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In-House vs. Off-the-Shelf: Choosing the Right Software Solution for Field Service Organizations

In-House vs. Off-the-Shelf: Choosing the Right Software Solution for Field Service Organizations

In an increasingly competitive landscape, field service companies must optimize their operations and deliver exceptional customer experiences. To achieve this, many are turning to field service management (FSM) software. However, not all FSM solutions are created equal. As businesses explore their FSM software options, they often face a critical decision: should they build an in-house software solution or purchase a pre-built one? 

Considering buying vs. building?  Download our detailed guide

Choosing the right FSM software is a crucial strategic decision for field service companies. It can determine your ability to optimize field operations, enhance customer satisfaction, and stride ahead of your competition. By taking the time to consider the hidden costs of in-house builds and comparing the advantages and disadvantages of both commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) and house-built solutions, field service companies can confidently select an FSM solution that delivers their desired results. Today, we will explore the two approaches and help field service companies select the right FSM solution to fit their business needs.

Factors to consider when choosing to build or buy FSM software

There are many factors that go into choosing how to manage your FSM software needs. Before committing to building or buying, consider your company’s needs and the following factors.

  • Complexity and specificity of organizational requirements: Evaluate the unique needs and workflows of your organization. Consider whether a pre-built solution can adequately meet these requirements or if customization is essential. Consider what best-of-breed software can do; you may be surprised how many of your organizational requirements are already met by configuring existing software options.
  • Type of workforce: Whether your workers are employees or contractors, there are prebuilt software options available. Even if you have a blended workforce, there is one SaaS solution that can work off-the-shelf.
  • Available budget and resources:  While building software solutions in-house might seem like a more economical option, it typically is not. There are many hidden costs, including time spent away from your business’s main goals, hosting costs, and the cost of ongoing development and support.
  • Time-to-market considerations: Building an in-house solution requires time for development and testing, whereas a pre-built solution offers quicker implementation. 
  • Scalability and future growth prospects: Your company must consider the long-term scalability of any chosen FSM solution. There may also be short-term fluctuations due to changing demand for services and seasonality. How will FSM software fit into your organization’s growth plans? 
  • Integration with existing systems and infrastructure: Evaluate the compatibility and integration capabilities of the FSM software with your existing systems. If you’re building it from scratch, you must plan for integration with CRM, ERP, or inventory management. Seamless data flow and system interoperability are crucial for efficient operations.

Common questions field service managers ask about FSM solutions

Here are some of the key questions to consider when choosing how to handle your FSM solution needs.

How long does it take to build a software solution in-house compared to implementing a pre-built solution? 

The time required to build a software solution in-house can vary significantly depending on factors such as the complexity of requirements, the size of the development team, and the available resources. Even if you have a brilliant team of designers in your field service company, they generally are not focused on SaaS development, and so will need much more time to work on a custom-built FSM solution than you might think. Generally, building a FSM solution from scratch takes several months to years, while implementing a pre-built solution takes weeks to a few months.

Can a pre-built software solution be configured to meet our specific business requirements?

Yes, pre-built FSM solutions can be configured to meet your organization’s needs. Customization may include configuring settings, adding or removing certain features, and integrating with other systems. This is particularly true when you’re working with specialized, best-of-breed software as opposed to less-specific all-in-one software solutions.

What level of technical expertise and resources are needed to build and maintain an in-house solution?

Building and maintaining an in-house solution requires a significant level of technical expertise and resources that may be better used elsewhere in your organization. Your software designers and programmers might have significant expertise in your field, and pulling them from your business projects means serious opportunity costs. If you want to build an in-house solution, you will need additional resources and teams of software developers, project managers, and IT professionals who have expertise in software development, system architecture, security, and maintenance. 

What are the long-term costs of licensing, maintenance, and upgrades for a pre-built solution compared to an in-house solution?

The long-term costs of licensing, maintenance, and upgrades for a pre-built solution typically involve regular subscription or licensing fees, along with ongoing support and maintenance costs provided by the software vendor. In-house solutions have a number of hidden costs, including hosting costs, data privacy, data security, monitoring, support, continuous funding for maintenance, and more. These costs are generally already covered in the initial cost of a pre-built solution.

Is building a software solution in-house more cost-effective than buying a pre-built solution?

Generally speaking, no. Building in-house will often have higher upfront costs and ongoing maintenance expenses. A COTS solution may involve lower initial costs, and the ongoing licensing and support fees will often be lower than the expenses associated with in-house builds. A thorough cost-benefit analysis specific to the organization's needs is necessary to make an accurate comparison.


Investing in the Right Solution for Your Field Service Organization

Today’s field service landscape is too competitive for your organization to ignore FSM solutions. Choosing the right FSM solution can be a massive boost to your organization, whether that’s repair scheduling software, contractor management software, or other FSM software solutions. While you may think that building your FSM solution in-house is the best way to ensure it has the capabilities your business needs, the reality is that the hidden costs, opportunity costs, development time, and other features of custom-built software can hold your company back. 

Instead, a COTS solution can prevent these issues. COTS solutions can scale easily and solve problems for any type of workforce. They are almost always more cost effective in the long term. 

Discover more about how prebuilt FSM software can benefit your business by downloading our guide to the benefits of prebuilt FSM software today.

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