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Build or Buy?

Ah, one of the great arguments of all time. Should we buy it or should we build it? Well, it's probably not that great of an argument, but I'll bet you've been in some heated discussions on the value of either side of the debate. If not, let's start one now.

Sometimes, like it or not, it's more cost-effective to spend the cash and pay someone else to build the thing for you. Why? Your crew is busy doing other jobs, they don't have the competence to build the thing you need, or your organization doesn't want to take the risk of creating the thing in-house. Lots of reasons.

Other times, like when your project team is lounging by the company pool sipping pinot noir and snacking on spaghetti, it's ideal to put them back to work building something. Again, there are lots of reasons why it may be better to build versus buy, or the other way around.

But sometimes it's purely a price decision. Here's the deal: Let's say that if your organization builds a piece of software, it'll cost $45,000 to create and then $4,500 each month to support. Now, a vendor says they'll only charge you $23,000 to build the initial product, but they'll need $6,500 each month to support it as part of the deal.

Hmmm... so what's a project manager to do?


Here's how it works: Take your build option of $45,000 and subtract the vendor's quote of $23,000. The difference is $22,000. Now take the monthly support fees of the vendor, $6,500, and subtract your lesser in-house fees of $4,500. The difference is $2,000.

Now, drum roll please, divide the initial out-of-pocket expense difference of $22,000 by the monthly support fees difference of $2,000 and you'll get 11.

Eleven what?

Well, 11 in Blackjack means double down. Here it means that you can pay for the out-of-pocket expenses of creating the software in-house in 11 months. So, Copernicus, if your software creation will exist for less than 11 months, hire the vendor to do the work for you. If your solution will be around longer than 11 months, and price is the only factor, build the software yourself.

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