• The Pride (and Price) of Doing-it-Yourself

Tom Carson Sospes

By: Thomas Carson

March 19, 2020

Sospes sells software – darn good software if I may say so.  Occasionally we have discussions with companies who decide that rather than buy a commercial product they will build it themselves. For a number of reasons, I always smile, nod and cringe inside when I hear this.

Not that I don’t appreciate the sense of self-sufficiency one achieves when successfully completing a home-grown project.  By the time I was in junior high school, my brother and I were totally enamored with motor vehicles – any kind of motor vehicles.  My parents were not inclined to help out here, so we decided to build our own little go-karts. With no shortage of lumber scraps to work with, and two lawn mower motors scrounged from who knows where, we applied all the design and engineering skills of a 13-year-old and pretty soon each had our own motor cars. They included such daring innovations as rope-controlled steering, binary throttle control (on or off – nothing gradual here) and a hand brake that stopped (sort of) by scraping on the ground when applied. With the passage of time, I can admit that Car & Driver was never going to recognize us as design prodigies, but we rode, not walked!  What a feeling…

But I digress. The real point is, if you are going to build it yourself, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.  Cost savings are rarely a good justification. The annual, all-in costs of a well-chosen commercial EH&S software solution for a medium-size company amount to a small fraction of the annual cost of a qualified developer. For a good summary of the costs and trade-offs of developing an app, check out: https://www.cleveroad.com/blog/how-much-does-it-cost-to-create-an-app.

Another explanation we hear is along the line of, “Our business is so unique that there simply are no systems available that would work for our environment.” Well, maybe if your company is mining rare earth metals on asteroids and shipping product outside the solar system, I will give you that one. But for everyone else, contemporary software products have been largely designed to flexibly solve contemporary problems. This might be a good time to review your company’s processes and procedures to see how closely they conform to industry best practices.

When my brother and I set out to “build our own”, we were two bored teenagers with plenty of time and no money seeking an adventure. Your criteria for how to automate and streamline your business processes will hopefully be centered around choosing a trusted, capable partner with whom to work on your project, not how to fill the idle hours of your teenage children.

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