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Build or Buy or Both?

Saw this article To build or to buy IT applications? by Polly Traylor in InfoWorld.

The article lays out some of the decision points for those trying to decide between building and buying application software. Reading this it seemed to me that for many organizations, especially those working on an SOA approach, a combination of bought applications and custom development using business rules might be perfect.

So how would this work?

  • Buy commercial software to automate the core processes and manage the data. Best practices and standard approaches will probably be fine.
  • Using business rules to inject "intelligence" into those processes by automating the key decision points - which discount to apply, what product to offer, which policy to underwrite etc. This means you use an industry-standard approach with unique, company-specific decisions.

Where custom processing is required business rules are perfect - they get the business more involved, give you flexibility and minimize the future cost of change. This allows you to get the benefit of custom development - uniqueness, specificity etc. - while still allowing you to get cost-effective processing from standard applications and without committing you to a large amount of ongoing maintenance work.

There's more on this in my Legacy Modernization section.

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Polly Traylor

It seems that this is a smart approach....and one validated by many of the CIOs I spoke with for the piece. Building systems from scratch seems to be a last-resort situation (due to cost and maintenance) unless you're in a unique situation where there are simply no vendors to serve you for your specific requirements (a.k.a. Visa). Hybrid approaches (buy and build components), modernizing legacy systems through Web services, and customizing or adding onto commercial applications through Web services allow companies to get the best of both worlds: cost-effectiveness and specialized applications for their particular industry.
Seems like the options are getting more and more complex yet increasingly, a buyer's market, with more flexibility all around...

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