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Should You Build Microservices In-House or Hire Outside Experts?

In today's ever-evolving world of digital transformation, retail IT executives face a critical question: how can we extend the features and functionality of our monolithic systems? Increasingly, they are turning to microservices to stay competitive and agile. Microservices offer numerous benefits, such as scalability, flexibility, modularity, resilience, and faster time to market for new features.

Moving to a microservices architecture from a monolithic OMS brings up an important decision. Should the retailer build microservices in-house or hire an external specialist firm? This decision is significant and should be driven by both the company's short-term needs and long-term strategic goals. In this blog post, we will compare the pros and cons of both approaches to help companies make an informed decision.

In-House Build

Building microservices in-house and using your own team can be an attractive option. After all, with this approach, you are in charge of your own destiny. By building microservices in-house, you have complete control over the design, architecture, and business release-based iterations. And since you understand the integration points best, you can build custom integrations in an efficient way, without any fluff.

But there are other considerations, as well. The following are some of the pros and cons of an In-house build.

Pros:

  • In-depth Business Knowledge: Your internal development teams are simply going to have a much better understanding of your company's business domain, processes, and controls. This allows them to design microservices specifically tailored to meet your needs. This knowledge can lead to more accurate implementations that are aligned with business requirements.
  • IP Ownership, Customization and Control: An internal build allows for complete IP ownership, and a greater level of customization to align with your organization's unique architecture, requirements, and adaptability. Internal builds also grant the IT team better control over the development process, reducing external dependencies on the build.
  • Ongoing Maintenance and Support: With an in-house team, maintenance and support can be faster and bugs resolved quickly. This autonomy can lead to quicker issue resolutions and can also reduce downtime.

Cons:

  • Resource Intensive: Developing microservices demands a substantial amount of resources. These include skilled personnel, time, and technology investments. Costs can go well-beyond staffing to include a host of unanticipated needs.
  • Time to Market Delays: Building from scratch can take substantially more time than expected. Without experience implementing microservices in the field, project timeline estimates can be overly optimistic. This can lead to delays in adding new capabilities to existing processes and to bringing new services to the market.
  • Skill and Expertise Gaps: Internal IT teams may lack the expertise required to plan, architect, design, scale, test and deploy complex microservices applications. This skill gap cannot be solved internally. Not addressing this gap can lead to suboptimal implementations and lead to potential issues and technical deficiencies down the road.

Hiring an External Specialist Firm

Hiring a specialty firm focused on building retail microservices comes with its own benefits. In many cases, their expertise and knowledge gained by building these types of services for other companies translates into faster time-to-market. And they may bring an ability to foresee challenges and unanticipated consequences down the road. This can help ensure that your microservices can scale to perform as your business grows and the market evolves. Following are some of the pros and cons of hiring an outside firm with domain expertise to build your microservices.

Pros:

  • Expertise and Experience: The right specialist firms bring in a wealth of experience from working in the domain across several customers. These firms are well-versed and knowledgeable in best practices, and can provide innovative solutions to even the most complex business applications.
  • Faster Implementation: External expertise and a wealth of experience building microservices for other companies can help external firms to build a library of best practices. This can result in implementation, reducing time to market. This can result in a business advantage in a competitive market.
  • Cost Savings: Hiring an external firm can lead to long-term cost savings by avoiding expensive on-the-job training and trial-an-error implementation. Upfront investment in bringing the right external firm can save the company significantly in the future.

Cons:

  • Third-Party Dependency: Outsourcing the build to an external firm will mean relying on someone else for planning, development, ongoing support, and maintenance. This dependency could lead to a lack of control to address issues in a timely manner and could also cause potential security concerns.
  • Integration Challenges: Integrating externally built code and services with existing internal systems can be complex if not done properly. External tools and processes can make this even more challenging to execute.
  • Communication Challenges: Effective communication and alignment between the company and the external specialist firm are crucial for project success. There are a lot of requirements, assumptions, dependencies, and expectations that, if not communicated correctly, can result in significant deviations from original budgets, plans, and solutions.

Overall Considerations for Deciding

  • Strategy and Vision: IT executives should align the decision with the company's long-term strategy and vision. Consider the company's culture, growth plans, scalability requirements, and technology investments in the overall decision.
  • Resource Analysis: Assess the internal capabilities, maturity of processes, availability of skilled project planning, and technical resources. IT executives may find it better to execute a project with a specialist external firm based on their resource situation.
  • Risk Tolerance: Evaluate the organization's risk tolerance with new technology builds. Building microservices in-house might provide more control but also carries the risk of implementation delays, sub-optimal builds, and technical challenges.
  • Vendor Selection: Conduct thorough research and due diligence while picking an external specialist firm or vendor. Consider their track record of executing similar projects with other customers, their expertise, and their cultural fit into your organization.
  • Hybrid Approach: Depending on the complexity of the microservices applications, your resource situation, budgets, etc., a hybrid approach could also be possible. The internal IT team can work with an external team in a blended model of delivery, working collaboratively, enabling knowledge transfer and internal resource growth.

The decision to build microservices in-house or hire an external specialist firm depends on a variety of factors unique to each company. Both approaches have distinct advantages and disadvantages, and retail IT executives and leaders must carefully consider their organization's needs and requirements, resources, risk appetite, strategy, and long-term goals. Remember that today's business environment requires adaptable and agile solutions that a well-planned and executed microservices transformation can enable. Making the right choice can significantly impact the company's ability to thrive and stay ahead.

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