In today's dynamic and demand-driven market, the need to implement enterprise technology to keep pace with rapidly evolving operational, production and compliance environments is key to success. In recent years, enterprise technology has become more prevalent in its penetration of all operational areas within a business. It has become so prevalent that it is rare to find a department within an organization that does not have a dedicated enterprise software solution to provide some level of support.
In the case of Quality, this statement rings true. In recent years, enterprise software solutions have become commonplace in many organizations, whether integrated Quality Management Systems (QMS), or Quality Management modules within larger production systems, even down to simple point solutions for Document Control or Corrective Action. Recent reports on top software components for organizations show that Quality Management is at the top of the list. In many organizations, Quality Management and QMS systems are a strategic priority. As demand for these solutions grow, so does the vendor landscape - more software vendors are providing solutions for Quality and Compliance Management than ever before.
When determining the strategy for automating a mission critical business process like those in Quality Management Systems, a "Build vs. Buy" choice remains a key decision. Overwhelmingly, organizations have proven the decision to "Buy" provides much greater value and success than the decision to "Build". I have put together a "Top Five" list of things to watch out for in a build vs. buy scenario. Points 1-3 are here; part 2 will cover the final two points...
1. Predictable and Transparent Costs
Developing an enterprise application is no small task, especially when it comes to estimating the cost of development. When you buy a best practice enterprise solution, you evaluate in advance the features, functions, and capabilities in an existing enterprise environment. A known cost is attached to a best practice solution. If you build a new system with alternative development resources, project costs and time to deploy may range widely, affecting the success of the project.
In fact, according to Gartner Research Group, packaged applications with best practice already built in have found favor within many enterprises and are now considered viable choices for many corporate tasks. In fact, corporate edicts have often been established that preclude even a discussion of the build vs. buy process. Therefore, buying a software package with best practices already built in, under all circumstances is the dominant trend.
When evaluating whether to buy or build, it’s critical to thoroughly understand total costs during the software lifecycle -- typically seven or eight years. This step is important, because 70 percent of software costs occur after implementation. A rigorous lifecycle analysis that realistically estimates ongoing maintenance incurred by a custom development project often tips the balance in favor of buying.
2. Flexibility and the Ability to Adapt to Change
Businesses experience constant and rapid changes. Companies change their processes, expand or shrink, and competition drives innovation the market. Application developers often hear "although we needed that a year ago, it's not what we need to run our business today." Add in rapidly changing technology and the adaptability of a homegrown system becomes an issue, and often a system built in-house becomes obsolete before it's complete. A best practice configured application is a production ready application that can be customized for a unique environment within a relatively short timeframe.
Furthermore, having the flexibility to adapt to changes is key to success in response to changing market conditions. With configurable solutions, processes can be changed as needed with little to no additional costs. With custom developed solutions, there is little room for change – if change is required, it can result in hundred of development hours and the project overruns can be steep.
3. Best Practices Experience and Core Business Focus
When determining an enterprise solution, it is important to consider the focus of the organization. How well do the vendors know the business challenges your organization faces? How well versed in best practices is the vendor, and what is their experience in the industry? A vendor who is rooted in these best practices has a broad knowledge base of experience to draw from, whereas a custom development from a vendor outside of the industry will be starting from scratch on how to match your business processes to the application. This can push the scope of the project out, simply because the learning curve on processes and terminology need to be collaborated on. Selecting a vendor with a broad background on a specific industry like Quality Management helps to provide a foundation for building a process that meets your requirements, with a long-standing knowledge base of experience to draw from.
 Taylor, Polly. To build or to buy IT applications InfoWorld Feb. 2006