Buy vs build: 11-point decision framework

Buy vs Build. A question that is pretty common with companies ranging from startups to corporations. With my experience in companies at both the scale, here are my humble insights that could save you an indefinite number of meetings, thinking loops, series of internal discussions and indefinite project delays.

Buy vs build dilemma
Buy Vs Build (Image credit: AKFPartners)

Key topics:

  1. When do you do buy vs build?
  2. 11-point Framework for buy vs build
  3. Your thinking — misconceptions
  4. Your worries
  5. When to stop on the indefinite thinking of build vs buy ?
  6. When to Act?

When do you do buy vs build?

When/why do you arrive at this conundrum? There can be various reasons , such as , when your company:

  1. plans to start a new project, or
  2. the cost of maintaining the existing project in-house is turning out to be a costlier affair than expected, or
  3. company realizes that building and maintaining something in a longer run doesn’t fall under the core values of the company.

11-point framework

How do you resolve this problem? You must be rushing to resolve the problem.

First examine the problem, then resolve it.

I would examine this problem from these perspectives:

  1. Cost of buy vs build

How much does your current solution cost? How much does the new solution cost? In literal dollars (rough costs are also fine, dollars are not the only cost, there will be other costs too — for example: inefficiencies , that cannot be calculated. So a rough $ cost is also fine.)

2. Availability of desired features in the solution that you’re buying

Does your tool have the features that you’re looking for? What if you dont know the full features now? (Answered in the next blog)

3. Extensibility of the solution that you’re buying

Extensibility to build your own custom features, if the solution doesn’t offer you what you want.

4. Solution available vs resources available

Do you have the right resources to maintain the solution that you’re going to buy

5. Migration pains vs Long-term vision

Is it worth the migration pain from current solution to the new solution, does it fall under the company’s long-term view?

6. Customer service — SLA and Pricing ?

Does the new solution have a good customer service availability. What’s their SLA if there’s any technical issue on your side?

What is the pricing norms of this customer service? (AWS has pay-as-you-go vs GCP has pay-per-month)

7. Community or forum

Is there a good community/forum available to post your issues and get resolution from the members. (Example: Google cloud community)

8. Knowledge documentation

Is there a proper knowledge documentation available to deal with the issues or learn more about your solution (Example: AWS documentation)

9. Account manager availability

Is there an account manager available for you to escalate your issues or quickly resolve issues that are easier. So you save time not waiting for the customer service or the solution’s tech team. (Example: AWS, Azure or others have account managers for big companies)

10. Plugins

Are there enough plugins available if you want add more custom features to your solution? (Example: Shopify has many plugins, AWS has lot of plugins for having a pre-built EC2 with MYSQL or Linux on it)

11. Pick the company that suits your organization

For every problem there are multiple solutions available and multiple companies implement these solutions. Pick which one suits you the best. Example: For building an ecommerce platform there are Shopify, Bigcommerce, woocommerce etc. What is Shopify’s motto — to help rookies put up the store quickly. What is Big Commerce’s motto — to help programmers put up the store quickly with maximum number of features readily available. If you’re a non-tech company choose Shopify. Picking Big commerce solution would be inappropriate as their core focus for solution is different and they might not change it in the near future or forever.

Your thinking — misconceptions

But can you draw clear distinct lines between each of these 11-points and arrive at the perfect solution from the word — GO !

NO, You cannot.

The above factors just provide a high-level framework. You can arrive at the best solution only know by getting your hands dirty and testing your hypothesis.

Once you read this 11-point framework and start applying it to your solution , you will face so many other questions. For example..

  1. so what are my requirements for the new tool.
  2. what if my requirements change tomorrow?
  3. will the tool/solution that I buy, suit my new requirements?

… and so on..

How do you tackle this? When do you stop thinking? When do you act? Read here:




Life is transient. A PM, a Startup founder, was an SDE. Lived & worked in USA, Canada & India. Love startups/Data? Let’s talk:

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Ram Pulipati

Ram Pulipati

Life is transient. A PM, a Startup founder, was an SDE. Lived & worked in USA, Canada & India. Love startups/Data? Let’s talk:

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