Buy-BuildMany mid-size and enterprise organizations seek technology systems to help manage their customer reference programs with more efficiency. As such, it is common for these types of firms to think about or execute a “build versus buy” analysis at some point in their solution search. This is particularly true for technology or software firms who often have the technical skills to build any software they want.

While there are many different variables that play into the equation, management teams considering building their own homegrown version of customer reference software should AT A MINIMUM answer the following questions:

Will you get the return you want?

One of the biggest drivers behind companies building their own customer reference application is often cost. Companies often think they can save money by doing it themselves. However, often times the project scope is not fully understood, and thus workload and budget are easily underestimated. As a result, the time and money and personnel resources dedicated to developing the app goes beyond what was originally set aside – making the return on the internal investment less than what it would have cost to buy it from a vendor.

Additionally, if the homespun customer reference application is not easy to use, it’s unlikely to be adopted by a busy sales and marketing team. In a situation where user adoption is essential to program success, low adoption rates could lead to significant financial loss and nullify the projected benefits of your internal build.

What are your strengths?

It is understood that a company stays in business because it plays to its strengths – and does it well. As such, honestly ask yourself if your company is equipped to handle developing a customer reference technology system. Is it within your competency set? Do you truly understand all the requirements to build an effective and comparably successful customer reference application? Even if your plan is to just add on to one of your existing tools, like, there’s a reason why that functionality doesn’t exist in that platform already – because it’s not a core competency of that platform. [Download: Why ALONE isn’t a fit for customer reference management]

There’s a reason customer reference software vendors do what they do – that is their strength. Commercial customer reference software vendors know the complexities of running, optimizing, and maintaining successful customer reference programs and have already built best practice requirements into their software. If your company isn’t equally as knowledgeable, you may end up missing some key features.

Will it meet your needs – now and in the future?

Another big driver for companies wanting to build versus buy is the desire to have a system that fits exactly what your company needs. The common mistake with this is companies often build to fit the needs of the customer reference program at that point in time and do not fully consider what changes will be needed for the program to grow in the future. Customer reference software vendors, like RO Innovation, build systems that are easily configurable to your company’s unique needs with the added benefit of being able to scale, change and grow with your company as needed.

What about maintenance and support?

It is very rare for a technology product, software or service to not require technical support and/or maintenance at one point or another during its lifespan. Even the latest iPhone requires software upgrades! As such, building a customer reference app in-house and ensuring its success will require ongoing IT support. Since, chances are, your IT team is not solely dedicated to the customer reference project at your company, their priorities may get pulled to other projects and the needs of your customer reference program may get pushed to the bottom of their list…not ideal. Customer reference software vendors often include ongoing support as part of their service. Better yet, since they build their software with best practices and usability in mind, common changes are often able to be made by the customer reference manager on-the-fly.


Indeed, for firms weighing their options in the “build versus buy” decision process, it’s important to consider many things. Make sure you do your homework and demo vendor’s customer reference solutions so you can make an informed decision on what’s most beneficial, and the best fit, for your company.

Jim Mooney
Jim Mooney is the Founder & CEO of RO Innovation. His passion for helping salespeople excel in all aspects of B2B selling, especially where customer references are involved, was the reason he started the company. His desire for helping others succeed flows through in the expert thought leadership he provides the industry, his customers and his employees.