TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Why Pay More
Volume Number:10
Issue Number:7
Column Tag:Inside Information

Why Pay More?

Making Not-invented-here worth something, and keeping that MBA busy, too!

By Chris Espinosa, Apple Computer, Inc., MacTech Magazine Regular Contributing Author

Many of us have let life pass us by without experiencing the reward and gratification that comes from possessing an MBA degree. Fortunately, people like this are fairly easy to come by, and if you’re in an organization of reasonable size, it’s likely that there’s someone on the payroll who will confess to it.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with advanced secondary education, nor does an MBA degree disqualify someone from working in a technical field. But sometimes engineers or technology managers feel like they’re talking a different language when an MBA offers opinions about how to proceed with product development.

A big gap in communication can come when discussing the “make versus buy” decision. This happens when most everybody agrees that a certain feature, function, or technology needs to be added to a product line, and the engineers are trying to figure out how to do it and how long it will take.

At this point, the MBA might ask whether someone else might already have created the necessary technology, whether you might go looking for such people and simply buy a lump of source code and build it into your product, and whether that will make the product better, more compatible, and quicker to market than designing, building, and testing it yourself.

Different engineers react in different ways to this. Some take great offense at the suggestion, or react with something resembling total denial that it could ever work. Others consider it and are willing to investigate and make a rational decision. Still others will politely ask the MBA-type-person to leave the room (or building, or company).

Oddly enough, it’s sometimes the people who have the most experience with the make-versus-buy decision who take the third option. In companies with an ingrained engineering culture and a mature product or technology, the job of licensing and integrating a foreign technology can be very difficult and time consuming, and more expensive in the long run than simply doing it yourself. Why pay more for somebody else’s technology when you can have better integrated, more maintainable, more “pure” code done by your own people?

The pitfalls of buying are many. First, you should do a diligent evaluation of the state of the code you’re buying. Make sure that the implementation language, development environment, and coding style are acceptable to your engineers (or whoever’s going to be maintaining that code down the road). You don’t want this to become a read-only, never-edit lump of code in your source tree. Make sure that the structure and flow of the code is clear, and preferably documented. In general it’s OK to have higher standards for purchased code than you have for your own engineers, because your organization may have some unspoken stylistic or architectural rules that are taken for granted in your own code, but will not be obeyed in code you license.

Then make sure that the project to integrate the code into your product will be well-managed. Throwing code over the wall increases the odds that it won’t work well. And believing that you should be able to make little or no changes to your existing code is also short-sighted. If you should buy, the make-versus-buy analysis should be so obviously tilted towards “buy” that you can afford to make a good number of changes to what you have and still come out ahead - you will need to make changes. Make sure that you have access to technical support or the original design team during implementation, but don’t expect them to do all the work: if you aren’t willing to make some sacrifices for the mutual success of the partnership, it may not be a good idea to get into it.

Finally, don’t be stingy with royalties or payments to your source, and be open-minded about their form of compensation. If you make this functionality a critical part of your product, and your customers like it, you’ll be dependent on it; if the unit royalty is too large, or your rights too limited, you may have problems a few years down the road when you need to lower prices or expand distribution, but are constrained by the license of a crucial technology. Check to see if you have something the other company wants: technology in exchange, or the right to make accessory products to yours, or even co-marketing. Money isn’t everything. A good deal can be made with a code swap and some press releases, if you both are committed to it and your customers benefit from it.

The warnings above might scare people off from even considering a make versus buy. It’s wise to be wary, but you should also be honest about your own abilities. Could your engineers spend more time on really valuable stuff instead of reinventing common technology? Must you be compatible with some industry standard or file format you have no experience with? Could minor problems hold you up? Will your engineers really write all that code from scratch in the time they claim? Will it be good enough to be worth it to your customers?

A good make versus buy decision is not a business school exercise, and it shouldn’t be done with dollar calculations on a spreadsheet. It takes the analysis and expertise of the people you trust most, and when you make the right decision, it ought to feel good, as well as add up. Don’t throw the MBA out of the room until you really think it through, and if you decide to make the purchase, give the MBA a position of respect and trust: make him or her manage the contract, rather than flit off to make another decision!

