, , , , , , , , ,

Build, buy or partner.  If you have been in product management long enough, it is something you have dealt with.  If you haven’t yet, rest assured the time will come.  So when do you know which option is the right decision?


Obviously there is no silver bullet answer, but the following is a brief synopsis of what to consider (there are many resources out there where you can dig in more deeply, this is just a snapshot/summary based on my experiences):

Build Buy Partner
When it is a distinctive competence/core competency

When there is a clear need to own the IP outright

When control of architecture is critical

When it perhaps can be patent-able technology

When time, resources & costs are not a concern

When you don’t have domain expertise

When it helps solve adjacent / complementary needs

When it quickly fills major gaps

When architectures are consistent/compatible

When resources are a concern

When you don’t have domain expertise

When time to market matters

When there is a broad ecosystem end customers can delve into

When architectures are radically different but risk is low


Build is the typical scenario we have all faced as product managers.  Depending on the industry you serve, and the scope of your solution-set, partner is also something you may have dealt with and an effective way to extend your reach.

Buy, on the other hand, is another animal altogether and is where I’d like to dig in a bit. This article in particular caught my interest for this morning’s post: Mergers, Acquisition & Data Aggravation: M&A Hell.  The article is fairly specific to database technologies, but the author makes a few poignant points early on worth considering:

Either through mergers & acquisition (M&A), new job, or legacy systems predating tenure, infrastructures are less an issue of design and more an issue of inheritance. And much like the treasures Aunt Shirley bequeathed to you – they can be less than desired too.

M&A failures are between 40-80 percent — with an inability to integrate systems one of the leading causes. And while failures alone are bad, 50-70 percent of them, according to Orit Gadiesh, chairman of Bain & Company, “actually destroy shareholder value.

As I look back across my career, I have experienced being the acquirer, being acquired, and even an acquisition that was more of a merger (we were the smaller company but were a catalyst for changing culture/paradigm moving forward within the larger company). None of them were easy, but perhaps the biggest advice I can offer with respect to all of them is success or failure doesn’t necessarily come down to technology or integration of systems.

“Two cultures must be brought together and blended to create a collaborative, high-performance new company … People, culture, and leadership will be the game makers or breakers … The basic math here is that profitability is about performance, but performance is about people— one person at a time and collectively.” – Mark Brenner, PhD, chairman of the Global Consulting Partnership

What I experienced was meshing of company cultures, personal egos, and even just dumb luck often weigh-in just as heavily.If you can’t solve for these, you’ll never get to the question about whether or not technology can mesh.