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!

 
AAPL
$99.02
Apple Inc.
+1.35
MSFT
$43.97
Microsoft Corpora
-0.53
GOOG
$590.60
Google Inc.
+1.58

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OS X Yosemite Wallpaper 1.0 - Desktop im...
OS X Yosemite Wallpaper is the gorgeous new background image for Apple's upcoming OS X 10.10 Yosemite. This wallpaper is available for all screen resolutions with a source file that measures 5,418... Read more
Acorn 4.4 - Bitmap image editor. (Demo)
Acorn is a new image editor built with one goal in mind - simplicity. Fast, easy, and fluid, Acorn provides the options you'll need without any overhead. Acorn feels right, and won't drain your bank... Read more
Bartender 1.2.20 - Organize your menu ba...
Bartender lets you organize your menu bar apps. Features: Lets you tidy your menu bar apps how you want. See your menu bar apps when you want. Hide the apps you need to run, but do not need to... Read more
TotalFinder 1.6.2 - Adds tabs, hotkeys,...
TotalFinder is a universally acclaimed navigational companion for your Mac. Enhance your Mac's Finder with features so smart and convenient, you won't believe you ever lived without them. Tab-based... Read more
Vienna 3.0.0 RC 2 :be5265e: - RSS and At...
Vienna is a freeware and Open-Source RSS/Atom newsreader with article storage and management via a SQLite database, written in Objective-C and Cocoa, for the OS X operating system. It provides... Read more
VLC Media Player 2.1.5 - Popular multime...
VLC Media Player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, MP3, OGG, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It... Read more
Default Folder X 4.6.7 - Enhances Open a...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click... Read more
TinkerTool 5.3 - Expanded preference set...
TinkerTool is an application that gives you access to additional preference settings Apple has built into Mac OS X. This allows to activate hidden features in the operating system and in some of the... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.0 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Intermission 1.1.1 - Pause and rewind li...
Intermission allows you to pause and rewind live audio from any application on your Mac. Intermission will buffer up to 3 hours of audio, allowing users to skip through any assortment of audio... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Traps n’ Gemstones Review
Traps n’ Gemstones Review By Campbell Bird on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CASTLEVANIA JONESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fight mummies, dig tunnels, and ride a runaway minecart to discover ancient secrets in this... | Read more »
The Phantom PI Mission Apparition Review
The Phantom PI Mission Apparition Review By Jordan Minor on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: GHOSTS BUSTEDUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The Phantom PI is an exceedingly clever and well-crafted adventure game.   | Read more »
More Stubies Are Coming Your Way in a Ne...
More Stubies Are Coming Your Way in a New Update Posted by Jessica Fisher on July 28th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
The Great Prank War Review
The Great Prank War Review By Nadia Oxford on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: PRANKING IS SERIOUS BUSINESSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Though short, The Great Prank War offers an interesting and fun mix of action and... | Read more »
Marvel Contest of Champions Announced at...
Marvel Contest of Champions Announced at Comic-Con Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 28th, 2014 [ permalink ] Announced over the weekend at San Diego Comic-Con was the fairly exciting looking Marvel Contest of Champions. | Read more »
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review By Jennifer Allen on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: DULL SWIPINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The pizza power is weak when it comes to this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.   | Read more »
Exploration Focused Puzzle Game Beatbudd...
Exploration Focused Puzzle Game Beatbuddy Set to Make Transition from PC to iOS this September Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 28th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
PlanetHD
PlanetHD By Nadia Oxford on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SPACE MADNESSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad PlanetHD will keep players busy for a while, though its unpredictable physics are a handful to deal with.   | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: July 21-25, 2014
Another Week of Expert App Reviews   At 148Apps, we help you sort through the great ocean of apps to find the ones we think you’ll like and the ones you’ll need. Our top picks become Editor’s Choice, our stamp of approval for apps with that little... | Read more »
Reddme for iPhone - The Reddit Client (...
Reddme for iPhone - The Reddit Client 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: News Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Reddme for iPhone is an iOS 7-optimized Reddit client that offers a refreshing new way to experience Reddit... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $1099,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $1099.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $100 off MSRP. Price is... Read more
Roundup of Apple refurbished MacBook Pros, th...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros available for up to $400 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. Their prices... Read more
Record Mac Shipments In Q2/14 Confound Analys...
A Seeking Alpha Trefis commentary notes that Apple’s fiscal Q3 2014 results released July 22, beat market predictions on earnings, although revenues were slightly lower than anticipated. Apple’s Mac’... Read more
Intel To Launch Core M Silicon For Use In Not...
Digitimes’ Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai, report that Intel will launch 14nm-based Core M series processors specifically for use in fanless notebook/tablet 2-in-1 models in Q4 2014, with many models to... Read more
Apple’s 2014 Back to School promotion: $100 g...
 Apple’s 2014 Back to School promotion includes a free $100 App Store Gift Card with the purchase of any new Mac (Mac mini excluded), or a $50 Gift Card with the purchase of an iPad or iPhone,... Read more
iMacs on sale for $150 off MSRP, $250 off for...
Best Buy has iMacs on sale for up to $160 off MSRP for a limited time. Choose free home shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Prices are valid for online orders only, in-store... Read more
Mac minis on sale for $100 off MSRP, starting...
Best Buy has Mac minis on sale for $100 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup. Prices are for online orders only, in-store prices may vary: 2.5GHz Mac mini: $499.99 2.3GHz... Read more
Global Tablet Market Grows 11% in Q2/14 Notwi...
Worldwide tablet sales grew 11.0 percent year over year in the second quarter of 2014, with shipments reaching 49.3 million units according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation... Read more
New iPhone 6 Models to Have Staggered Release...
Digitimes’ Cage Chao and Steve Shen report that according to unnamed sources in Apple’s upstream iPhone supply chain, the new 5.5-inch iPhone will be released several months later than the new 4.7-... Read more
New iOS App Helps People Feel Good About thei...
Mobile shoppers looking for big savings at their favorite stores can turn to the Goodshop app, a new iOS app with the latest coupons and deals at more than 5,000 online stores. In addition to being a... Read more

Jobs Board

Sr Software Lead Engineer, *Apple* Online S...
Sr Software Lead Engineer, Apple Online Store Publishing Systems Keywords: Company: Apple Job Code: E3PCAK8MgYYkw Location (City or ZIP): Santa Clara Status: Full Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Sr. Product Leader, *Apple* Store Apps - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.