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04 Aug 2020 - GIM Suite – Technology, Business Management by Warren Carvey

Coming out on top of the build vs. buy software debate

The ‘build or buy’ debate for mining software is nearly as old as technology itself. Most companies have a combination of in-house systems and commercial software, and this is true across industries regardless of the size of the business or how long a mine site has been in operation. When it comes to geological data management software, making the decision to build or buy can be tricky, especially if your data has been logged on spreadsheets. The right answer for how best to store your geoscientific data is not always obvious.

Build or buy?

According to Gartner, “Ill-advised purchases, pet custom development, and inconsistent decision-making have contributed to technical debt.” Technical debt has the potential to affect your bottom line, deplete staff morale, and slow down your ability to scale your operation. So what should you consider when making the decision to build or buy?

Investing in your own technology

Making an investment in your own technology can make a lot of sense, especially if you have minimal requirements and already have an IT department. Building software requires long-term thinking, something that’s often missed when systems start out small to solve an immediate problem. When you develop your brief to build a bespoke geological data management system, consider these questions:

  • Is this a short-term fix or a long-term solution?
  • If this is a long-term solution, are you able to scale at the same pace as your business grows?
  • Can you insulate your project from other mining business needs so it doesn’t become overtaken in importance or bogged down?
  • Does your software development team have enough geological experience to fully understand the application or uncover unknown requirements?
  • Have you considered the time, effort, focus and cost of building and maintaining your own technology?
  • How will this technology leverage on innovation and align with third-party technologies?
  • How will your technology feature in your mining company’s future IT strategy and/or system landscape?

If you plan to build or borrow your technology from open source, human resources are another consideration you need to make.

Getting (and keeping) the right software developers

One thing to keep in mind is that the true cost of employment is usually about 1.4 times the base salary you pay when you take into account leave, employment taxes and fringe benefits. Salaries for experienced software developers run into six figures all over the world, especially when a person possesses niche skills. Due to the high value and cost of in-house developers, organisations make sure their time is maximised in the organisation. Even when your project is assigned dedicated staff for development, it’s unusual to have the same number of resources available after launch. Good technology people move to new projects with new priorities, making it more difficult to get the necessary modifications needed to mature the software and keep pace with technology changes.

The software industry, as a whole, is transient and has been for decades. With skills in short supply and high demand, it’s hard to keep people in one organisation. And, when staff leave for another job, your IP often leaves with them.

Considerations when making the decision to buy geological data management software

Not all solutions are equal and not every vendor is right for you. So what are the criteria to consider when choosing a partner for a geoscientific data management solution? The software industry is rife with companies whose goal is to build and flip. If you’re in business for the long-term, ensure your vendor is too.

  • Think about the longevity of the company you want to partner with. How long have they been around?
  • How long has the focus of the business been on geoscientific data? Is this a core product or is it a bolted-on feature with limited functionality?
  • How much industry experience does the company have? Vendors who have been in the industry for many years have probably faced and overcome many challenges with different businesses.
  • Has your vendor of choice taken steps to avoid technical debt for their own products? Are they in an active phase of technical rejuvenation? If they’re a new company, are you confident they can keep pace over time?
  • Do you understand the true impact of customisation versus configuration, and how much customisation are you prepared to accept without compromising your long-term solution?
  • How much ownership or influence can you have on the scalability and growth of the solution in your business?
  • What relationships and integrations does your vendor have with other mining software and hardware vendors? Is there a high degree of interoperability within the software under consideration?

Now what?

acQuire has dedicated more than 25 years to the research and development of geological data management software. Our software developers are led by a technology roadmap devised by our Director of Product, an experienced geologist who has worked with GIM Suite for nearly 20 years. This continual investment in product development ensures the GIM Suite technology keeps up with technological advances.

GIM Suite has been designed so it can be configured to suit individual business needs and workflows. Since no two mine sites are the same, it’s vital to have the ability to use your geoscientific data management software in a way that makes sense for your business. Being able to configure your software eliminates the need for expensive customisation or paying for long-term consulting fees.

To find out more about GIM Suite, head to our GIM Suite page, read our case studies, or contact us to discuss how you can benefit from software that’s grown in functionality for a quarter of a century and is becoming a key part of mine technology for the future.

 

About the Author
Warren Carvey

Warren Carvey is the Operations Manager for North America. He has over 13 years of geoscientific information management experience working with acQuire, with most of this time servicing customers in North America. Warren is passionate about helping acQuire’s customers get the most out of their GIM Solution.

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