Whether you’re a small digital health startup determining your software needs for the first time, or a seasoned health care organization whose current solution isn’t meeting business demands, the conversation will inevitably reach the crossroads of “build versus buy.”

There are a number of considerations to make when choosing one path over the other: what are the costs, risks, advantages, and downstream effects of buying an off-the-shelf solution, or creating your own? What is the problem you are trying to solve with software and its scope? There are pros and cons to both building and buying your software solution depending on your business needs.

What are your business needs?

Before you commit to a decision, you have to first do some information gathering to better understand what you want and need, compared to what resources are available to you to achieve these business goals.

Questions that will need to be answered include:

  • How customized are your needs?
  • What are your integration needs- can an off-the-shelf solution support them?
  • What are your financial and staff resources for the foreseeable future? Can you afford to buy or build software? How quickly do you need this tool?
  • How do you anticipate your business growing (and how quickly)?

How customized are your needs?
One of the reasons companies choose to build custom software is because they require a tool that can support their unique or complex use cases. Software isn’t “one size fits all,” and if the options on the market can’t conform to your business, it’s worth considering developing an in-house solution. If an off-the-shelf tool can solve your problems with little to no tinkering, it makes sense to buy rather than commit your resources to a custom build.

What are your integration needs- can an off-the-shelf solution support them?
Speaking of customization, ensuring that your new software can work well with your existing systems will undoubtedly drive your decision-making. Are the off-the-shelf options compatible with your other tools? If not, the cost to time and productivity in attempting a workaround may be better spent by investing in building your own tool that will adapt to your systems.

What are your financial and staff resources for the foreseeable future? Can you afford to buy or build software? How quickly do you need this tool?
Deciding between an off-the-shelf or in-house solution, of course, assumes that your staff has the technical prowess to create, launch, and maintain the quality of your proprietary tool. If you’re not confident they can, buying software is a logical choice. Even if you’re footing the bill for a systems integrator and maintenance, an off-the-shelf solution is almost always cheaper and faster than building your own: “If you need an immediate solution to the problem the software will solve, buying third-party software will speed up deployment, ensure a faster reaction time, and give you the confidence of a guaranteed timeline,” according to business2community.

However, if you have a team that can create the software you need, is the cost worth the benefits? Beyond sinking engineering time into building and testing custom software, they will also be responsible for maintaining and updating it long-term, driving up the overall cost for an in-house solution. What projects will come at the expense of your custom tool and its upkeep, and how does that figure into your investment? Additionally, developing your own solution requires that your timeframe to launch is generous. If you don’t need this software soon, this option makes good business sense. But if your business suffers without the solution in place, that adds to the total debt of building your own tool.

How do you anticipate your business growing (and how quickly)?
When mulling over how software can address your current problems, it’s important to keep your longitudinal business goals in focus. Are the options available on the market flexible enough to support your future needs, in addition to your present ones? Will your roadmap impact building your own solution in terms of updating your tool or monopolizing engineering hours?

Relying on a third party for bug fixes, integrations, data access, and security can seem risky. You have to trust that the vendor you choose will transmit data between your systems and scale at the rate your business demands. You need to know your business is in good hands.

The best of both worlds

Ceding control of your environment can be a risk; however, the choice to “build versus buy” doesn’t have to be so diametrically opposed—it’s about balancing costs and risk. It’s costly to build software from scratch, but building upon software designed for your problems is not. You still benefit from the advantages of a quick and less expensive deploy, but with the ability to customize your tool so it supports your needs—whenever they change.

Welkin’s goal is to provide you with great software for running your programs and services, while putting the power in your hands to make it adapt to you. Instead of shoehorning your business processes to conform to our solution, Welkin’s Workshop offers a set of tools to build, test, and modify changes to your programs, without writing a line of code or depending on any custom engineering time from us.

Both HIPAA compliant and SOC 2 certified, we understand what health care organizations need and can ensure there are no obstacles in your path to scale. Welkin’s public-facing API connects to most systems and our customers always have access and control over their data.

When you’re ready to make a software decision to drive your business forward, you don’t necessarily have to choose between build or buy. You can choose the solution that empowers you to customize it at your convenience, with your goals top of mind.