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How we assisted clients deciding on the Fix vs. Build vs. Buy/License vs. Hybrid/Customize direction

This a follow-up to our original article on steps we took to help a company decided on Buy vs. Build of their software assets.

In the recent past ETI worked with a startup that was facing significant challenges with their legacy system and ability to support and enhance it in order to align with the changing needs of the business. The legacy CRM-based system was originally created and tailored for simpler tasks and processes. As the company business expanded and client base grew, approximately 80% of their operations deviated from typical case processing. This forced the client to highly customize their internal system. Staffing a very small IT organization with very specific skillsets, the company was also grappling with the departure of key IT personnel who held critical business process knowledge that was otherwise buried within the code. The allocated IT annual budget focused on supporting legacy system and no longer aligned with the rapidly growing company needs as well as multiple islands of unstructured information. High annual clerical personnel turnover, due in part to poor system performance, process complexity and a lack of automation, further compounded the company’s challenges. Process confusion, inaccuracies and low confidence in the system became more and more evident. The client brought in ETI and asked for an honest evaluation of the existing system vs business’ current and ongoing needs and requested recommendations going forward.


ETI performed multi-dimensional analysis of the client’s current and future operational needs, capabilities and alternatives. Below are some of the techniques used to asses and propose options. Please see Buy vs. Build for more in-depth list of analysis techniques:

Identify Core Business Needs: One of the first steps to begin analysis process was to identify and define the core requirements, and team competencies. We evaluated how the current assets match key business objectives and future needs of the client. One of the techniques we used was to MindMap (graphically map out) the entire business processes including all Business Process exceptions based on current business needs and compared it to how IT team understood and implemented it. Another was to understand the basis for decision making by management. We evaluated how the client collects and uses their data for making strategic and operational decisions. We evaluated and documented all integration between business and their clients and customers, creating a full visualization of the business to ensure we had correct understanding of the entire eco system.

Skill Gap Analysis: Concurrently we conducted an internal audit of IT and business personnel to identify if existing team has the skills and capabilities to successfully execute or manage the needed changes going forward. Through a series of in person interviews, review of recorded work, observations and detailed surveys we obtained a full understanding of current staff capabilities and potential as well as any skills that may be desired going forward.

Essential Customization Assessment: In the course of the analysis phase, we had to determine what aspects of the business processes were common to an industry and which were very specific to the business of the client. We created a fully distinguished quadrants of the need versus nice-to-have capabilities and separated them into common or unique industry features. This visualization helped us understand whether the client is seeking something that is potentially available in the marketplace or requires development and customization.

Budget Allocation Modeling: In order to determine whether the client had a realistic budget set aside for the initiative, we performed a detailed estimate for each of the options that were proposed. We broke the system into detailed features and provided an estimate model based on variety of variables including time to delivery, staffing size and costs, subsets of deliverables deemed of highest importance and other factors. The model inputs gave the senior leadership ability to understand what can be reasonably expected given either a total budget goal or approximate initial total cost if variables are adjusted,

Vendor Research and Market Analysis: Whether a company decides to purchase a solution or build its own, it must explore the available options, and perform due diligence in evaluating external vendors and products based on objective qualities and potential costs of each. We assisted the client with such effort by evaluating all options, given our own expertise in the field, experience working with vendors in the past, meeting with vendor representatives and interviewing them using the same set of criteria. We performed objective evaluation of internal talent to understand how it could be upgraded and enhanced through integration with additional or external resources. Aside from calculating anticipated costs of obtaining the desired solution, the potential time to going live and estimated cost of support, we also maintained Vendor Scorecards for each category of solution. This allowed us to present to client the order of preference and any benefits and drawbacks they need to consider when making their final decision.

Legal and Compliance Checks: Some of the most critical but often overlooked criteria to consider when making a strategic decision are considerations of whether the solution will address legality, industry compliance, potential risks, data security and software flexibility, maintainability and scalability. Often these topics take a backset to more operational aspects during the evaluation but could become major issues and roadblocks when the product is ready to be rolled out. We ensure that these are not overlooked when making the strategic decision based on the Vendor Scorecards.

Comprehensive TCO (Total Cost of Ownership): It is critical to know upfront what potential total cost of ownership is anticipated every year in order to properly budget and set realistic expectations. We assist the client in recognizing all of the anticipated costs and potential savings that each solution may provide. We identify those costs that are within company’s control and those that may vary from year to year. This gives management another key metric based on which ultimate decision will be made.

The list above was just a part of a full comprehensive analysis we performed for the client before presenting them with the options.  Please see Buy vs. Build for more in-depth list of analysis techniques

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Russ Berkun

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