Monday, February 20, 2006

Buy vs. Build Your Marketing Software

We all have different experiences in life, and these experiences teach us lessons.

One lesson I have learned is to buy marketing automation software instead of trying to build it in-house. There is substantial pain in my learning so you can imagine that it is a very strong lesson I will not soon forget.

This is yet another side to the story of rebuilding the Cincom Systems website.

Two years ago we embarked on the task of building a technology infrastructure to support our corporate website. We looked at the available applications and decided they were too expensive to license, so we went about building our own.

Hindsight giving perfect vision, this was a terrible decision.

The team was too small and their skills in the end were not up to the task.

We began again reviewing the available software applications, finally settling on one solution that we licensed.

We had to shut down the project when it proved impossible to maintain, given the complexity of our new global website. But shutting this down was not easy. The system had fingers into our databases, into our content and into our templates. It was everywhere, and pulling it out was painstaking work ... that had to be done while we were learning a new software application.

The interesting part of this lesson should have been obvious to us from the start ... afterall, Cincom is a software company. We license software applications for manufacturing operations, for contact centers, for database management, for automation and management of complex documents. We frequently talk with prospective customers who are amidst the buy vs. build decision. For those with highly experienced in-house engineering, we offer an application development environment that is second to none -- Smalltalk. But for the rest of us who are mere mortals, pre-built applications make a lot of sense.

I can see now the temptation of the build decision. It seems so much less expensive than to license a completed application. We had visions of saving Cincom a lot of money by building our website infrastructure internally. But in the end, we wasted a lot of time, we made a lot of mistakes, we built something unmanageable. The new application that we licensed does the job superbly well -- all the details have been thought through by the application provider and it has been vetted by many, many other clients.

While it might look expensive to license a software application, in the end it likely will save you money and it will do the job better.

That's my opinion and I'm sticking with it.

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