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Build vs. Buy… Or the Best of Both?

Written by Dave Baker | November 22, 2017

As a test engineering manager, making the decision to build your next test system using in-house resources or by working with external contractors can be a difficult one. This single decision will influence most of your future decisions regarding your test system, and can ultimately govern the success or failure of a test team.  

To help make this decision, it’s important to take the following items into consideration:

  1. Test requirements—In addition to the basic requirements like physical dimensions, I/O, timeline, and budget, be sure to address the purpose of the test, product stage, parts availability, operator usage, and desired test results as part of your requirements. By looking at the whole test system design from the top-down, you can quickly identify potential resource gaps and where you may need additional help.
  2. Total cost of ownership—This metric should include development costs for planning, licensing software, and developing a proof-of-concept; deployment costs for the capital equipment, assembly, software deployment, and shipping; and operational costs for running the machine, training, and maintenance.
  3. Balancing time, cost, and quality—One of the most important things to remember when developing a test system is that money is not the only factor. You must consider the balance between time to market, cost to implement, and the quality and longevity of the system.

After examining all the costs and other variables for building your test system, you may conclude that external help is needed to complete your project. Yet, you may still have doubts about outsourcing your entire project. Fortunately, the “build vs. buy” decision doesn’t have to be all or nothing; it can be a hybrid build-and-buy engagement, which we call co-sourcing.

This process involves teaming up with an experienced system integrator to split the work load and take advantage of each other’s strengths and capabilities. This win-win situation allows you to leverage expertise, improve efficiencies, and share risk and responsibilities for successful project results. The outcome is a configurable, well-designed, and well-documented test system that leaves your team fully trained and able to continue test development.

To dive deeper into the key considerations for a build vs. buy decision and to read about real-word examples of co-sourcing engagements, read the full white paper.