Cloud Digital Transformation

Architecting for Agility

Architecting for Agility

Buy vs. Build in the API Economy

Buy versus build is one of the oldest debates in the software industry. Build proponents swear by the customization and control of in-house solutions, whereas advocates for buy praise the speed and low maintenance requirements of off-the-shelf software. But today’s businesses need speed and tech differentiation to succeed in this fast-paced, digital economy.

Fortunately, technological advancements like cloud-based systems, SaaS solutions and open APIs have cleared the way for leaner development methodologies that favor precision, speed and modularity. It’s no longer a question of buying or building but of how you can buy to build.

Always Start with Buy

Historically, building proprietary technology was seen as a cost-saving measure for the C-suite and a point of pride for developers, but as we learned from “Jurassic Park,” just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. There are so many well-established solutions available today. You don’t need to waste resources building a CRM or security solution when quality off-the-shelf options exist. Save your engineering resources to give you a competitive advantage in areas where your business truly differentiates.

Stick to SaaS and Open API

Because of this buy-first mentality, any solutions you buy must be customizable. SaaS solutions that are cloud-based and utilize published open APIs provide your tech team with solid foundations that they can build on top of with their own code. This removes the concern that you will never find the perfect solution when buying off-the-shelf. With SaaS and open API solutions, you don’t need to; instead, you can buy a solution that gets you 80% to perfect and then build that last 20% in-house.

Keep Builds Lean and Mean

With your bought solutions taking the bulk of the tech lift, your developers can hone in on what makes your business different and spend more time developing innovative solutions. For example, the freight industry’s pricing and arrival times are significant differentiators. Instead of spending the time to build an entire transportation management system, our company bought a commercially available solution that covered our basic needs, and focused on building our pricing engines and time of arrival calculations that we could then bolt on.

Put Your Resources Where You Stand Out

Your tech resources should focus on areas that make you truly stand out – even if tech isn’t your differentiator. If providing A+ customer service makes you different from the competition, then leverage your tech team to make customer service operations as smooth as possible. Look for ways to make customer data more connected and create APIs that connect different channels for a more seamless experience.

Laying the Groundwork for Future Tech

With this approach, you can create a simplified, connected tech stack that requires less maintenance for your engineering team, freeing them up to assist other parts of your business with innovating bigger and better ways to do business. You also create a tech stack that can evolve along with technology. By only implementing solutions and platforms that utilize open APIs, you create a modular system that can be added to as technology and business needs evolve.

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Daragh Mahon

Daragh Mahon, EVP & Chief Information Officer, Werner Enterprises

Daragh Mahon is the EVP and CIO of Werner Enterprises, where he leads Werner’s global IT strategy, operations, and innovation. Mahon has more than 20 years of IT and strategic leadership experience, previously serving as SVP of Global IT ... More   View all posts


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Daragh Mahon


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