As technology became increasingly essential for the success of companies, the debate over whether to build or buy enterprise-level software has heated up. And while some have had success building and others buying from a third-party vendor, increasingly, companies are finding that a third option when it comes to their shipping software gives them the best of both worlds.

Over the years, companies might have invested time and money building custom shipping software and applications in-house over concerns that a third-party solution may not provide the exact level of service needed. Additionally, they were concerned it wouldn’t connect readily to existing ERPs, WMS, or other essential pieces of the tech stack. While IT teams can build a custom solution, delivering precisely what the company needs and serving as a differentiator, it can come at a cost.

For starters, it’s expensive to develop in-house software. Plus, there is a cost of the IT team being distracted from keeping systems running smoothly, including core functions such as e-commerce websites. Additionally, after the initial build comes the cost of time and money to upgrade the architecture, integrate new technologies, and collect meaningful data.

To overcome some of the drawbacks of building shipping software in-house, companies often turned to purchasing off-the-shelf software but found a mix of benefits and challenges there as well.

Acquiring software from a vendor can mean faster deployment, lower initial costs, and cutting-edge technology. Built by a company whose sole purpose is the development, deployment, and updating of shipping software ensures that the technology is made to handle the job of shipping parcels today and tomorrow. However, there are still some drawbacks when purchasing software from a third-party vendor. Much like a one-size-fits-all sweater, the software may not be a perfect fit for every need and integrations with software already in use. Also, as an off-the-rack sweater, off-the-rack software may not give you everything you need to differentiate yourself or stay ahead of the competition who might have the same software.

When working with the right technology partner, however, the decision to buy or build your final-mile shipping software doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing choice — you can get the best of both.

By outsourcing specific aspects of the last-mile software that are typically the most challenging — such as carrier compliance, returns, and package tracking — and incorporating them into your home-grown software, you can reduce the total cost of technology ownership, lower the solution speed to market, and realize a more immediate and higher return on shipping technology investment while still getting something unique and under your control.

Mark Picarello is Managing Director, Pierbridge, WiseTech Global US. Pierbridge was founded in 2004 by an experienced executive team with a proven track record of success in the transportation software industry. Pierbridge started with a vision that we could fundamentally transform the way businesses deliver goods to their clients. Our innovations have made that vision a reality through our leading-edge final-mile management solution, Transtream. In 2018, Pierbridge became a part of the WiseTech Global group.