“Coverlet meshing” wrote some nice articles. One of them: http://www.informationweek.com/strategic-cio/executive-insights-and-innovation/build-vs-buy-a-dangerous-lie/d/d-id/1113643?itc=edit_in_body_cross&page_number=1
For those that want to get a taste before clicking the start of the article (I’m not going to neatly format the following, the real read is one click away ):
Build Vs. Buy: A Dangerous Lie
IT’s eternal debate sidesteps the complexities of a fragile talent ecosystem and creates a vicious cycle that ensures project failure.
There are no good “buy” options. Period. I’m not saying there aren’t any good products out there. There are. But given the complexities of fluid business conditions and the peculiarities of the internal processes that support them, the term “off the shelf” is a marketing gimmick.
“Buy” is never just “buy.” It’s actually “integrate.” So is “build,” which means they both require similarly skilled engineering talent. Therein lies the dilemma.
Culturally the word “buy” in large IT shops is a not-so-subtle signal of disinvestment in a declining, increasingly commoditized function/department/division. In a field that has grown sensitive to short cycles of obsolescence, that signal creates a powerful, self-perpetuating downward spiral for top engineering talent – an exodus of ambitious hackers, ever-vigilant about remaining relevant.
The space in decline experiences the opposite of gentrification. The allure of someone else’s “build culture” sucks out all the talent that matters, leaving behind non-technical project managers (the overzealous and process-focused) and technical order-takers (under-motivated second- and third-tier engineers). In the Mortal Kombat vernacular, that combo leads to a fatality because that diminished internal team simply can’t deliver what the business thinks it’s getting “off a shelf.”
[Don’t get too comfortable in middle management – instead, flatten the org. Read Career Advice From The Future.]
Note that I can’t stand those three words: off the shelf. They’re classic marketing misdirection, implying, “What could be simpler? You have a can opener, right? Well, we sell cans!” Mmmm… deeeelish!
The problem, of course, is that the flight of engineering talent from your “buy” organization means that you don’t have a can opener. If you’re lucky, you have a hammer, and it’s somewhere out in Chennai. Most orgs-in-decline don’t even have that. They just have to learn to eat the can.
Enter senior management
The decline plays out predictably. That ripe smell of flop sweat, even before the buy engagement starts, causes senior management to overcompensate and hire an army of external professional servicers. But it’s already too late because the home team is no longer strong enough to support those occupying forces.
Ever-diligent about project optics (and their own career paths), senior management pivots and starts talking about the need for talent upgrades. Hilarities ensue, because it was their framing of the space as a commodity function that essentially caused its accelerated decline – a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And that is why the perennial build-versus-buy discussions are so dangerous. Sunsets lead to darkness faster and more chaotically than anyone expects.
The counterargument – because it’s all really about talent, not whether you build or buy – is that your best people should focus on your company’s core competency, the areas that differentiate your product or service. But putting your top talent exclusively on strategic competencies means that they’re being supported by your middlers and low performers, essentially giving your gladiators paper swords.
A good example – for which I’m sure I’ll get hate mail – is Human Resources IT. How can I say this politely? The market isn’t flooded with world-class engineering talent with a depth of HR IT experience. Management’s default buy options, i.e., PeopleSoft/Taleo, guarantee that this space remains IT’s talent backwater. This is ridiculous (this is me backpedaling) given the role that talent plays in the success of every business.