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Is it Better to Build or Buy Employee Training Software?: 8 Factors to Consider

Amy Watts
Amy Watts

In the digital age, businesses are relying increasingly on new technology to help them manage and expand their operations. Investing in innovative software can enable brands to deliver exceptional experiences across multiple channels, drive profit margins and better engage and empower their workforce. It’s not surprising, then, that software spending is forecasted to reach $674 billion in 2022.

It’s not as simple as implementing any old tool, however. Especially when it comes to workforce training, choosing the right software for your company - and ensuring that it’s properly integrated into your systems and processes - can be make or break. 

At eduMe, we’ve seen many companies deliberate over whether it’s best to build a custom learning solution in-house, or invest in an existing tool such as ours. Many are swayed by the attraction of having full control over its functions amid fears that a third-party solution might not meet their specific needs, and avoiding upfront costs. 

But is this the best course of action for your business? And does building your own training software internally actually save you money in the long run? 

Let’s take a look at which factors to consider when choosing whether to build or buy, and an example of why a business might be better placed to opt for a third party learning tool. 

Build vs. buy: which factors to consider

  1. Cost
  2. Maintenance (continuous development)
  3. Security
  4. Control
  5. Connectivity
  6. Opportunity cost
  7. Time-to-value
  8. Expertise

Employee training software

1. Cost

Buying software may require an upfront cost, but it’s often a better investment in the long run. When you purchase a third party tool, it’s a known expense for a product that will be ready to use and implement immediately.

Building internally, on the other hand, often requires a lot of resources and even more unpredictability; according to data from the Project Management Institute, 43% of IT projects go over budget, 49% come in late, and 14% fail altogether. 

If your custom solution is particularly complex, it’s likely to cost from twice to twenty times more than the off-the-shelf version.

2. Maintenance

Having an internal team dedicated to maintaining your software means you’re able to design its scalability according to your business goals and have a key advantage in rolling out ongoing updates - an attractive proposition for many CIOs. 

However, the workload can get heavy rather quickly when handling fast upgrade work and bug fixes. Balancing architecture upgrades with wider projects is a big ask for any team of experienced developers, and may inhibit their ability to innovate. If you decide to hire a new team dedicated to the project, that will likely entail substantial hiring and training costs, as well as the time necessary to integrate the new developers fully into your company and mission.

Buying off-the-shelf means relying on an external team to deal with the burden of ongoing maintenance, freeing up your team’s time to focus on staying ahead of the competition.

3. Security

Security is a crucial consideration for any new tool, whether it’s built in-house or purchased from a third party. 30% of companies will experience a data breach in the next two years.

Make sure to consider the limit of your information security and the expertise of your team, especially when dealing with incredibly sensitive data. If you have the resources to build your own safety firewall to reduce the risk of data leaks, you might want to opt for a custom solution.

If not, it’s likely a safer option to put restrictions on the tools that you buy and rely on external experts to protect your (and your customers’) data. Teams that have spent years developing and delivering on safety protocols for clients - such as eduMe’s in-house team, trusted by clients across the spectrum from SMBs to enterprises like Uber - are often best placed to ensure compliance and keep your mind at ease. 

4. Control

One of the most appealing reasons to build in-house is the opportunity to have full control over your new software. The drawback of this, however, is that you’ll be left reliant on the developers who built it. If those developers end up leaving the company you’ll likely have to hire new teams to rebuild the codebase from scratch, wasting valuable time and resources.

Though buying off-the-shelf means you have less control over the product roadmap, that doesn’t mean you’ll have no say at all. Most Software as a Service (Saas) companies - ourselves included - rely heavily on customer feedback and work closely with their clients when designing and improving their product, meaning that any features missing from their offering are likely to be added further down the line. 

If the commercial software currently on the market meets 60% or more of your requirements, it’s generally recommended to buy. 

Download The Buyer's Guide to Modern Training Technology

5. Connectivity

Each company has its own unique ecosystem. By building your own custom software, you can ensure compatibility with your existing tools (provided you have the resources to do so, of course).

Even so, that’s not to say that buying off-the-shelf will always limit your connectivity. The likelihood is that there is already a comprehensive solution on the market which can act as an extension of your existing ecosystem. Opting for a learning solution such as eduMe which integrates into your tech stack, rather than overhauling it completely, ensures that it becomes an integral part of your company’s architecture.

