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Develop from scratch or using third-party software?

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Building a feature from scratch or using third-party software isn’t always an easy choice, especially in Startups. It is even more challenging when you have fewer financial and staffing resources. This is when every decision is counted and affects the business as a whole. Let’s see how we can tackle this to some extent.

There are a couple of points that you can consider before deciding on similar scenarios, especially when the stakes are high. These points are the lessons I learned over the years, and pick the top ones to share with you.

Understand the business value. The business here is not only restricted to the economic aspect. To start discovering how to choose a suitable feature development strategy, it all begins with understanding the value of the feature in your business.

To tackle software challenges, it’s always essential to have a clear picture of your organizational priorities. In our case, a simple definition of business value is the impact of the feature on all forms of value that determines the health of the organization. In software companies, it can translate into multiple things such as better performance, better usability, more availability of service, tighter security, or even better team agility. These are all business values. Some of them are more important in specific organizations and some less.

A simple definition of business value in our case is the impact of the feature on all forms of value that determines the health of the organization. In software companies can translate into multiple things such as better performance, better usability, more availability of service, tighter security or even better team agility.

It’s essential to have a clear picture of your organization’s above values and priorities, especially if you are a startup. Small business tolerance of mistakes is usually low, and it can lead to the startup’s failure at some point. There is a higher tolerance for mistakes in larger companies when a wrong decision is taken.

Measure the correlation between business value and your resources. The correlation between the feature’s business value and the time the development team needs to invest is a crucial point to measure before jumping into the development. The more your feature business values go up and become a need for your revenue funnel, the more your team should invest their resources.

Have a clear overview of organization size and policies. Various things might limit your decision-making, such as company policies, software licensing, or staffing. Take note of them.

How complete is good enough? In today’s software industry, it means many things when we talk about third-party. It can be an Open Source Software (OSS) package, managed services by various cloud providers like Amazon and Google, a mix of the last two, and comes with a more straightforward UI to get the job done or other combinations. As you can see, we can leverage these options and pick the one that fits our needs.

Sometimes picking up a ready service with zero development is a good choice as long as your business does not depend on it too much. And some other time, it’s better you pick up a managed service, integrate it with your app, and build a simple UI to start with. This at least gives you the power of scaling whenever you need to do it, based on your business needs and many other factors that you might miss to calculate at the start.