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

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Can PokeMatch help you find love with Po...
The unofficial Pokemon GO companion app space has exploded almost as fast as the game itself over the last few weeks. Aspiring app developers, many of them working solo, have given us apps that locate Pokemon, keep track of the server status, and... | Read more »
How to get started with Prisma
If there's one thing people like to do more than taking pictures with their smartphones, it's tinkering with those photos in some way. Numerous apps have sprung up over the last several years that allow you to use filters and special effects to... | Read more »
6 Pokemon GO updates you can expect, acc...
Pokemon GO had a scheduled appearance at this year's San Diego Comic-Con for a while, but it was only relatively close to the show that it was upgraded to a spot in Hall H. That's the biggest venue at SDCC, one usually reserved for the largest... | Read more »
How to evolve Eevee in Pokemon GO
By now, almost everyone should be hip to how to evolve Pokemon in Pokemon GO (and if not, there's a guide for that). Just gather enough candy of the appropriate type, feed them all to the Pokemon, and evolution happens. It's a miracle that would... | Read more »
CSR Racing 2: Guide to all game modes
It might not seem like there are all that many ways to go fast in a straight line, but CSR Racing 2 begs to differ. [Read more] | Read more »
Bulb Boy (Games)
Bulb Boy 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Multi-award winning 2D point & click horror adventure about a boy with a glowing head. | Read more »
5 top free emoji keyboard apps
If we're not at peak emoji yet as a society, it feels like we definitely should be. The emoji concept has gone far beyond what anyone in Japan could have envisioned when the people there unleashed it on an unsuspecting world, but the West has... | Read more »
How to unlock more characters in Disney...
One of the big charms of Disney Emoji Blitz is seeing a wide variety of beloved Disney and Pixar characters transformed into smiling emojis. Even someone like the sneaky Randall from Monsters Inc., who probably never cracked a smile on film, is... | Read more »
Cubway (Games)
Cubway 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Cubway is a journey with an abstract story of lifecycle of rebirth, called Samsara. Guide the cube through the long way full of dangers... | Read more »
Colorcube (Games)
Colorcube 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Turn pieces and blend colours in this minimal yet visually stunning puzzler.Over 200 handcrafted and challenging levels. Features... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

External Keyboard Innovations For iPad Pro (1...
I’m an input device aficionado. With non-touchscreen computers, which includes all Macs, the keyboard and mouse or trackpad are the tactile points of interface between user and machine, and the... Read more
GSK Rheumatoid Arthritis Study Leverages iPho...
Global healthcare products company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) says that since 2014 they have begun transforming the way they conduct research, by leveraging state-of-the-art digital technologies — a... Read more
Clearance 12-inch Retina MacBooks, Apple refu...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 12″ Retina MacBooks available starting at $929. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free. The following... Read more
13-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1199 $100 off MSRP - 13″ 2.7GHz/... Read more
13-inch 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for...
Amazon has the 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $200 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free: - 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (sku MMGF2LL/A): $799.99 $200 off MSRP Their price is the... Read more
13-inch 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air on sale for...
Amazon has the 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air on sale for $200 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free: - 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air (sku MMGG2LL/A): $999.99 $200 off MSRP Their price is the... Read more
Free iOS Business App notably* Helps Service...
PayStudio Inc. has introduced their new business app notably* 1.0, developed for iPhone and iPod touch. notably* was specifically developed to help service and trade professionals go digital and... Read more
27-inch iMacs on sale for $200 off MSRP
Amazon has 27″ iMacs on sale for $200 off MSRP including free shipping: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $2099 $200 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB Fusion iMac 5K: $1799.99 $200 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB HD iMac 5K... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for $200 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2799, $200 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3799, $200... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The following... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions, Willow...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Evangelist - JAMF Software (United S...
The Apple Evangelist is responsible for building and cultivating strategic relationships with Apple 's small and mid-market business development field teams. This Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - APPLE (United...
Job Summary As an Apple Solutions Consultant, you'll be the link between our future customers and our products. You'll showcase your entrepreneurial spirit as you Read more
*Apple* Professional Learning Specialist - A...
Job Summary The Apple Professional Learning Specialist is a full-time position for one year with Apple in the Phoenix, AZ area. This position requires a high Read more
*Apple* Picker - Apple Hill Orchard (United...
Apple Hill Orchard, Co. Rte. 21,Whitehall, NY 9/7/16-10/228/16. Pick fresh market or processing apples Productivity of 60 boxes and 80 boxes processing fruit per Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.