“Our finance people should have their own developers to automate the things that finance people do,” says Preston-Werner. “People shouldn’t be responsible for what we call ‘s––– work.’ We prefer to solve repetitive sorts of jobs with technology.” As for why it builds so many internal tools, such as a company directory, rather than just buying them, Preston-Werner explains: “Wedemand that the products we use be excellent. All those other products suck.”
Traditionally the bar has to be pretty high to build something internal:
Decades of trial, error, and egghead analysis have yielded a consensus conclusion: Buy when you need to automate commodity business processes; build when you’re dealing with the core processes that differentiate your company.
These internal IT projects almost always end up larger than estimated, and a pain to maintain. But I wonder if the circumstances haven’t changed recently and it’s time to re-evaluate. The recent explosion in open-source frameworks, libraries and applications mean that build-yourself is almost assemble-yourself, meaning, take off-the-shelf open-source components and build upon them to suit your purposes. Developer productivity has never been higher. Will we see a boom in internal system building? Will the finance dept hire a developer instead of a couple of spreadsheet wranglers sometime soon? I’d bet on it.