“To Buy or To Build” - Heresy or the First Question a Software Developer Should Ask?

The Woodlands, TX - July 08, 2013 - Last month the epic software group celebrated its 23rd year in business. When I launched the company back in 1990, just about any application our clients wanted required us to design and code it from scratch - typically in C or Visual Basic.  Developing software can be time consuming, expensive, and if the project gets completed, the code must be updated and maintained.  
Over the years the epic software group has evolved from a hardcore software company to one focused on 3D animation, multimedia development, video, and commercial industrial photography. So on any given day I will get a call from an entrepreneur or company with the need for an app they want us to build.  When I talk with the caller, the first question I ask them is..."Have you looked to see if someone has already developed software for this purpose?" Silence usually follows.
That gives me a chance to do a quick search, and I will typically find a program available that already does what this person is looking to do.  I tell them about the program(s) and in many cases, that is the last time I hear from the caller.
Below is a case study example of why asking this simple question can save you lots of money, and deliver an excellent user experience for your client.
A couple of years ago, my wife decided she wanted to own a vacation rental property in an area of the Texas Hill Country that we have vacationed at for years. She did her homework and found the perfect property – a little over 2.5 acres with 400’ of river frontage, with views to die for.  The property consisted of a large Main House, a Riverside Cottage, and a Log Cabin.  When full, it sleeps 24 and rents for $1,300-$1,750/night. We purchased the property and spent the next six months totally refurbishing it.
My wife handled all of the design and decorating tasks while I turned my attention to marketing.  At epic we have a web development team in place, so we could build any kind of web site she wanted.  I started by asking myself the "Buy vs. Build" question. Since most of our work is for technical products and services, I did some quick searches to see what others were doing with vacation rental web sites.  
I wanted to see where the bar was set and I bumped into a web site that just floored me - Hollywood Hills Villa. A link at the bottom of their page took me to the MyVR.com home page.  The MyVR.com sample gallery was better than anything else I had seen, but I almost fell off my chair when I saw what they were charging for a full featured template based web site: $12/Month including hosting!  Impossible – but I figured since they had a 30 day trial I would give it a try.
While the site is template based, several pages allow for HTML code, so we were able to customize it with some cool features.  When the trial came to an end, I took advantage of the half price first month special, and then contracted for a full year of service. Since my wife was already planning to list with VRBO, the $75 rebate offered by MyVR.com for a VRBO listing made it a “no brainer." Her site www.edgewater-retreat.com came live in May, and the response has been incredible.
For me to take my team off other projects to build a Vacation Rental website, whenever something as powerful and robust as MyVR.com is available for just a few dollars a month would not be a smart business decision.  We used the money we saved on web development for panoramic and still photography. We also produced a video that tells the story of the property. MyVR also has templates to quickly build ads for Craigslist so we are running free ads in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
So, when you need a new application for your next project ask yourself these questions:
  • What are my specific needs?
  • What "off the shelf" applications are available and will they fit my needs?
  • Will this program be for a "mission critical" application, or require "extensive customization"?
  • Who will manage and maintain the code? What resources do we have "in-house" vs. those of the COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) vendor?
  • What is the expected lifetime cost of a commercial application vs. building one from scratch?
 Each case has to be looked at individually. For us, the MyVR.com SaaS (Software as a Service) solution was the best way to go.


Category: Web,