Have you heard the story of the company that hires a software development agency to build a custom software platform, but there’s a delay? The agency provided a quote that the company accepted. However, years later the project was abandoned because the software wasn’t meeting the client’s industry-specific needs, and came in significantly higher in price than the original quote. Sound familiar? It should. It’s a common story.

The bottom line is that it is very difficult to get it right. The building is hard to maintain. It’s challenging to gauge the true immediate and ongoing costs of building software when you’re not an industry expert in “building software.” Your hired agency isn’t an expert in Waste Management either. So, what’s going to put you in the best position? The fastest? Where do you focus your time? These are all things to consider when trying to decide between build or buy.


The Research

A study based on information from The Standish Group, states that of large software projects tracked from 2013 to 2017, more than half were over budget, late, or didn’t meet expectations. It also stated that 29% were abandoned or failed completely. (Standish Group “CHAOS Report ” 2018) That’s a whopping failure rate of 82% for Agile projects and 91% for Waterfall projects. This is the #1 reason to buy versus build.

According to the CHAOS Report, “In many cases, larger projects never return value to an organization. The larger the project the less valuable the return rate.”


Things to Consider When Building or Buying For Waste Management

In the waste management industry, there are many factors to consider before attempting to build or buy the software. No one wants to spend countless time-consuming hours pulling regulatory reports and handling very complex workflows. So, the software does not need to just work from the onset, it must be updated consistently to include any changes in regulations. No one wants to get sued or shut down. There are significant consequences if you don’t get it right…like fines, lost revenues, and serious injury.

Time, money, customers, jobs, or business can affect the cost and thus will be the true cost of getting the software up and working if any of these resulted in a loss.

Even if you hired a developer or agency, have they built software in the niche market of waste management? Are they familiar with all the regulatory and non-regulatory documentation requirements or compliance issues? Do they understand the very complex workflows? Since you are not an expert in software design, do you know what questions to ask to make sure they get it right, on time, on budget, and are able to future proof the software?


Still not certain whether to Build or Buy?

If you are still uncertain, here are some things to think about in relation to your day-to-day tasks that may help you decide. If building, will your system handle the following items:

  • Create and share e-manifests
  • Ensure the profiles are compliant with TSDF’s
  • Manage profile expirations to avoid liability
  • Report data effectively and properly formatted
  • Allow scheduling of recurring and one-time projects
  • Accessible to those in the field
  • Meet the specs for regulatory and relationship compliance
  • Automate process rules and better lockdown data for user access
  • Reporting docs for EPA and State reporting and auditing
  • Adaptable to change with industry trends
  • Connect directly with your customers via a customer portal


A Simple Matrix to Assist the Waste Management Industry in the Buy vs. Build Software Question


The greater the score the greater the risk. You do not want to be in the 91% failure rate or lose millions before reaching a successful completion.

These types of projects have a high probability to fail. With many companies not being tech-savvy or having large amounts of capital, coupled with the industry being late to adopt technology, the odds are substantially against you to build.


A Look at Failed and Over Budget Custom Software Projects

How much time do you have to outsource and educate an agency on all the complexities of the waste industry, and will that compromise your time to focus on driving revenue and focus on your business?

According to Fujitsu America in an article in PR Newswire, “1 in 4 organizations have experienced a failed digital project in the last two years – at an average cost of $655,000”. The article goes on to say, “Crucially, two in three (66 percent) say the cost of failure has put them off a future digital transformation.” (Fujitsu America, Inc 2018)

Another example is Universal Credit, which also started in 2013. The project has not yet been completed and the final delivery date is now expected to be 2021. In 2013, only one of four planned pilot sites went live on the originally scheduled date and the pilot was restricted to extremely simple cases. Tragically, the quote was originally for 2.2 billion and is now expected to be 12.8 billion. (Ballard, Computer Weekly)

Can you quantify an ROI before you’ve gone down the path to attempt to build, or will the build be outdated by the time you attempt to launch it? Finally, if the system crashes, how will it impact customers, compliance, revenues, and deliverables?


What Does All of This Mean?

For the build, it means the cost of building the software, plus additional time for ongoing maintenance and bugs. For buying, it’s the cost of licensing. Building software can be expensive and much more complicated the greater the complexity of the system and industry, and the waste industry is extremely complicated and ever-changing.

Buying software designed by experts in the Waste Management industry can be beneficial and turnkey, although difficult to find. The developers have already completed the heavy lifting and will provide updates and support, ensuring no unforeseen additional expenses.


Taking Out the Trash

The question of building software is an industry-agnostic challenge. When it comes to the Waste Industry, it’s even more challenging. Especially, with the complexities, regulations, countless documents, potential fines, susceptible serious injury, tight margins, and the fact the industry has lagged to adopt the technology.

When considering building software contemplate the staggering statistics of those that have failed. Finally, which option will prove you the highest probability to succeed quickly, on budget, and on point.

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