DIY app development is becoming a trend in a lot of companies that have the development talent to create something truly useful to their business. Many companies see this investment of time as a good use of creative resources, but could partnering with an OEM or white label provider be a better bet? It’s a question many departments, from IT to c-level executives, have been considering, with cloud storage and file sharing apps and services in particular.
The top two questions on all of these decision-makers’ minds are: ‘How much will it cost?,’ and ‘How fast can we deliver the product?’ Cost and speed are two major concerns, but there are also some other big factors that should go into the decision-making process when considering to build in-house or via a third-party partnership. Before you even begin to build cloud services, it’s important to understand how to weigh your company’s structure and resources to make the best decision possible.

Speed

Large companies tend to have resources, but building a product also tends to take a lot of time. Realistically, it will take a large company about 12-16 months to build and launch cloud apps in-house. For smaller companies, the timeline might shorten to about nine months. Why so long? Building a offering also requires either refocusing the right team members onto this new project, or in most cases, hiring the right team to create and market the project. The hiring process alone can take longer than the development work that might be necessary for your project. You also need to bake-in time for QA and testing, processes that are extremely important before taking your product to market. If your company has the resources and the timing sounds right, then building in-house might be the right decision. If you need to get to market faster an OEM partnership might suit you better.

Cost

The price of the project is probably the first question on most minds. Again, we have to go back to hiring. The most expensive cost you will incur building a cloud offering in-house is hiring a team, which is especially hard right now. Mobile developers and devops pros are in high demand. It can literally cost millions to hire them, and can take a significant part of the manager of the business effort’s time. If your company can attract and retain these individuals, it’s a good sign that building in-house is the option for you. If not, partnering will make more sense, because you can focus on marketing and capitalizing these cloud apps after the launch, rather than how to sustain the team you just hired.

Maintenance

The cloud changes quickly. Consider this, my company, OfficeDrop, made about 20 major updates to our online cloud storage and file sharing product within a year’s time. Keeping both customer and business value high means that once you have a product, you have to keep updating it with new features that customers want. Basically, customers expect that a cloud application will be regularly updated. Staying up to this task requires a large team that is in tune with the competitive landscape. Another important aspect is support – can your team support the simultaneous launch and support for apps across all major platforms, like Android, iPhone, iPad and iOS? If you can afford the full-time developers to constantly work on your products, then building in-house is still an option for you. However, if you need to concentrate your developers’ resources and time elsewhere, an OEM partnership may be a better fit.

Best Practices

Launching a cloud service with the right set of user experiences, features and pricing can be very challenging. If you can hire the right team and have already collected detailed insights on the new offering from your customers then building in-house may bring more value to your company. However, focus groups can’t match the real-world knowledge of an experienced OEM partner. The right partner can provide data on which features are most important to customers and how they are going to actually use the service. Additionally, finding the best pricing is much easier if there is an understanding for how users have reacted to different pricing strategies and bundles in the past. Creating support and customer help desks become simpler if you already know the most common issues and questions that your customers will face (and have templates that you can use to respond). A good OEM partner will help you start your service not from the starting line, but from a leadership position.

Focus

Focus comes down to priorities. There are many business unit managers out there who do an incredible job focusing on their core business. Do you also have the time to manage a staff of developers, or would your talent to market and sell core features of your product suffer? If you have a structure that can support both the management of a development team that builds cloud solutions that customers are looking for and a keen focus on competitively placing your product in the market, then an in-house solution makes sense. But if you see this prioritization as a red-flag in the future, it’s likely that an OEM solution would give you the product you need to do your job best.

Teams, hiring, and managing people are as big a part in the decision to build in-house or to OEM-it as the cloud offering that you want to create. If you truly want a competitive advantage over others in your market, you need to think beyond speed and cost, and more about longevity. It can take a big investment to create a new offering, so it’s important you have a plan to support that product once it hits the market. Your examination of these areas will help you make the best educated decision for your company.