Define: Make Verses Buy

Make verses buy: The act of building a product for your own internal use as opposed to licensing a pre-existing product.


Organizations with the ability to produce their own products are often tempted to build everything, including the tools they use.  This is most common with software companies.  They have a bank of software developers, some sitting idle awaiting jobs, and the company is tempted to use those resources to build all the tools they use.

I once worked for a software company that wrote their own compilers and debuggers.  For internal use only.  Yikes!  When Microsoft sells compilers for less than a thousand bucks, this doesn’t sound cost effective to me.

Again, the temptation usually stems from developers sitting around on their hands with nothing to do.  Why not put them to work building internal tools?  My opinion: bad idea – almost every time.  Those developers are saving the company very, very little money.  After all, off-the-shelf software is cheap.  So, divide the number of hours they work by the cost of the software, and your developers are only making a dollar an hour.  Better to put them to work in customer support or sales, cold calling for gigs.

The real killer comes when the software they wrote needs bug fixes and maintenance.  Are those same developers still available?  Usually not.  So who pays for the bug fixes?  You.  Was it still cheaper to write your own stuff?  I doubt it…