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

The beginner's guide to Warbits
Warbits is a turn-based strategy that's clearly inspired by Nintendo's Advance Wars series. Since turn-based strategy games can be kind of tricky to dive into, see below for a few tips to help you in the beginning. Positioning is crucial [Read... | Read more »
How to upgrade your character in Spellsp...
So you’ve mastered the basics of Spellspire. By which I mean you’ve realised it’s all about spelling things in a spire. What next? Well you’re going to need to figure out how to toughen up your character. It’s all well and good being able to spell... | Read more »
5 slither.io mash-ups we'd love to...
If there's one thing that slither.io has proved, it's that the addictive gameplay of Agar.io can be transplanted onto basically anything and it will still be good fun. It wouldn't be surprising if we saw other developers jumping on the bandwagon,... | Read more »
How to navigate the terrain in Sky Charm...
Sky Charms is a whimsical match-'em up adventure that uses creative level design to really ramp up the difficulty. [Read more] | Read more »
Victorious Knight (Games)
Victorious Knight 1.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.3 (iTunes) Description: New challenges awaits you! Experience fresh RPG experience with a unique combat mechanic, packed with high quality 3D... | Read more »
Agent Gumball - Roguelike Spy Game (Gam...
Agent Gumball - Roguelike Spy Game 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Someone’s been spying on Gumball. What the what?! Two can play at that game! GO UNDERCOVERSneak past enemy... | Read more »
Runaway Toad (Games)
Runaway Toad 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: It ain’t easy bein’ green! Tap, hold, and swipe to help Toad hop to safety in this gorgeous new action game from the creators of... | Read more »
PsyCard (Games)
PsyCard 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: From the makers och Card City Nights, Progress To 100 and Ittle Dew PSYCARD is a minesweeper-like game set in a cozy cyberpunk... | Read more »
Sago Mini Robot Party (Education)
Sago Mini Robot Party 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: -- Children's Technology Review Editor's Choice -- | Read more »
Egz – The Origin of the Universe (Games...
Egz – The Origin of the Universe 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: ►►► Special offer until 2nd may : get the game at 2.99€ instead of 3.99€ ! ◄◄◄ Egz is a mesmerizing mix... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $649 $50 off MSRP - 2.8GHz Mac mini... Read more
13-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $130-$200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1169 $130 off MSRP - 13″ 2.7GHz/... Read more
Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
SanDisk Half-Terabyte SSD Optimized for Every...
SanDisk Corporation has announced the SanDisk Z410 SSD, a cost-competitive, half-terabyte solid state drive (SSD) that enables manufacturers to design for a broad range of desktop PCs and laptops.... Read more
Churchill Downs Racetrack Selects VenueNext t...
Churchill Downs Racetrack has announced an agreement with VenueNext to implement its technology platform for the start of Churchill Downs 2016 Spring Meet, which includes the 142nd running of the... Read more
Record 700 Million Pounds of CE Recycled in 2...
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) reports that a record-setting 700 million pounds of consumer electronics (CE) have been recycled under the eCycling Leadership Initiative (ELI). According to... Read more
Price drops on clearance 12-inch Retina MacBo...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on leftover 2015 12″ Retina MacBooks with models now available starting at $999. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros available for $20...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Target offers Apple Watch Sport for $50 off M...
Target has Apple Watch Sports on sale for $50 off MSRP 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... Read more
Apple restocks Certified Refurbished Mac mini...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer of Apple products in the nation. In order to support our growing customer base, we are currently looking for a driven Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.