Buy vs Build – are you deciding between a SaaS or customised solution?

Buy vs Build – are you deciding between a SaaS or customised solution?

Software as a Service (SaaS) has exploded in use by businesses in recent years. An IDC study shows the average business uses 16 SaaS apps on average, and almost three-quarters of them say that most of their software will be SaaS by 2020. But should you still consider customer solutions?

SaaS is a software distribution model. It works by utilising a third-party provider that makes the applications available to a business over the internet. It’s a key feature of cloud computing. And it’s often all a business might need. However, that doesn’t prevent business owners and managers from thinking that a customised solution – one that’s been built from the ground up, specifically for a business – is the way to go.

It’s a classic buy vs build situation. A simple analogy is that you have an important event to attend – and are considering having an outfit designed and made just for you. It’s very expensive, and it’s also time-consuming because you need to be fitted for the garment. And when all is said and done, you might only wear it a few times.

The other option is to buy off-the-rack. You can get a very similar garment for a fraction of the cost, and there’s nothing stopping you from customising it – letting down a hem there, taking in a seam there – so that it meets your specific requirements. You haven’t blown the budget, you’re not spending a long time waiting for it to be made and it looks fantastic. It does the job.

Apply this analogy to a SaaS solution versus a custom-built option. And if you’re still wondering which is best for your business, there are some key factors to take into consideration.

  1. How unique is your business problem?
    The first question to ask yourself is: how unique is my business problem? It’s important to identify the pain points and how you want to address them. For instance, are you the only business that might be faced with this particular problem? Or do you keep thinking “there must be an app for this”?
  2. What additional value is there in a custom solution?
    It’s important to take into account what additional value you’ll be adding if you have a custom solution built rather than picking one off the shelf. In other words, would an off-the-shelf SaaS offering that meets 90-95% of your functional requirements be worth it, rather than going through the process and (sometimes) hassle of a bespoke development option? Weigh up how quickly you need to address your business problem and decide if the faster, SaaS solution is the better one.
  3. How often do your requirements change?
    The next factor to consider is how your requirements might change over time. If you think they’ll remain reasonably static, then a SaaS solution will probably do what you need it to. With a customised solution, you’ll face the ongoing cycle of meeting user needs, making design improvements and implementing the release updates. These all add to the ongoing cost for custom development software. If you’re go with a SaaS option, product design improvements and updates are all handled for you, making life a breeze.
  4. What competitive edge do you want?
    The competitive advantage you’re seeking to gain is also a key factor. Is this a business application that will deliver significant competitive advantage (i.e. need to be quite differentiated from what other businesses in your sector might use) or is it a tool that is more focussed on driving process automation and efficiency? If it’s the latter, then a SaaS solution is probably the better choice.
  5. What are your infrastructure requirements?
    Your system infrastructure, security and scale are also important to take into account if you’re considering a custom-built solution. Essentially, take a look at the big picture – consider the ongoing costs (both capital and operational costs) for any software project. Who’s going to manage the infrastructure, the software (both OS and database) and who’s going to take control of the overarching security?

It’s also important to identify who’s going to design and maintain the production, test and development environments, as well as overseeing disaster recovery. With a SaaS offering, you don’t need to worry about these aspects, but a customised solution means they’re essential considerations.

Finally, think about the cost predictability for a custom developed solution versus a SaaS offering. The last thing you want is to end up like so many businesses you read about whose software projects quickly got out of control and ended up costing 200-500% more than the originally approved budget. Predicting these costs can be very tricky with custom software due to its volatile nature. Clearly, a SaaS solution is much more predictable in this area.

At iViis, SaaS is how we have always delivered our solutions. But don’t be misled by the “off-the-shelf” connotations; each of our SaaS solutions is highly customisable. Based on your business needs and the pain points that need addressing, we can tailor each of our options so that it’s the perfect fit for your business needs. And it gets done so much faster, and at a fraction of the cost of a solution that’s been built from the ground up.

If you’re keen to find out more about how our SaaS, customisable solutions can help your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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