Build vs. Buy: The True Cost of DIY Integration

managing "plumbing" for data integrations

This is the story of Bob.

Bob is a university CIO.

Bob is in charge of allocating his IT team’s hours strategically, so that everything gets done and everyone is happy.

So every year, Bob adds up all the working hours that each of his team members will be able to provide.

He subtracts all the sick days and vacation time, and comes up with the actual hours left for work.

Then Bob has to differentiate between each employee’s unique skill set.

He may have 20 people who can work a total of 40,000 hours that year – but Sandra’s hours can’t be used interchangeably with Joe’s hours, since they each have different areas of expertise. And since every IT project usually needs a few hours of each person’s expertise to get done, Bob has to be sure to keep that in mind as he allocates those hours.

So Bob comes up with reasonable estimates of the time his team has available, and then starts making decisions about priorities. 

He sizes and scopes all the IT projects across campus, deciding how many hours each department gets. Students Affairs gets a percentage of their hours, Business and Finance gets a percentage, and so does every other group or department that has a need. 

Then, he takes a look at the hours left for the big projects necessary for the university as a whole. And then he talks to the people on the front lines, the functional techs who may just need a few hours of programmer time during the year. 

Bob figures out which projects take priority and how he can fit them all into his available budget of employee hours.

And he does a pretty darn good job of it!

But here’s the thing.

The first year he allocates those hours, all is well.

There’s room for everyone’s projects to get done, and even time for his team to custom code a few of their own integrations so they don’t have to spend any money outsourcing integration, or buying an integration solution.

The next year, however? 

Bob has to remember to factor into his time allocation the fact that his team needs to use a small percentage of their time maintaining those custom integrations. Not too bad, though, maybe 5-10% of their hours. Still worth it, right? 

But that year, they also build a few more custom integrations. Still saving money! Whoo-hoo!

The next year, Bob’s team has to spend 15% of their time maintaining those custom integrations…and more time building new ones.

The year after that? Bob needs to hire a new employee, just to be able to keep up with projects at the same level that he did so effortlessly just a few years ago!

What happened?! 

While building custom integrations seemed to make sense financially at the time, the inevitable snowball effect means that a DIY approach is definitely not free. Or, at least, it’s free as in puppies, not free as in beer. 

That build vs. buy mentality has an opportunity cost associated with it that gets progressively more expensive as the years pass.

But Bob is smart. He sees the problem, and decides to take care of it once and for all.

So Bob calls N2N.

He learns that N2N’s API Management Platform, Illuminate, is an affordable way to handle all of the integrations at his university easily and quickly, without any opportunity cost or snowball effect. 

In fact, Illuminate actually enables Bob and his team to do more, as it frees up the time they would have used for custom coding and integration maintenance, AND makes it possible to integrate and try out new apps on a  whim, and even develop innovative new programs that wouldn’t have been possible without it!  

Bob is pretty thrilled to be using Illuminate – and hey, look! Bob just got a raise! 

Be like Bob. 

Call N2N today.

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