Build or buy? 3 factors for adopting a Salesforce DevOps solution

Build or buy? 3 factors for adopting a Salesforce DevOps solution

Becky Lewis on

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Large organizations globally are already expanding the scope of Salesforce DevOps as a key part of their digital business transformation strategy. However, when it comes to scaling critical operations, sooner or later most leaders find that their technical teams face a familiar challenge: do we build a technical solution in-house, or buy something to solve the problem and accelerate our business? As with many technical challenges, the answer is “it depends”.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of DevOps adoption and take a deep dive into three key risk factors that can influence decision makers when starting a business case for either building a Salesforce DevOps solution in-house, or choosing to buy a purpose-built solution.

Scaling Salesforce DevOps

DevOps enables global organizations to work smarter and faster to meet their commercial and customer needs, from accelerating digital transformation to coordinating between varied technology stacks and platforms.

When it comes to applying these principles to Salesforce DevOps at scale, the business benefits are clear, from driving increased business value, to delivering higher quality releases and improving business agility with more rapid release cycles. According to the State of Salesforce DevOps 2024 report, 46% of respondents also reported that better collaboration was a key driver of DevOps ROI.

Decision-point: build or buy?

However, as businesses continue to scale DevOps, their solutions need to keep up. So is the right approach to build a solution in-house suitable for scaling existing Salesforce DevOps processes, or buy a purpose-built platform? Each business will need to find the right balance. On the one hand, you’ll be looking for a solution to help make your business profitable and competitive. On the other hand, you’ll need to consider the tradeoffs of time, costs, scalability and available in-house expertise.

First considerations: why did you invest in Salesforce?

In the State of Salesforce DevOps 2023 report, 98% of respondents said that Salesforce is critical for at least some of their business goals. Businesses are bringing more processes onto the platform than ever before, making Salesforce a strategic priority. But why did many businesses invest in Salesforce in the first place? When starting to build a business case for adopting a Salesforce DevOps solution — whether buying or building — it can be helpful to think back to why your organization originally invested in Salesforce.

For many businesses, Salesforce was originally an investment in replacing manual processes (or to avoid creating those processes internally in the first place). Salesforce was adopted as a low-code platform that wouldn’t require hiring lots of additional developer expertise but could smoothly replace repetitive manual tasks. For example, Salesforce may have been an investment to replace holding critical business information in Excel spreadsheets on individual drives or to ensure that commercial and customer details are held securely with manageable permissions for access.

Those same arguments hold true for adopting a DevOps solution for Salesforce. It’s likely you’re looking to improve efficiency by reducing manual processes (and the inherent risk of errors they present), minimize operational risk and increase security, and speed up project delivery without hiring additional domain experts.

Maximizing Salesforce ROI

For business leaders, the aim of all these benefits is to maximize ROI from your Salesforce investment. The good news? Implementing Salesforce DevOps translates into business benefits. Results from the State of Salesforce DevOps 2023 report revealed that 42% of larger teams who have adopted Salesforce DevOps are seeing a monthly ROI of over $50k, with 18% of these seeing more than $100k ROI.

With impact like this, Salesforce DevOps is increasingly being seen as the smartest and quickest way for companies to maximize the return they see on their Salesforce investment.

However, realizing the ROI of DevOps as you start to scale will depend on your environment and internal team resources. For many organizations taking their first steps to implement Salesforce DevOps, building an in-house DevOps solution can initially seem like a viable ‘quick fix’ option.

It’s important to be aware, though, that a Salesforce environment often has challenges and nuances that can have a significant maintenance and overhead impact for teams that decide to build in-house.

Let’s explore three key factors that can influence whether building or buying is the best option for businesses looking to maximize their Salesforce ROI.

Managing opportunity costs

For most businesses that are using Salesforce DevOps, a key objective is to maximize the speed, efficiency and accuracy with which you can deliver projects to customers (externally or internally). DevOps enables your teams to meet these goals by spending less time deploying, spotting errors earlier, reducing time rolling back deployments and much more. Therefore, any resources spent on tasks that don’t produce usable (and often commercially valuable) projects and features, have an opportunity cost.

