For years, companies have debated whether to build their own shipping software or buy from a vendor. And, a case can be made for either. However, as companies look to their IT team to take on the task and third-party software developers to do the entire process, a growing option provides shippers with the best of both worlds.

Building Shipping Software

Traditionally, companies often decided to invest time and money to build custom applications in-house over concerns that a third-party solution may not provide the exact level of service needed or wouldn’t connect readily to existing software such as ERPs and WMS. And many IT teams can build a custom solution from scratch, delivering precisely what the company needed at that time. This also allowed for the solution to be a differentiator from the competition.

While there are those benefits, companies often find that this came at a cost. First, it’s usually expensive to develop in-house software. Plus, there is a secondary cost of the IT team being distracted from their core work, hurting your business. Additionally, the need to continuously upgrade the architecture, integrate new technologies, and collect meaningful data while staying ahead of quickly evolving technology and customer needs can be an ongoing drain.

Buying Shipping Software

To overcome some of the drawbacks of building shipping software in-house, some companies turned to purchasing off-the-shelf software to overcome some of the downsides of building their own shipping software but found a mix of benefits and challenges as well.

As pointed out in the recently held Supply Chain Brain webinar “Should I Build, or Should I Buy? How to Get the Best of Both,” there are some benefits to buying last-mile shipping software from a trusted software vendor.

The business case is made by the faster deployment, lower upfront costs, and top-notch technology that purpose-built software provides. Built by a company whose sole purpose is the development, deployment, and updating of shipping software assures that the technology is made to go the distance. However, there are still some negatives to consider when purchasing software from a vendor. Much like a one-size-fits-all sweater, the software may not be a perfect fit for all your needs and integrations with existing software. Also, as an off-the-rack sweater, off-the-rack software may not give you everything you need to differentiate yourself or stay ahead of the competition who might have the same software.  

The Best of Both Building and Buying Shipping Software

When working with the right technology partner, however, the decision to buy or build your final-mile shipping software is no longer an either/or scenario; you can get the best of both. By outsourcing specific aspects of the solution that are traditionally the most challenging, such as carrier compliance, returns, and package tracking. By incorporating deployment flexibility, turn-key software upgrades, updates, configurability and personalization over customization, easy system inter-connectivity, and scalable pricing. By doing this, you can reduce the total cost of technology ownership, lower the solution speed to market, and realize a more immediate and higher return on shipping technology investment while still getting something unique and under your control.

In the end, there is no correct answer for every business. For some, building software in-house may work. For others, buying last-mile software from a vendor is the best way to go. But, as the shipping industry and technology evolves, a third option of building and buying shipping software may provide the complete package needed to gain a competitive advantage.

Watch the OnDemand webinar, “Should I Build, or Should I Buy? How to Get the Best of Both,” for more on making the final-mile shipping software decision that delivers what you need to build your business, cut your costs, and keep your customers happy.