A storage building as a metaphor for ‘build vs buy’ software

Well, hindsight being 20/20, I sure wish I would have spent the $5k more on my house to have a 3 car garage. It seemed like a lot at the time, but it would cost me about $20k to add it now. So my woodworking shop is in the basement and all my outdoor equipment (Mower with 48? deck, lawn sweeper, mower tow cart, snowblower) is in the garage along with all the other accumulated stuff. There’s barely enough room for the cars.

We’ve had enough. We’re getting a ’storage building’. The choices are many. There are several styles, several sizes, and tons of options. They start at $1200 and before you know it you’re sitting at $5500 – more than the cost of the 3rd bay of a 3 car garage.

There are at least 3 issues to take note of in this scenario. I haven’t thought deeply about all the aspects of this, but here are a few of my initial thoughts.

Issue 1 – Initial investment is cheaper
If I would have just sucked it up and made the initial investment of $5K I would have griped for a few days then I’d have been done with it. Instead I have to spend time deciding what to do and then spend nearly the same amount to get something thats not as good. I have seen companies do this same thing many times when it comes to software. I guess the difference is the amount of money. I’m spending a few thousand while I’ve seen millions squandered by ill advised managers.

Issue 2 – The fit of a future solution
A few months after we moved into the house we had a 3 post fence put in. This is no small thing. We have just under 2 acres and the fence covers the entire back yard. If we buy a prebuilt storage building, it’d be nice if we could actually get it into the back yard. This presents a problem. A 12 feet wide barn isn’t fitting through a gate thats ten feet wide. I’m going to have to remove a fence post to double the width of the opening so we can fit a wider ‘barn’ through. This is akin to a company trying to integrate a solution into their current environment. It is no fault of anyone that a future requirement causes pain in integrating with past solutions, but it illustrates the value in knowing the plan up front.

Issue 3 – The choice
I pretty much know what I want, the question is whether to build it and save some dough, or buy one and have it delivered whole or put together by someone else. As I thought through those choices I realized that these are the same issues that the customers I work for deal with before I’m called in.

A company can:

  1. Use the personnel that they have and write a custom solution to solve the problem
  2. Pay someone else to write a custom solution to solve the problem
  3. Find a ‘boxed’ solution that fulfills a large portion of the need, and possibly customize it further (with their own personnel or by contract)

Sure, there are some other options, but generally these are it. Resources are being spent, no matter which way its done.

There are a lot of decisions that I’ll have to make before I decide which way to go. In all likelihood I will not build it myself. I’m handy enough, and have enough favors to call in to get it done, but my time is probably worth enough to me and my family to just have somone else do it… on the other hand, it is a great stress relief to do this kind of work for me, so who knows. I sound like a client. Indecisive.

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