The build vs. buy decision can only be made after examining your firms strengths & weaknesses, business goals, financials, and core competencies. One must ask, "do we want to be in the software development business?". If the question is "no", then you need look no further -- you must buy your software. Software development takes a BIG commitment and entails lots of risk. For starters, you need to do requirements analysis, functional design, system prototype, human engineering/GUI analysis, system documentation, user documentation, training materials, training curriculum, user acceptance testing, bug fixes, release strategy, technical support, APIs, etc. It's not an easy task and it costs money...lots of money. When purchasing software, you are placing your confidence in the software vendor for the above items. Software development firms are experienced in all of the above and can spread the cost to hundreds of thousands of users. The downside may be software that doesn't quite meet your exact specifications, along with loss of control over release schedules, bug fixes, and customization options. On the upside -- you can hold the vendor accountable for everything, software costs are easily estimated, and your firm can focus on its core competencies.
The list of advantages/disadvantages is endless. My bias is against the development of custom software unless it is absolutely necessary. It is very serious and detailed work that's best left to the experts.
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