Should You Buy or Build Your Intranet

By Erica Hakonson
February 25, 2016
4 min read
custom intranet

Summary: The difference between a buy intranet and a build intranet, with checklists to determine which one better suits your needs.

Should you buy or build your intranet? Every company purchasing an intranet faces this question. There are advantages and challenges to moving forward with either option. To move forward with a ‘buy intranet’ means choosing out-of-the-box functionality that you can quickly deploy. You can even delegate deployment to non-IT or technical-related staff. To select a ‘build intranet’ means choosing to customize and architect an intranet that fits your specific environment. This option requires consulting services and an elongated implementation period.

Evaluating Buy Intranet vs. Build Intranet Solutions

We explored this buy vs build topic on our blog approximately three years ago. Since then, the intranet software market has gotten more crowded and the buy and build messages from different intranet vendors have gotten more convoluted, making it more difficult for buyers to decipher the reality through the noise.

Are You Buy Intranet Aligned?

To ensure you are making the right buy intranet versus build intranet decision ask yourself the following set of questions:

  • Do you need your intranet solution deployed and operational quickly?
  • Do you want to delegate tasks and management of areas on your intranet for other non-technical users to manage?
  • Do you want your intranet vendor to include all the work and future development in a single out-of-the-box package?
  • Do you want to install and deploy your intranet without requiring further deployment or code customization?
  • Do you have budgetary constraints that will require a lower total cost of ownership for your intranet?

If you answered “Yes” to the majority of these questions, you should consider a buy intranet, such as our low-risk, transparent and simple Intranet Connections intranet software solution. A buy intranet focuses on the lower total cost of ownership, smart delegation for multiple site owners, and out-of-the-box functionality that translates to a short installation and implementation period.

Are You Build Intranet Aligned?

If you answered “No” to the majority of these questions, answer the following set:

  • Want full control of the functionality and product code to customize your intranet around your specific needs?
  • Is your implementation timeline for your intranet flexible to change around business requirements?
  • Is your intranet budget scalable to include the variable costs of customization from professional service consultants?
  • Do you want to maintain and develop this custom code on your intranet internally or with ongoing consulting engagements as your needs for your intranet evolve?
  • Do you have seasoned, in-house technical resources that will be available to perform ongoing maintenance, bug fixes, etc.?

If you answered “Yes” to all or the majority of the above questions you should consider a build intranet, which you can purchase from a variety of intranet vendors that requires customization and consulting services for full deployment of their intranet platform. Alternatively, if you have seasoned in-house technical resources experienced with intranets you may also be able to build an open-source platform internally.  A build intranet focuses on complete 100% customization, flexible functionality built over time, and independence from an out-of-the-box, standard solution.

Return on Investment for Your Intranet

After working through those questions you should have a better idea of if a buy intranet or a build intranet is right for you. One other factor that your financial officer will consider when purchasing an intranet is the return on investment (ROI). In general, “buy” intranets have a much quicker ROI than “build” intranets given the lower initial cost of buy intranets.

However, SaaS pricing models have made build intranets a more affordable upfront purchase. Although buyer beware, with a build intranet you are not just signing up for the predictable monthly charge, you will also need to pay for the customization, implementation, training, and ongoing fees associated with build intranet platforms.

A quick example of how fast these SaaS costs can add up is purchasing a SharePoint 2013 Online plan in addition to your Office 365 plan at $7 per user per month. If you buy SharePoint 2013 Online as a build intranet option for a 1,000-user company you will pay $7,000 a month and $84,000 per year. Additionally, you will have to consider the extra fees associated with hiring SharePoint consultants to customize your SharePoint intranet. Or utilize the time and resources of an in-house SharePoint expert. Whether your financial officer is more likely to absorb a capital expenditure versus a monthly expenditure will be another buy intranet versus build intranet decision your company must consider.

Will You Buy or Build Your Intranet?

Ultimately, your company will need to decide what factors prevail in a buy or build intranet. You are now one step closer to selecting the right intranet platform for your business needs today. Let us know how and why you have chosen to move forward with a buy intranet or a build intranet by commenting below.

The IT Guide

Discover the guide to a simple intranet and simple intranet management.

By Erica Hakonson

Erica Hakonson, Director of Marketing & Communications, brings over a decade of marketing strategy, digital marketing, brand development, content creation, project management and strategic planning in the software industry to the Intranet Connections team. With a diverse skill set and a MBA in the Management of Technology, she is a strong team collaborator and creative thinker. When Erica takes a day off, you'll likely find her in the mountains running a trail with her Vizsla, enjoying a scenic hike with her family.