December 4th, 2020
Self-Service Software Development and Delivery Platform: Buy vs. Build
The recent State of DevOps 2020 Report released by Puppet highlights several areas, including how organizations that utilize internal platforms have a high level of maturity in software development and delivery. We agree and have believed this is the right approach for some time, as we built Guide-Rails® – a platform available as an off-the-shelf solution.
The report mentions how treating the platform as a product instead of a finite project is important, focusing on outcomes instead of capabilities. We will take this a step further to share thoughts on why buying a product can make more sense than building. For example, the report cites challenges to providing an internal platform as lack of time, standardization and technical skills; these are all areas we address.
Time to Build
Starting from scratch and taking the product approach when building a platform requires creating a dedicated team, and giving them the necessary time:
– Finding a new employee takes on average 36 days, given the special skills required for this effort it will probably take longer to find and hire the right people for the team.
– Once the team is assembled, the process starts to build out the platform. It will most likely take at least 4-9 months for an initial version to be available.
– Overall, estimate 6 to 12 months
Our platform is available as an off-the-shelf solution that can be implemented right away, bypassing the product development stage that can take upwards of a year. In addition, our founders experience from Google, Gap, Apple, eBay, PayPal, Verizon and other firms is unique, and has provided the detailed vision for our platform. Building a team with a similar level of experience and skills would require substantially more time and investment to bring on board.
The team needs to have several individuals with strong experience and understanding of the end-to-end process, the various point solutions used at different stages, and experience working with the client (this time internal) to build a product. Individuals with these skills and experience are rare, and firms like Google and Facebook are in the hunt for these individuals as well, making them even harder to attract.
Our platform has been built by individuals with decades of experience in developing software, IT operations, and software development transformations at the most innovative companies in the world. We allow organizations to bypass the search for individuals with these specialized skills by using our pre-built platform.
There are many important capabilities that need to be built into the platform, with desired outcomes including:
– Automated pipelines that allow developers to leverage the toolchain without being experts on the individual tools
– Cloud infrastructure capabilities to remove the complexity of deployments (test and production)
– Data collection and visibility across the process for all individuals for improvement efforts, planning, plus day-to-day activities
– Ability to drive standards and policy, but still provide flexibility
– Administrative capabilities that are built in, like SSO integration, RBAC, encryption of data, configuration management, secrets vault etc.
These are a complex set of capabilities and meeting all of these objectives will not be easy. Many organizations have spent millions of dollars over several years, yet failed to build a platform that application teams want to use.
We built our platform from the ground-up specifically for the software development and delivery lifecycle. The outcomes mentioned above are all supported by the capabilities in the platform.
Beyond the abilities available today, the advantage that an ISV provides by focusing on a subject area is continued innovation from internal R&D and enhancements from client (and other individuals) feedback. The long-term subject matter expertise continues to grow, and translates into value for our clients.
When building in-house, areas that impact overall costs include:
– Fully loaded salary for the platform team, which can be millions of $ per year
– Opportunity cost of investing into the platform team vs. in developers focusing efforts on the firm’s core competency (another annual cost)
– The lead time to value of 6-12 months as the platform is built
– Long term maintenance will require continued investment
– Meeting unanticipated new business or technology requirements may require additional capabilities or rework, delaying time to value, incurring additional expense and potentially creating missed business opportunities
– As cloud providers accelerate changes to services, the level of investment needed to maintain parity and support the latest capabilities continues to grow
Our platform is available as a subscription, based on the number of individuals that are committing code. The annual cost will vary by size of development organization, and our experience has shown will be less than one quarter of the cost of having a fully staffed platform team.
Managing the platform does not require a dedicated individual, and the work for configurations is shared across different teams. As capabilities are pre-built, addressing new business requirements or integrating a new point solution can happen quickly. Most importantly, firms can invest in software development that addresses their core-competency to pull ahead of the competition and generate additional revenue.
– The attention of the team may be pulled away from building the platform to help with urgent support needs or production issues, delaying or preventing the development of the product
– If the platform team does not have proper alignment with organization needs, individual teams may develop capabilities independently…further entrenching silos and creating shadow IT
– Inability to attract sufficient talent required – timeline to build is extended as a skeleton crew performs the work
– If the platform is delivered doesn’t meet user needs, it may not be used
– Members of the platform team may learn new skills that are in high demand as they help build the new platform, then leave the organization
– One or two individuals (potentially contractors) may become the owners of the platform, and if they leave the organization all knowledge for how it was built and works goes with them
By relying on a third-party firm that is focused on meeting client needs for software delivery, these risks largely disappear.
The Bottom Line:
The value of having a platform has been recognized, yet firms face these challenges to build one on their own:
– Lack of time: Guide-Rails® is already available and can be used today
– Lack of standardization: our platform has been built to assist in policy and technology standardization, yet retains flexibility
– Lack of technical skills within the team: our platform bypasses the need for these specialized skills
You wouldn’t build an ERP from scratch for many of the above reasons, so why do the same here?
Learn more about the Guide-Rails® Platform