Buy or build your IoT infrastructure

Customizability can come on both paths

By Michael Lamp

To build or not to build? That’s the question many businesses face when starting to create plans for an IoT project.

Each use case is unique to a particular business, so building seems like an attractive option to get exactly what you need out of a large investment. However, it takes time, money and commitment to secure the in-house talent needed to pull off a massive undertaking like IoT. It is important to evaluate if the project will be worth the effort put in to building an infrastructure from scratch.  

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying and building to help you decide what’s best for your business.

Building adds customizability, complexity

Pros:

Dedicated in-house team: Building the team in-house means you’ll have staff on salary to help not only during the build process, but also during the maintenance and lifecycle of your project. This helps when an IoT project needs to be flexed to meet a new business need or patched to accommodate for a new vulnerability that wasn’t on the scene during initial deployment.

Fully customized solution: An in-house build allows for an IoT solution that’s fully customized to your use case. Need a specific protocol to help your sensors pick up information, communicate it to the cloud and then deliver it to a custom app adapted for iOS and Android? An-in house build from an in-house team is in lock step with your internal business goals and can build to help try and meet them.

Cons:

Talent takes time: It takes time to find talent. Plus, since no IoT solution is the same as another, it’s harder to vet whether someone’s past experience will lead you to the best current solution. Add to that the speed of innovation and even talented IoT professionals need constant updating to their own skills to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Customization woes: A fully customized in-house solution isn’t vetted for quality and assurance. It’s perfect for your use case on paper, but in practice, are there gaps in your implementation you couldn’t see because you are too close to your business needs to balance them with industry best practices? It also limits your IoT knowledge to only those in the building, with little validation of assumptions.

Buying infrastructure requires vetting, detailed guidance

Pros:

Strategic partner speeds time to market: Distributors offer not just fully built but also semi-built IoT strategies. These give clients a balance of tried and true solutions when it comes to infrastructure with customizable points that still make a purchased solution adaptable to your business needs. This helps you stand up an IoT instance faster and beat the competition to market.

Global footprint, expansive knowledge: Collective knowledge from a global network means someone in some corner of the world is keeping up with IoT deployments and solutions from competitors in your industry and innovative companies in others. This built-in competitive intelligence can help them vet your business case with an objective eye, run diagnostics to prove ROI early to top executives, recommend the best solutions during the development phase and ensure security and maintenance not only with an on-site deployment but also a lifecycle management engagement.

Cons:

Outside partners take vetting: The likelihood that a one-size-fits-all approach will work for your implementation is slim—the complexity in IoT requires deep expertise and experience in both operational and information technology. It’s rare to find those two skills—alongside specialization in hardware, software and data science—at one company in the depth that you need. IoT solutions require close collaboration and communication. Though the hype may feel overblown there really is huge opportunity in the IoT space, so competition is high. Having more partners increases your risk of failure and cost because it decreases your ability to collaborate and communicate well, and therefore reduces your agility.

An external partner needs guidance: Like with hiring an advertising agency or an outside research firm, it will take some extra time up front to get an external team up to speed with your exact business objectives. For executives who want to see new solutions stood up quickly, this can add more weeks to the consultation phase of a project they will want to shortchange. Don’t do that. Allowing this time up front with the right partner can pay you back tenfold when the C-suite sees the ROI of the new IoT project out in the field.

To build or not to build?
Each company will have to come to their own conclusion when it comes to the difficult decision of whether buying an IoT infrastructure will suit their needs versus building one (or vice versa). Either way, ensure you plan, develop and deploy with whatever team can yield you true results, and back them up over time—whether they work in your office or not.  

Michael Lamp is Director of Americas IoT Business Development at Avnet.Working alongside Avnet’s IoT team, he is focused on assisting customers to create secure and connected products. At Avnet, he strives to make technology relevant to customers; he has held positions in Applications Engineering, Management, and Technical Marketing. Michael’s 20-year career in technology ranges from automation systems to communications infrastructure, as well as experience in computer forensics for E-discovery. Michael holds a degree in Computer Engineering from Boston University.

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