While building an in-house Salesforce DevOps solution can initially seem a ‘quick fix’, businesses often find that as internal needs scale, internal resources are rapidly used up maintaining the solution rather than using the solution to deliver projects. Building, maintaining, upgrading and debugging custom scripts and point solutions — whether that’s via a development team who do that as an extension of their day job or as certain team member’s sole role — is use of company resources for activities other than producing projects which add value.

It’s important to weigh up the opportunity cost of spending internal resources on maintaining DIY DevOps tools and resourcing ongoing project management, versus buying a solution that works out of the box because it’s externally maintained, updated and upgraded regularly by a software provider with deep domain expertise.

Minimizing organizational risk

For most senior business leaders, minimizing organizational risk is a constant front-of-mind consideration. When introducing any new processes or ways of working, it’s typically an aim to reduce risk and maintain (or improve) security. Salesforce DevOps is no exception. With an emphasis on introducing processes that increase task automation, reduce repetitive tasks and decrease manual processes, DevOps aims to reduce single points of failure by creating repeatable, automated processes.

At this stage, buying a purpose-built solution enables businesses to minimize organizational risk by purchasing a tried-and-tested platform that has been proven for solving similar businesses’ DevOps challenges. You can rest assured that the software provider is regularly updating, testing and maintaining the solution to reduce security risks and protect your business.

If reducing risk is a key concern for your business, then good questions to ask a solution provider when assessing a purpose-built DevOps platform would include:

  • What are their security standards and credentials?
  • How reactive is the vendor to Salesforce changes?
  • How regularly do they release new platform updates?

Teams that choose an alternative approach of building an in-house DevOps solution from the ground up will need to be alert to the security risks that can creep in with this approach. Attempting to create a robust solution across multiple teams often introduces new single points of failure, because point solutions are initially built to solve different problems.

The best approach to avoid this when building in-house would be extensive planning to roadmap all the points in the release cycle where teams need a solution. However, the reality is that teams start building point solutions where they’re most needed, adding potential risk points to processes because the solutions aren’t joined up across multiple stakeholders. There’s also wider jeopardy attached to a failed self-built solution, with McKinsey reporting that 17% of failed projects ended up threatening the survival of the business.

Avoiding uncapped project costs

It’s also important to consider the risk of uncapped project costs that can creep in with a self-built solution. According to the Harvard Business Review, 70% of self-build software projects overrun. If maximizing Salesforce ROI is a key objective, then business leaders should be alert to self-build projects which can run over-budget and over-time.

As well as the risk of high project costs during the build phase, self-built solutions also involve ongoing costs of maintenance and updates. This is particularly true within a Salesforce environment, where frequent releases and updates to the Salesforce platform need to be incorporated into DIY DevOps tools.

The experience of one global telecommunications group serves as a cautionary tale for building a DevOps solution in-house. Ultimately, their team experienced high costs of operation, alongside difficulties managing their new environments and the multiple development workflows in a faster release cadence. Other enterprises realize that self-built solutions are wrong for them at the outset. One financial institution estimated that scaling and maintaining their in-house solution would require more than 4 full-time senior engineers and decided to opt for an alternative approach.

Build your business case

The business benefits for adopting Salesforce DevOps are clear, but deciding whether to buy a purpose-built solution or build-your-own needs careful consideration.

We’ve explored how opportunity costs, minimizing risk and avoiding uncapped project costs are three key factors to consider when starting to build a business case for adopting a Salesforce DevOps solution. For a deeper dive into other factors, including minimizing drain on Executive team time, optimizing team skill sets and ensuring scalable adoption, download our free whitepaper and start building your business case today.

And when you’re ready to see what DevOps could do for your Salesforce release managemnt, book a consultation with one of our experts for tailored advice.

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