The Classic Tech Question: To Buy Or To Build?

Omnichannel

To deliver a first-class customer experience requires a powerful combination of people, processes and technology. All are equally important and without any of the three, an organisation will struggle to provide its customer with the contextual, omnichannel experience that is so desirable in 2016.

The people and processes elements of customer experience can be addressed another time – for now, I am going to focus on getting the technology right. There are a number of important technologies involved in customer experience, both back-end and customer-facing. But in terms of the overall customer experience management platform to bring it all together, the main question organisations must ask is ‘to buy, or to build?’

Could ‘Build’ Be A Fatal Mistake For A Business?

This is a question that has been asked many different times about many different types of technology. Both have their place, but in the current market, unless there is a case where security encryption requirements are at a very sophisticated level, I would suggest that to build is a great folly for a majority of organisations, and potentially a significant mistake.

The main issues that first spring to mind, are the expense of building a system from scratch, and also the sheer time involved. Constructing a new platform is highly expensive and can take an inordinately long time to complete. There is also the important issue of opportunity cost. In nearly every sector imaginable, a consumer’s behaviour is a long way ahead of a brand’s ability to innovate and deliver transformational changes in what is often a very large and complex organisation.

So building a technology platform can see a company fall even further behind what consumers are doing, a risky proposition in a fast-paced business world. It’s a similar story with younger or high-growth firms. They will have identified a niche in the market and to exploit that to its full potential it needs to execute at pace and get the business to scale as rapidly as possible, without losing sight of the qualities that got it there.

‘Buy’ Is The Smart Option

As a motoring enthusiast, I can’t help think about the luxury car market. In the not too distant past, high end luxury cars were invariably built to order. Yet today, even Rolls Royce and Bentley are pursuing ‘mass customisation’ and platform sharing with more mainstream offerings.

The same is true with technology. Billions of dollars have been spent on researching and creating best in class applications for almost every industry sector and many which are truly industry agnostic. So whichever technology you are after, whether that’s a customer experience management platform or something else entirely, there is almost certainly an option out there already that suits your requirements down to the ground.

When making the decision, it is also important to not underestimate the integration and programme management challenges that come with building a technology. They will be considerable in terms of effort, resource and overall spend, so buying technology has an additional benefit, of affecting a large scale operating model change, where the new technology is used as a driver to simplify overall operations.

How To Go About It

Having made the decision to buy not build, it is important to go about it in the right way. Engaging with a small list of boutique integrators with a deep understanding of the technology and echo system is a smart move, and will pay short and long term dividends.

A focus on architecture will ensure the maximum level of flexibility in the enterprise. Any business will grow, adapt and evolve overtime, and an M&A for example is something that will undoubtedly deliver new applications and infrastructure to connect to/with.

Data is growing more important, almost by the day, so this must never be forgotten in a technology implementation. Some of the most innovative and sophisticated propositions can either be undermined or prove impossible to deliver and maintain, because organisations find it impossible to manage their own multiple data sources.

The data necessary to run a business, and quantify customer and productivity can often be challenging to access as a result of lack of data integrity/structure and associated layered complexity. So for any bought in technology, it must be able to address this. That usually means having a Chief Data Officer on board, and getting the data strategy right is absolutely key.

Finally it’s all about pace and quality of execution, so always partner with people who understand the journey you are on or are about to embark upon.

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Mike Hughes

Mike Hughes is MD at PeopleTECH. Mike has a proven track record in demonstrating a deep understanding of the people, technology and processes required to deliver a 21st century customer experience.