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In-house vs. vendor applications

We are a B2B company with offices nationwide. We have developed several applications in-house over the years to meet our sales force, contact center and service set-up/workflow needs. We are currently evaluating whether to continue enhancing these applications (which meet 60% of our needs) or to purchase vendor-supplied CRM. What are the factors that you feel are important in this decision?
Regarding build vs. buy decisions -- first, you need to decide what business you want to be in and where your core competencies lay. Building and maintaining systems can be a daunting and exhausting task. There are upgrades, bug fixes, system documentation, system integration issues, and patches to keep current with operating systems and technology trends. But you probably don't need me to tell you this if you have been building your apps yourself as stated.

So, some other considerations: Have you been successful in your development efforts (however you measure that)? One might say that meeting 60% of your needs is only minimally acceptable. What have the costs been to reach this level of success? And, how much more will it cost to get to the next level -- say meeting 80% of your needs? What percentage of revenue are you spending on the development and maintenance of your current systems? Do you have the capacity and the desire to continue down this path?

Although buying your systems won't guarantee that you will hit the 80% satisfaction level, or save your firm money, it will relieve you of the many development and maintenance efforts noted above. It also places the burden for delivering quality software solutions on your CRM vendor's shoulders. You are now the customer...in the driver's seat (maybe).

There's no right answer, as you probably already know. Rather, it's all about risk management. In short, who is better positioned to deliver solutions to your firm...you, or a CRM vendor. Lastly, the best software is worthless if your business processes have not been well integrated. Perhaps with a little effort spent in this area you can achieve a higher degree of success with your current applications? Again, think costs, risks, and benefits -- then decide how to best use your internal resources to turn a profit.


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