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Check out the new Pirate Attack update i...
Love pirates and board games? Well, you'll love the new Pirate Attack themed update that just launched in Game of Dice. It adds a bunch of new content themed around pirates, like an all new event map based on a pirate ship which revamps the toll... | Read more »
Splash Cars guide - How to paint the tow...
Splash Cars is an arcade driving game that feels like a hybrid between Dawn of the Plow and Splatoon. In it, you'll need to drive a car around to repaint areas of a town that have lost all of their color. Check out these tips to help you perform... | Read more »
The best video player on mobile
We all know the stock video player on iOS is not particularly convenient, primarily because it asks us to hook a device up to iTunes to sync video in a world that has things like Netflix. [Read more] | Read more »
Four apps to help improve your Super Bow...
Super Bowl Sunday is upon us, and whether you’re a Panthers or a Broncos fan you’re no doubt gearing up for it. [Read more] | Read more »
LooperSonic (Music)
LooperSonic 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: LooperSonic is a multi-track audio looper and recorder that will take your loops to the next level. Use it like a loop pedal to... | Read more »
Space Grunts guide - How to survive
Space Grunts is a fast-paced roguelike from popular iOS developer, Orange Pixel. While it taps into many of the typical roguelike sensibilities, you might still find yourself caught out by a few things. We delved further to find you some helpful... | Read more »
Dreii guide - How to play well with othe...
Dreii is a rather stylish and wonderful puzzle game that’s reminiscent of cooperative games like Journey. If that sounds immensely appealing, then you should immediately get cracking and give it a whirl. We can offer you some tips and tricks on... | Read more »
Kill the Plumber World guide - How to ou...
You already know how to hop around like Mario, but do you know how to defeat him? Those are your marching orders in Kill the Plumber, and it's not always as easy as it looks. Here are some tips to get you started. This is not a seasoned platform... | Read more »
Planar Conquest (Games)
Planar Conquest 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $12.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: IMPORTANT: Planar Conquest is compatible only with iPad 3 & newer devices, iPhone 5 & newer. It’s NOT compatible with... | Read more »
We talk to Cheetah Mobile about its plan...
Piano Tiles 2 is a fast-paced rhythm action high score chaser out now on iOS and Android. You have to tap a series of black tiles that appear on the screen in time to the music, being careful not to accidentally hit anywhere else. Do that and it's... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

BookBook For iPad Pro Coming Soon
The iPad Pro is a device unlike any other, and with Apple Pencil, it’s the ideal portable sketchpad: all that’s missing is the modern easel and portfolio to go. TwelveSouth’s BookBook for iPad Pro... Read more
12-inch 1.2GHz Silver Retina MacBook on sale...
B&H Photo has the 12″ 1.2GHz Silver Retina MacBook on sale for $1399 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model from... Read more
iPads on sale at Target: $100 off iPad Air 2,...
Target has WiFi iPad Air 2s and iPad mini 4s on sale for up to $100 off MSRP on their online store for a limited time. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for... Read more
Target offers Apple Watch for $100 off MSRP
Target has Apple Watches on sale for $100 for a limited time. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for online orders only, in-store prices may vary: - Apple... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 13-inch Retina MacBook...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $400 off original MSRP, starting at $979. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free... Read more
Macs available for up to $300 off MSRP, $20 o...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free, and... Read more
Watch Super Bowl 50 Live On Your iPad For Fre...
Watch Super Bowl 50 LIVE on the CBS Sports app for iPad and Apple TV. Get the app and then tune in Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 6:30 PM ET to catch every moment of the big game. The CBS Sports app is... Read more
Two-thirds Of All Smart Watches Shipped In 20...
Apple dominated the smart watch market in 2015, accounting for over 12 million units and two-thirds of all shipments according to Canalys market research analysts’ estimates. Samsung returned to... Read more
12-inch 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for up...
B&H Photo has 12″ 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $180 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.2GHz Gray Retina MacBook: $1499 $100 off MSRP - 12″ 1.2GHz Silver... Read more
12-inch 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook on sale fo...
B&H Photo has the 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook on sale for $1199 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Subject Matter Expert - Experis (Uni...
This position is for an Apple Subject Matter Expert to assist in developing the architecture, support and services for integration of Apple devices into the domain. Read more
*Apple* Macintosh OSX - Net2Source Inc. (Uni...
…: * Work Authorization : * Contact Number(Best time to reach you) : Skills : Apple Macintosh OSX Location : New York, New York. Duartion : 6+ Months The associate would Read more
Computer Operations Technician ll - *Apple*...
# Web Announcement** Apple Technical Liaison**The George Mason University, Information Technology Services (ITS), Technology Support Services, Desktop Support Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.