Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Trap of the New and Non-existent

alternative title: Buy vs Build vs Improve

The buy-vs-build argument is well-known by any business which has ever needed some software to fulfill a requirement.
Typically it boils down to something like:
  • Buying is cheaper, but gets you only 80% of what you wanted. Customising it might be able to get you closer, and support is available at a price.
  • Building will get you to 100% of what you wanted, but is a lot more expensive. However, you can save on support (by handling it in-house).
There are two other options missing here. The first is to decide you don't need the software - arguably the best option, if available. Assuming you do have a legitimate need, the other option is to improve what you already have.

Ask yourself, how is the problem being solved currently? If it's really a problem that needs solving, chances are it has already been solved - albeit with bits of string and a big roll of duct tape.

Perhaps eliminating the duct tape and just using some glue and nails would be better. For example, writing a script to do a download, some munging, and an upload to another service. Maybe you don't need to build the two services into one, but just an intermediate application.

New and shiny things are attractive, and don't carry the emotional baggage of the past. Look past your emotions, and see if there's something there valuable enough to keep.

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