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4 Questions to Ask When Deciding to Buy or Build

Companies invest roughly $1.94 million on average for each B2B tech purchase. With this much money on the line, it’s critical that you consider a variety of factors in your decision. How will your platform fit into your organization’s business strategy? How will the platform be supported by IT? How will all of your systems work together?

The decision process for selecting a commerce solution is no exception. When identifying the path forward, businesses often face a dilemma: to buy a purpose-built solution that already exists on the market or build a custom commerce platform. Purpose-built solutions are enterprise systems that enable businesses to scale their commerce offerings based on industry and customer needs. On the other hand, a custom-built solution often puts a single need at the core of construction, such as shopping cart functionality or invoice and catalog management. Custom-built solutions are often preferred by businesses that believe this will help them maintain complete control of the process and tailor the platform to their unique needs.

Many B2B decision makers that take a purpose-built approach look to Salesforce AppExchange for solutions that meet their business needs. This marketplace houses more than 3,000 applications for enterprises and small businesses to run marketing, sales, IT, commerce, collaboration, and analytics, among other tasks. Many solutions on the AppExchange are built on the Salesforce platform and allow your organization to gain the holistic customer view and robust data provided by Salesforce’s cloud-based CRM, ensuring more informed customer interactions, strong technical support, and scalability.

Purpose-built solutions within the Salesforce ecosystem will ensure your organization gets the most out of its investments. But before you decide to buy a purpose-built application or build a custom commerce system, consider the resources you have available and the goals of your commerce program overall.

If you’re deciding whether to build or buy, ask yourself these four questions first. They’ll help you identify the requirements and resources necessary for your endeavor, including in your interest is in B2B commerce.

What initial functionality is needed? Do you need the functionality to scale long term?

Think about the short and long game by taking stock of the current challenges you need to solve, but also how your customer, business and market needs will likely change over time. Will your solution accommodate your needs today? Are you able to update your platform quickly and easily if needed?

If there are specific and immediate pain points to address, it’s best to start with a solution that is tailored directly to those needs. Custom-built solutions help organizations hone in on specific and pressing issues. However, market and customer needs will shift over time, and custom-built solutions don’t offer the flexibility to quickly adapt with them. If you want your solution to scale, you’ll need a more flexible, easily extendible purpose-built solution.

Is there a strict timeline?

Identify key target dates and the severity of the consequences if they’re missed. Is there an immediate need or do you have flexibility to accommodate delays and other roadblocks like employee turnover or new feature requirements?

While custom-built solutions have the perception of freedom and flexibility to move at your desired pace, many businesses find they have to staff and train a whole new team to develop their system and get it to market. Unexpected delays from developer turnover or a change in priorities can significantly delay the projected timeline. But with a purpose-built solution, you’ll get out-of-the-box functionality that will help you get to market quickly and easily configure new features along the way.

Do you have strong technical support within your organization?

Consider the amount of technical support you employ internally. Do they have the bandwidth to dedicate significant time to development and continued maintenance of your organization’s platform such as software updates and bug fixes?

IT departments consistently experience high developer turnover, which makes it difficult to maintain the necessary level of support and puts the custom-built solution at risk. But internal developers aren’t necessary when you purchase a purpose-built solution, eliminating the risk of churn.

Will you need to outsource functional expertise?

The knowledge and skills to develop an extensible, performant solution is specialized. Take stock of the expertise in your organization that is available to lead strategy and implementation, as well as ongoing adaptations for commerce products and features.

An advanced B2B commerce solution, for example, requires highly specialized knowledge for effective development. A custom-built approach requires internal expertise that understands, and can execute on, the entire commerce ecosystem. When you buy a purpose-built solution, you have invested in a fully-staffed development team that will implement, support and maintain your solution.

Still have questions? Consider this story of a B2B commerce solution.

One brand’s journey to a purpose-built Salesforce solution

A multi-billion dollar distributor needed an online ordering solution for its business buyers and selected an open-source solution for its perceived low cost and ability to customize. The company quickly needed to scale its development team to over two dozen people to support the solution and required four additional software applications to provide core functionality. These software and developer resources eroded the value of the open source commerce platform, as the costs ballooned to double that of a purpose-built B2B solution. CloudCraze allowed the company to reduce its IT footprint, focus on its customer and business needs, and ensure stability by leveraging Salesforce, the world’s most trusted cloud platform.

With B2B commerce expected to become a $1 trillion industry by 2020, organizations must act now to capture their share of the market. Purpose-built solutions that offer robust functionality, faster implementation times, lower costs to develop and maintain, and minimize disruption to internal operations will provide a greater and quicker return on investment.

For more tools to help you decide whether to custom-build your platform or buy a purpose-built solution, check out the AppExchange's retail collection of apps and read Buy or Build: The B2B Commerce Roadmap.

Ray Grady is President and Chief Customer Officer (CCO) of CloudCraze.

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