While the battle between build vs. buy software is nothing new, the need for robust, automated apps to streamline business processes is more crucial than ever.

By Stéphane Donzé

Finding the right software can help you strategically scale your business and increase profits and efficiency; however, if you choose the wrong software for your business, it could hinder your ability to achieve organizational goals.

To determine which type of software is right for your business, you need to consider your company’s specific needs and limitations. Build vs. buy isn’t a battle of which software is better; the value is based on which one best aligns with your current needs and future goals. When researching software, consider the following four things to help you make your ultimate choice.

Ease of Use

Look at the technical skills of your organization’s employees, specifically the end users who participate in the workflow and those who configure the workflow. What is their level of technical knowledge and comfort?

If you want to build your software internally, you need a team of IT experts to implement and maintain it, as well as time to train end users on how to use it. You also need an in-house UX designer to create a polished user interface so end users will quickly and easily adopt your custom software — and enjoy working in it. If your company isn’t equipped with such a team or needs your end users to adopt the new software as soon as possible, you may want to invest in an out-of-the-box solution.


Business workflows require strong authentication of the end users — unless you want just anyone approving that $1 million capital expenditure request posted by the production team. Consider a custom solution if your organization has:

  • A large, in-house IT security team
  • Clear, documented protocols and procedures
  • Regular, structured training sessions
  • A lot of time to build

However, since custom-built software requires constant vigilance, your system could be more vulnerable to data breaches if you don’t have the previously mentioned framework in place. Even the largest organizations with ample expertise can still fall victim to human error. An out-of-the-box solution may be better for your organization if you prefer to rely on a proven system, like Google Identity Platform, Azure Active Directory, or any other robust identity platform, to authenticate users and verify their roles.


Most compliance requirements are about the auditability and traceability of business processes that must be connected to a robust, tamper-proof audit trail. If you’re confident in your IT team’s ability to configure and maintain such a system, as well as the document workflow apps you’ll need to install for it to work correctly, a tailor-made solution may be right for you.

However, you need to consider how long your team will be building and customizing the software. If you’re in a regulated industry, you may need specific compliance requirements implemented immediately. If that’s the case, and you worry that a home-made audit trail could be insufficient, you should consider off-the-shelf software.

Data integrity and retention

Most business workflows produce or manipulate documents in one form or another. The life of those documents doesn’t end when the business process ends. Documents must be properly organized, protected, and retained even after the last step of the process is finished. You wouldn’t want to invest in building a business-critical process while, at the same time, casually dropping the fruits of your process, i.e., your documents, into an unmanaged shared folder.

Building and maintaining the robust modules needed for proper document management is complex and expensive. If you’re considering custom-built software, you may want to, instead, start with a proven, reliable content services platform that provides the right module for your team, then build on top of that.

You probably noticed a few recurring themes in the above information: users, team, time, and cost. All of those must be taken into account when choosing which type of software to invest in. Both build and buy solutions can help you scale your business, but it depends on your short- and long-term goals, as well as your company’s needs and capabilities. Take the time to research options and honestly look at where your organization is currently and where leaders want it to go.

Stéphane Donzé is the CEO and founder of AODocs, a software company he created from the idea that the enterprise’s need for compliance and efficient processes is not contradictory with a good user experience. Prior to founding AODocs, he was VP of Engineering at Exalead, a leading enterprise search company. 

Software stock photo by Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock