Building vs Buying AEC/BIM Software (Exploring the Pros and Cons) Build vs Buy AEC Software the pros and cons
AEC Software – should you build or buy?

Let share my very own build vs buy stories and dive into the age-old question of whether to build your own or rely on professional providers for your AEC software.

I hope to uncover the pitfalls, give you some valuable insights from my experience, and help you make the right decision when it comes to AEC/BIM software.

The Build-vs-Buy Conundrum

Software has become a fundamental component of the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry. It helps to streamline processes, improve productivity, and enhance project outcomes.

Businesses are often faced with a choice of building their own AEC/BIM software from scratch or relying on professional providers for off-the-shelf solutions.

AEC software professionals asking if they should build vs buy - a challenge - what would you do?

Building your own can be risky as there are no guarantees that it will work as expected, while relying on professional providers can also present challenges like costs and lack of customization.

One advantage of building your own AEC/BIM software is that it allows you to tailor the solution to the specific needs of your business. You can also leverage existing resources to minimize development costs and time.

However, many AEC teams still struggle with deciding whether to build their own software or buy it from a professional software provider.

My Own Experience

Having had the opportunity to experience both sides of the build vs buy equation multiple times, I’ve formed some views on this challenge.

I’ve been very honored to graduate as a Civil Engineer, work as an architect, contractor, and owner, and I’ve been through the process of building and using in-house solutions.

I’ve also had the privilege to work at four different AEC software companies (including two of the largest), contributing to the development of tools for and with many AEC companies.

I’ve even had the unfortunate experience of working at a software development company where we were developing software for ourselves – it was the most terrible experience! 😬

We had amazing development resources, an amazing product design team but still built something that didn’t solve all the problems our team needed, and the software was ultimately shelved.

Through this journey, I’ve been able to observe how powerful the right software can be for an AEC company. It allows us to manage our processes and projects more efficiently and effectively.

It helps us get better visibility into our operations and make data-driven decisions. Not only that, but it might help us collaborate better with internal teams, clients, contractors, subcontractors, and other stakeholders in a timely manner.

At the same time, I’ve also seen how hard it is for many AEC companies to find the right solution that meets their specific needs.

What You Should Consider

Here’s the deal: after all of these experiences, I now fully believe that when it comes to getting professional AEC software solutions, using a dedicated provider will not only save you time and money in the short term, but also spare you from tons of effort, sweat, tears, and strained relationships in the long run!

Building a solution can require significant upfront investment and ongoing maintenance costs – which can easily result in lost productivity and subpar results.

Buying means that you can get the benefits right away and can remove most of the risks that come with developing a new solution.

You don’t have to worry about managing security patches or updates for your system or training your staff on how to use the system – that can all be the responsibility of the provider (yes, even the training!).

Two professionals wondering if they should build vs buy - a good question

Let’s look at some of the key reasons why buying ready-made software can benefit AEC teams more than building from scratch:

1. Experience and Expertise

AEC firms usually hire based on industry experience rather than software development experience, so in-house development can be a significant strain on a company’s resources. It is also a steep learning curve. On the flip side, professional software providers bring a wealth of experience in crafting and delivering top-notch software solutions. It’s what they do day in and day out, honing their skills by creating innovative solutions for diverse industries and clients. This experience and expertise translate into a more efficient, effective, and reliable software product that is also future-proof!

2. Cost Efficiency

The cost of building software can quickly add up, hiring skilled developers, and providing training and support. It also has hidden costs, such as servers, maintenance, upgrades, and bug fixes. This is a significant issue, so outsourcing to a professional software provider is less expensive, more predictable, and actually scalable. Most software providers offer flexible pricing plans, making it easier for companies to budget for it, too.

3. Better Functionality

Professional software providers typically have the resources and knowledge to include the most requested features and functionality in their software packages. They know the market trends, customer needs, and latest technologies and can leverage this knowledge to build more robust and reliable software solutions. In-house software development may miss essential features and require frequent updates or patches to fix bugs and add new functionality.

4. Information Security

Data privacy and security are of utmost importance in the AEC industry. With confidential information and intellectual property being shared across teams, departments, and clients, it’s crucial to prioritize their protection. Professional software providers offer robust security features such as regular updates, data encryption, and privacy protocols, safeguarding against unauthorized access and data breaches. On the other hand, in-house software development, whether restricted to your own servers or not, may lack these vital security measures, leaving it more vulnerable to cyberattacks and data theft. Stay ahead of the game and ensure your data is secure!

My Thoughts On Development Experience Needed

Major tool sets are the backbone of any business, covering essential functions like procurement, project management, payments, and more. These crucial tools require expertise and resources that can be challenging to manage internally.

It takes time for businesses to establish their own software development teams, hire the right people, build best practices, and find the time for research and development (R&D). This is definitely not something that can happen overnight or even in a few months.

From my own experience, I’ve come to realize that while it’s important for every company to have in-house software development capabilities, there are certain technologies that evolve at such a rapid pace that opting for a dedicated professional provider might just be the right choice. Especially when it comes to those major and mission-critical tool sets, it’s worth considering the best choice that can keep up with the ever-changing landscape.

Build or Buy?

So, should you build or buy AEC software?

You might want to consider doing a bit of both. However, based on my firsthand experience of witnessing many painful development experiences, I would suggest that if a professional software tool already exists, AEC teams should opt for it instead of trying to build their own.

Professional software providers offer experience and expertise, cost efficiency, scalability and customization, better functionality, and improved security features. All instantly, without the risk of developing your own software.

When it comes to professional software solutions, the benefits go well beyond the initial cost and time investment. With cutting-edge platforms like Plannerly, you not only have the flexibility to pay a small amount on a monthly basis, but you also gain access to an extensive range of training resources at no additional cost. This comprehensive approach ensures that you have all the tools and support you need to maximize your investment and success of your software implementation.

By choosing professional software, AEC companies can improve productivity, streamline processes, enhance project outcomes, and spend their time focusing on their core business operations!

Please let me know your own experiences, good and bad, with your own software development projects: clive@plannerly.com

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3. Answers to some related questions 🤔

Why should AEC teams consider using professional software solutions instead of building their own?

Professional software providers offer experience, expertise, cost efficiency, scalability, better functionality, and improved security features.

What are the advantages of using a professional software provider?

Professional software providers bring industry experience, offer flexible pricing plans, deliver more robust and reliable software, and prioritize data security.

How does building software in-house compare to using professional software solutions in terms of cost?

Building software in-house can have hidden costs and require extensive resources, while professional software providers offer predictable and scalable pricing.

How can professional software providers ensure better functionality in their software solutions?

Professional software providers have resources, knowledge, and market insights to include the most requested features and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies.

Why is information security crucial in the AEC industry?

With confidential information and intellectual property being shared, professional software providers offer robust security measures to protect against unauthorized access and data breaches.

Should AEC teams consider building their own software or buying existing solutions?

Based on painful development experiences, I highly recommend opting for professional software tools that are already available instead of building from scratch.

What are the benefits of using professional software solutions beyond the initial investment?

Professional software solutions improve productivity, streamline processes, enhance project outcomes, and offer ongoing support and training resources.

I blog for the Five BIM Bloggers series.

Every week we share different perspectives on important BIM topics!

To hear our views first, Join Free or follow Plannerly!

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