Reuse, Buy, or Build? New answers to old questions in software and tech.

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There is no ‘right’ answer to the question of whether to ‘Reuse, Buy, or Build,’ when it comes to software. The traditional approach for technology infrastructure and applications is: reuse first, then buy, and if there is no product that fits, build. 

ATB is dedicated to constantly innovating, iterating, and improving. This means having organizational infrastructure that sets us apart with speed and agility, helping us bring smart ideas to life quickly. In 2017, we took a hard look at our processes and infrastructure, including our ‘reuse, buy, build’ hierarchy. 

In our investigation, we were reminded that buying a product can have some serious pitfalls. Though often commended for being the cheaper and quicker option, going with an off-the-shelf software has risks of incompatibility and limits in functionality. 

Customizations can also lead to nightmares when new versions are released. We dare you to find an IT manager who doesn’t have a story to tell about getting so deep into customizations that a simple update can mean a system (and mental) meltdown. 

So we’ve flipped the model on its head, moving ‘build’ above ‘buy’. The build-first model requires an up-front investment that can prove challenging for many organizations. It also means that tools can take a little bit longer to get into the hands of team members, but the time and human resources investment can pay off big. 

So why go the custom-built software route? It comes down to customization and growth.

A key to success with the new hierarchy is a team equipped with the skills and technology stack to feasibly build solutions. At ATB we’ve got the talent pool and the same technology stack as the world’s leading technology companies.

Our first foray was to build the ATB Digital Platform that powers our rapid account opening process. The platform is the ‘plumbing’ of a scalable system that overlays ATB’s legacy infrastructure, creating a custom platform that is easier to scale to other systems and processes. 

Once we had the plumbing in place, we brought a group of ATB developers into the lab and trained them up on the tools that underlay the Digital Platform. Now we have a team of developers who are able to quickly scale custom solutions to problems faced by our internal teams and ATB customers.

Building the software ourselves means features are fully customized and not at the mercy of version updates. We are able to adapt the ATB Digital Platform quickly in response to changing needs. Building from scratch allows for the programs to grow with us, and the investment is scalable.

Buying a product might work for what we need right now, but what about five years down the road? A forward-thinking mindset eliminates future frustrations of working with lagging technology or, worse, being bogged down by updating and testing customizations or being forced to transfer everything over to a new system in a few years time.

The Transformation Team at ATB has catalyzed many positive iterations in how we do our work. Our organization structure is now structured for customer experience-based design; our teams are inclusive; the way we design is built for speed and agility. In the name of innovation, we’re not afraid to veto stale paradigms and provide meaningful solutions to problems large and small. For now, that means reuse, build, then buy; but we’re open to change.