, and infrastructure across different channels means managing the schema of each provider. The more providers you (or your customer base) work with, the more nuances you’ll need to deal with for every integration point you build.
Lower initial investment
Building means you won’t have the initial investment to buy a pre-built solution. However, a common misconception is that in-house building projects are a one-time investment with somewhat finite costs. In reality, the time and resources spent building, maintaining, and securing software can often lead to lower returns on investment.
Take the sales engagement platform Reev, for example. Reev needed a solution to enable sales teams to send emails and schedule meetings directly within its platform to streamline the sales process. By opting to build with the help of APIs, Reev was able to add calendaring functionality to its platform within a week. In contrast, attempting to develop this themselves would’ve taken the team over three months, and certain features would’ve only been rolled out to specific segments of customers at different times.
Maintaining updated software solutions requires an ongoing effort from internal technical teams. Your developers must manage any issues or inevitable bugs that are uncovered post-launch.
A McKinsey study reported that software engineers dedicate as much as half their time to ongoing maintenance and issues when working on projects built with large amounts of technical debt (which can occur when building software). This time could be better spent on R&D opportunities and mission-critical objectives.
In addition to monetary investments, a significant amount of time is involved in designing and developing applications — especially ones that integrate into existing systems or require custom APIs/SDKs for third-party integrations. Not only does this increase the project duration, but it also increases operational risks if deadlines are not met.
Longer development cycles
Building reliable software solutions require longer development cycles. All development teams need time to build out even simple software, and the larger the scope and customization requirements, the longer this takes.
Plus, strict quality control and security requirements must be met before releasing any production updates slowing time to market even more.
Business managers and leaders constantly debate about when to build or buy email software. The crux of the discussion lies around the trade-offs between both options.
When to buy email software:
You want to deploy products to market as quickly and securely as possible
You want access to more features, services, and integrations using pre-existing solutions than you can build upon internally
You want to save your engineers time to focus on UI & UX needs, not backend integration options
You’re a small to mid-sized business or fast-growing startup carefully managing your resources
You believe time should be spent on mission-critical work instead of technical bugs and software maintenance
When to build your own email software:
You require closer access to maintenance, support, and updates
You develop advanced and specialized solutions that are hard to find in the current market
The best pre-built solution for email integration is Nylas. The Nylas email API is a powerful tool that allows developers to easily connect their applications with users’ inboxes. It provides bi-directional email capabilities with unmatched deliverability (99.6%) and can connect to 100% of email service providers, such as Google and Microsoft Outlook, in just minutes, unlocking market reach.
Nylas maximizes user engagement by improving productivity across the user journey. Improve retention by launching features and integrations months or years ahead of the competition. Companies save thousands of hours that would otherwise be spent on developing and maintaining their own software–providing more time to focus on advancing their app’s roadmap.
You need to quickly add complex scheduling automation capabilities to your website or application
You want to avoid the ongoing costs and headaches that come with building, upgrading, supporting, and maintaining integrations across providers in your solution
You want security and compliance assurances that will protect user data from hackers and leaks while adhering to regulatory requirements
You would rather let a trusted company secure your integrations while you focus your workforce on more important tasks
When to build calendar software:
You have extensive resources to build out and maintain calendar or scheduling functions for specific calendar providers to meet market demand
You don’t need to respond quickly to customer or market changes
You have cyber security experts on your team
Even if you have extensive resources and development teams, Nylas is the best solution for adding calendar or scheduling capabilities to your application.
Nylas helps you build automated scheduling workflows native to your application, allowing your users to optimize their time and resources more efficiently. Our platform is built for scalability, so you can quickly adapt to increased traffic and performance. You don’t have to worry about ongoing maintenance and infrastructure costs as your business grows.
Our platform also captures calendar data in your application and unlocks valuable insights to build automated user workflows, eliminating siloed data. This way, you can access all your calendar data from one location.
The bottom line on build vs. buy software analysis
There are advantages and disadvantages to both building and buying software. As a business owner, it’s essential to carefully consider the time, cost, security, skillset requirements, and need for customization when making your decision.
We’ll state it plainly: building communications integrations in-house is inefficient and distracts from critical work. When your developers spend more time on backend infrastructure and less on front-end features your customers are using, you’re risking poor engagement, high customer churn, and less adoption.
Building with Nylas’ APIs means you can:
Drive better engagement and deliver best-in-class user experiences
Launch high-quality integrations and features faster than your competitors
Rely on dedicated technical experts to help you plan and execute your integration project
Enhance productivity and drive retention
Unlock market expansion faster by supporting users across various email and calendar providers
Nylas does more than help you save thousands of hours of development time. We offer top-quality solutions that help you bring your communications data together on one platform so you can easily access whatever email or calendar features best fit your needs.
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Erin is a content marketing professional at Nylas, where she creates digital assets that connect the organization to individuals. Before Nylas, she spent eight years working in public relations specializing in corporate communications strategy, B2B/B2C writing and editing, executive thought leadership, and other storytelling. In her free time, she enjoys volleyball, karaoke, and baking.