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This is a slide deck for my ISR CMU Software Engineering PhD practicum (approved in May 2012). Full text: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/%7Eiruchkin/docs/ruchkin12-building-software-in-house.pdf
As domain-specific software becomes more available, businesses face a dilemma: whether to acquire commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) enterprise management systems or to build them in-house. Companies choosing to create a product internally are often rewarded with flexibility and control over their development process and its results. However, when expanding, they can outgrow their ability to support the developed software.
Working as a programmer at a medium-sized logistics company, Si-Trans, in 2010, I witnessed the long-term implications of an initial decision to build an information system in-house. While this decision was appropriate in 1997 because COTS alternatives were scarce and inapplicable, it created a favorable climate for inconsistent, ad hoc management practices within the entire company, in particular, software creation and maintenance. These practices ultimately contributed to Si-Trans' inability to see an opportunity in the early 2000s when it was feasible and advantageous to adopt a COTS-based solution. This solution would have scaled better for the company's growth and would have helped avoid an outstanding technical debt in the old system. By the end of 2011, Si-Trans finally considered the acquisition of an off-the-shelf information system, after having suffered substantial financial losses from the protracted in-house development.