When faced with a new technology need, should you build your own software – or stitch together solutions already available on the market? It’s easier (and cheaper) than ever to do the latter. But before calling up your CTO or signing up for the SaaS product you read about this morning, figure out which is really the better option for your business.
I asked 7 entrepreneurs from YEC what they thought were the most important factors to consider when making this choice.
When considering building new technology to serve his or her business vs. using an existing SaaS product, what is the most important factor an entrepreneur should consider?
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Their best answers are below:
1. Whether Your Business Could Survive Without It
You need to ensure you own the technology if your business could potentially fail without that product and you can’t easily replace one vendor with another. Also, if your requirements need heavy customization that aren’t easily replaced by an off-the-shelf product, you should build your own.
2. Internal Versus Client Use
What will you use this software for? If it’s for customer or fan use and there’s a good SaaS solution, then partnering or white labeling is the smart play.
Most SaaS products are for internal company use only. If there’s a good SaaS solution that does what you need, then use it. Your company resources can be more profitably used solving other problems, not ones there are already good solutions for.
3. Are the Features Essential to the Success of Your Business?
Many SaaS products are highly customizable and provide a wide range of services. If you require something specific to your business that can’t come out of a box, then it’s time to consider building a new technology. If this is the case, then you have a great opportunity ahead of you. And chances are, someone out there is looking for a way to meet those needs as well.
4. Can an Existing SaaS Serve as a Buffer?
If you could potentially go either way, an existing SaaS can be an excellent stopgap while you build your own custom solution. Employing the SaaS in your daily workflow will allow you to see exactly where it works or doesn’t work for your unique situation, and you’ll have a much clearer picture of what you want to build.
Or you might find that the existing solution fits your needs better than you thought. The SaaS provider may even be willing to work with you to customize their solution for your needs.
5. Cost Versus Value
It’s incredibly expensive to build and sustain an effective software tool. Weigh the value and costs of building your own with subscribing to another SaaS product. If there aren’t sufficient tools to support your needs, and it’s absolutely necessary to build your own product, then it might be worth the investment.
Otherwise, it may be a better option to use an existing SaaS product.
6. Will It Scale?
In many cases, your business needs can change quicker than you can develop matching solutions. That said, it’s important to consider whether or not a homegrown tool will suffice long term.
A provider that’s dedicated to building a specific product exclusively is likely going to be your best bet as you scale, unless you have incredibly particular needs that even specialty services cannot fulfill. Sometimes, your SaaS provider might even build in functionality you’ll love but didn’t anticipate.
7. Quality of the SaaS Product
When you’re looking for a solution it can feel like all SaaS platforms are the same. Their websites, their instructional videos, etc are often very similar. However, there can be an enormous difference in quality from product to product.
When doing your research, use the website G2Crowd. This is like “Yelp for Saas.” Use these ratings as a guide when beginning your search; I’ve found them to be pretty accurate.