If you want great milk for your breakfast cereal, better buy a cow. That’s the essence of the argument that Jo Masters Emison is refuting in his article for InformationWeek. Oftentimes, the success of a given company is attributed to a first rate, in-house software development team or “greenfield” team. What Emison suggests is that, like resisting cloud applications, retaining greenfield developers is just another unnecessary brand of ‘keep it in-house’ thinking:
Get rid of the mindset that software is such a differentiator that you need to code in-house. At one time, it was common for companies to maintain their own power plants, because power was critical to their operations, and they didn’t trust anyone to provide it. Some companies still push back against cloud, as if where VMs reside is going to make or break the business. That’s clearly wrongheaded, and at some point soon, companies that insist on maintaining their own data centers will be at a competitive disadvantage.
The Risk of Coding In-House
The first confounding factor in a company’s quest for in-house development is finding the development talent. Emison argues that, especially at this initial stage, companies take a wrong turn. He says that even well-staffed and talented teams don’t really understand the business demands that will make the product fly when it is introduced into the “wild,” into the market for everyday use.
The Luxury of Greenfield Development
Furthermore, development staff are expensive. A 2014 InformationWeek salary survey revealed that application developers in particular expect a base salary that is well above the professional norm. In addition, well financed firms from Silicon Valley and the venture capital world are competing to hire the best developers around, and as a result paying a premium.
Solution: Hire Product Procurement
Emison concedes that most companies need a core team to maintain, support, and implement minor updates on in-house software, but that trying to retain a “core competency” software team is pure folly. Instead, why not hire employees with great product expertise. That way, the organization gets all the best functionality money can buy, without the risk and pains of doing it themselves.