6. Opportunity cost

Your in-house team might be capable of developing and maintaining a custom software solution, but it’s important to consider whether building out that tool will become a distraction from more meaningful work.

What will be the impact of pulling resources away from your company’s main mission? Will building out this tool significantly distract your employees from solving core business problems?

Think about what’s most important to your bottom line, and whether dedicating time and resources to an extra IT project is the best course of action for your business - especially if this new software is well outside the realms of your main product or service.

7. Time-to-value

One clear advantage of buying ready-to-use software is a shorter time-to-value. Not only is the tool immediately ready to implement, it’s also likely to come with a dedicated customer success manager ready to help you launch quickly and effectively. 

When it comes to building internally, the time-to-value isn’t just longer, it’s also very difficult to predict. Unforeseen development issues can cause significant delays, with the average schedule overrun for software projects coming in at around 33%.

Keeping time-to-value low helps companies keep their employees and customers engaged, ensuring that their new learning tech aids productivity, rather than hindering it. 

8. Expertise

Most internal teams can handle creating a functional, user-friendly product, but do they have the expertise to implement it effectively within their organization and ensure its ongoing success? 

External tools not only come with an in-house team of specialists and customer success professionals dedicated to making the process of implementation as smooth as possible, they also have the experience of executing a launch successfully with other customers. 

Another question to ask is whether this new software falls within your company’s usual product or service offering, and whether building it yourself might be too ambitious. Are you a customer-facing app trying to create your own integrated employee learning platform? Whereas building yourself runs the risk of not getting it right (and wasting both time and resource), buying off-the-shelf gives you a fully fledged product that’s backed by knowledge, expertise and experience. 

Why Uber chose to buy a third party software

Example: Why Uber decided to buy eduMe

At eduMe, we’ve had many of these conversations with prospective customers who ask themselves whether it might make more sense to build their own training platform, rather than opting for a mobile learning solution like ours. 

One example we often refer to is the case of Uber. As a well-resourced, highly tech-focused company, Uber was certainly capable of building a learning software to sit within their app. So, why did they choose to go with eduMe instead?

The answer was simple: efficiency. While Uber is a leading provider for deskless workers, and experts in facilitating seamless rideshare opportunities for users around the world, they are not learning and development specialists. Although they have plenty of engineers, they also have a lot of problems to solve and a lot of opportunities within their own organization and within their own subject matter expertise. 

In a recent webinar with eduMe, this is what Uber’s Global Product Marketing Manager had to say:

“It’s less about ‘could we have done it?’, and more about ‘how do you prioritize your time?’ 

What we were able to find with eduMe is a subject matter expert in the learning and development space that we felt was going to be a great partner for us as we grow our organization, and as we continue to expand our learning opportunities we believe that going to a third party partner that focuses on the space will be able to bring new ideas was a better use of time and money.”

Opting for eduMe meant that Uber was able to focus on meeting their own business goals, while relying on our expertise in deskless learning to provide them with a robust, dynamic and seamless mobile training experience which delivered immediate results. 

The takeaway

So, is it better to buy employee training software or build your own? The answer will be different for everyone, but here’s our general recommendation.

If you want a hyper-specific solution that you can’t find anywhere else, and have the resource, time and money to see it succeed, building might be the right option for you. However, if you’re looking to deploy something quickly and efficiently, and have an independent team of dedicated specialists on your side who are solely focused on improving the product and seeing it implemented successfully, it’s highly recommended that you buy. 

While at first it may be tempting to build from scratch, comprehensive solutions such as eduMe have been built and developed by industry experts to optimize performance and save your business money and time. 

Buying a fully functional tool enables you to maximize ROI and ensure quick time-to-value, as well as allowing your team to focus their time on what matters most to your business. 

Considering whether to develop your own workforce learning solution? eduMe is the leading mobile training solution for deskless workers, integrating seamlessly into brands’ existing tech stacks to ensure quick implementation and high impact. We have dedicated teams on hand to help you launch and scale your training initiatives, from setting up third party integrations to expert content creation. 

Get in touch now to see whether eduMe’s the right fit for your business 👇