8 May, 2019

The BUILD vs. BUY dilemma:
make an informed decision (Part 1).

The Initial Phase.

Are you beginning your digital transformation journey? Get ready to face the build vs. buy dilemma. The question you will inevitably need to answer is whether to implement IIoT solutions alone or bring an expert partner onboard. Even if your business instinct leads you to an in-house solution, you should take your time to weigh the options carefully. Make sure you have the facts straight before you make a decision.

There are numerous questions to consider before deciding which road to take. These are tough questions to answer – particularly for businesses that are implementing digital transformation for cost-cutting, streamlining or efficiency reasons. Bringing a third-party IIoT partner on board may appear an unnecessary expense and one that’s difficult to justify. In reality, there are other points to consider, for example, the time required to select the appropriate technologies and train teams to work with the new systems. Let’s not forget the time needed to maintain and update these systems. And what about the time that you will lose on your core business as you redeploy resources?

Time to Act.

One is clear from the very beginning – all IIoT solutions require time and resources for a successful implementation. Drawing the plan is one thing, but the challenge comes when training and deploying resources to implement, manage, monitor, and maintain the new systems. Time and not necessarily money is the greatest asset when dealing with project complexity (see Fig.1).

Developing an IIoT service requires expertise – embedded technologies, electrical engineering, DevOps practices, server infrastructure, manufacturing, etc. How does it work in practice? In most cases, companies realize that they need additional support when they are already in the development phase. Adding new resources at that stage becomes difficult and may cost a fortune.

The findings of a recent Forbes Insights report come as no surprise. It takes companies 1.25 years longer to develop and deploy their IIoT platforms compared to businesses working with dedicated IIoT platform providers. An in-house team may need extra time to evaluate and start implementing a successful IIoT project. Working with a third-party IIoT service provider means, in most cases, that the project would be already progressing. Third-party providers with a proven track record can give exact estimation in the implementation phases and react quickly in case of unforeseen issues.  

Figure 1. The Build vs. Buy Dilemma

The Human Factor.

According to a 2017 Cisco survey, only 26% of companies thought their IIoT initiatives were successful. Around 60% believed that their IIoT projects looked good on paper, but the complexity turned out to be very high. These companies discovered, unfortunately, the hard way, that digital transformation is not just about connecting up devices and reading data to achieve the desired business outcome. It is about having the resources to plan and implement the new solution and the experience to know which devices and what data to collect, as well as when to alter or revise business targets or even when to set more ambitious ones.

Here comes the human factor. Even the most basic IIoT projects at industrial level require a range of engineers, software developers, technicians, and estimators not to mention the skilled shop floor staff who will physically install the devices and systems. Team members who may or may not have the experience in a particular area need to be assigned to work on the project. The attention towards their core tasks would be siphoned away.

Rise to the challenge? Does the team have the capabilities or willingness to take on what can be an incredibly demanding technical challenge? This overlooked issue leads to the need to hire new employees in a more mature state of the project. Let’s not forget the increased competition to recruit the best talent. Hiring and retaining highly skilled professionals is vital for the success of the project. In the times of digital revolution, it is critical to retain employees possessing the skills to plan, implement, manage, monitor and maintain an in-house IoT system.

Food for Thought.

Many factors affect the implementation of IIoT solutions. Is it then more feasible to bring an external IIoT expert on board? Stay tuned for the next blog posts of the series “Build vs. Buy”! In the meantime, check out our white paper to make an informed decision about your digital transformation.