Buy or Build: Automated Building Optimization Solutions

The choice between purchasing an API software solution or building your own software solution can be daunting. We are providing you with this decision-making methodology so that you can choose more easily. 

When to Build

Developing an automated building optimization solution is no simple endeavor. It requires the amalgamation of experts in full stack development and architecture, both of which entail a high cost, especially over time. However, there are many reasons you may decide to build your own solution, including the following:

1. The software makes up one of your core functions

2. You want complete control over the look and feel of the solution

3. You need flexibility.

1. The software makes up one of your core functions

If a software solution is integral to your company’s main value proposition, it would make sense that you would prefer to maintain as much control over it as possible. In the same vein, if one of your competitive advantages is based on the solution’s functions, you would not want other companies obtaining access at a low cost per month. 

If you require deeper functionality than what is provided by the current array of APIs, it may make more sense to build. An API may do 70-80% of what you need it to do, but it is unlikely to provide the precise functionality necessary for your specific use-case. If you decide to build a software solution yourself, it will not be exactly like anything else on the market. Therefore, it could be a valuable asset for IP and provide you with a significant competitive advantage. Although for many, building may still be unnecessary because their required functions fall within the offerings of the current API landscape. 

In contrast, subscribing to an API, such as api.tool, right as its released, before other companies catch on, will also give you an edge over competitors. Even if they choose to build their own solution, it will take anywhere from 1-3 years, and you will get first dibs on their customers who require said solution. 

2. You want complete control over the look and feel of the solution

Every time one of your customers uses a branded API-provided service, you lose an opportunity to promote your own brand. If you want the design of a software solution’s user interface to match the look and feel of the rest of your site, or align with the rest of your branding, you may want to consider building the solution yourself. Although, certain APIs may add legitimacy to your product. If the brand is well known and respected, it won’t do much harm having your brand associated with the API provider. 

Another factor to take into consideration is the recent increase in availability of white-label APIs within the marketplace. Many API providers now allow clients to white-label their services, providing them with the opportunity to integrate their solutions while maintaining the integrity of their user experience. For example, with an api.tool subscription, since the API simply provides data, clients still have complete control over the look and feel of their application. 

3. You need flexibility

Cookie-cutter software solutions can’t keep up with dynamic customer preferences and requirements. With changes in regulation and ever-shifting market demands, quick fixes must be made frequently. In-house development teams can react more rapidly and effectively to respond to your needs. Although many API subscriptions come with support teams and updates, they may not take your business’ specific needs into consideration. Your in-house development team, however, will be easy to direct towards the exact source of any problem that may arise. If your company lacks the resources necessary to maintain an in-house development team, purchasing an API subscription may be the optimal route.

Some APIs, such as api.tool, combat rapid change through consistent updates made by a dedicated development team in order to provide the most cutting-edge features. In the majority of cases, this will provide you with enough agility to keep up with shifting market demands. 

When to Buy 

Many software companies have a need for energy simulations, daylight models, or glare analysis software, but don’t have the expertise on hand to build them. In this case, the decision to buy into an API seems like a simple choice. But even for larger organizations that potentially have the capability to build their own software solution, the choice to buy may still be the best route for the following reasons: 

1. Quick implementation

2. Ease of use

3. Predictability in terms of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

1. Quick implementation

The time and expertise required to create a building performance analysis tool comparable to cove.tool could span anywhere from 1-3 years. When compared to the time it takes to integrate your current tech stack with api.tool, 20-40 hours on average, the choice to build or buy becomes much clearer. Opportunity costs involved with development should also be taken into consideration – all the time spent on building your own building performance analysis tool is time that your development team could have spent elsewhere. With high engineer turnover and ever-changing business demands, developing your own in-house solution necessitates extra hurdles, while purchasing a solution frees up resources and increases mobility. Buying a solution allows you to avoid many of the big risks that building entails. 

2. Ease of use

One of the many often unforeseen costs of building your own software solution is the cost of providing ongoing support to keep your solution running smoothly. On the other hand, api.tool has a dedicated technical support team that ensures trouble-free function and effortless integration. This, in combination with the clear, digestible documentation on the API page makes troubleshooting a breeze. Functional issues are uncommon, if not non-existent, because api.tool doesn’t use Grasshopper to run its simulations. And because it is a web service, api.tool’s calculations are significantly faster than competitors – 1500x faster than the desktop-based software Radiance. 

With the cove.tool API, user accounts can be created by simply sending user email, password, first name, and last name. User accounts are automatically associated with your business and subscription based on the email domain. They can also be centrally managed in the cove.tool web application interface. Authentication can optionally be managed via Microsoft Azure SSO, as well.

An api.tool subscription also provides you with instant access to world-class data. Building up your own database of variables around climate, location, and building codes that need to be taken into consideration throughout building performance analysis calculations would be a time-consuming, costly undertaking. As an added benefit, most architects have heard of cove.tool, so it is a trusted brand that brings legitimacy to software partners. 

3. Predictability in terms of TCO

Building your own solution is expensive and slow. Purchasing a ready-made solution is almost always cheaper than building and maintaining an in-house solution because many unanticipated costs can arise throughout the development process and the need for new functionality is constant. Consequently, with in-house solutions, TCO is near-impossible to calculate accurately. With api.tool, you can confidently estimate your costs. You can bill whatever you like on top of the low cost per user to increase revenue streams and bolster average deal size. As your number of users increases, your total cost per user will decrease due to tiered pricing. 

Final Thoughts

Buy now, build later: If you are in need of a solution that’s currently provided by an API, it is best to buy in the short term. Then, you can determine which functions you use, and which functions go unused, and solely focus on developing the functions you need in the interim. Building your own solution may take up to two or three years, while a purchased solution can be set up in a matter of days or weeks. Customers are not going to wait for you to develop the new functionality. If a competitor chooses to buy into the API, they will have instant access to your customers with their attractive new value proposition. There are also many unforeseen costs involved in building your own solution, so accurately calculating TCO can be highly difficult. Furthermore, buying now provides ongoing maintenance, support, and new feature availability while you continue to focus on your core expertise. With this being said, there are multiple advantages that come with building your own solution. If you’re able to produce a superior solution, it could become a source of competitive advantage. You will also be able to customize your solution to fit exact requirements and look/feel exactly how you choose. 

Subscribing to an API does not stipulate a long-term contract. Therefore, the best course of action is to purchase the best available software solution to meet customers’ needs and, in the meantime, see if the advantages you will gain by developing your own solution will outweigh the costs.

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