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Feature Flags: Build or Buy?

Taraneh Dohmer


Build or Buy?

If you’re thinking about implementing feature flags on your team, you’re probably asking yourself: should my team be building their own feature flagging tool, or should we invest in a third party solution?

It’s a fair question to ask. After all, engineers can build almost anything you ask them to. But just because they can, doesn’t necessarily mean they should.

We’ll explore the pros and cons of Build vs Buy here.

Cost Analysis:

If you work for a software company on a product or engineering team, your primary goal is ensuring that your team delivers high quality software to your users on time. You’re constantly looking for ways to increase productivity on your team and ship features more frequently. 

Feature flags can help you with all of the above, but if your engineering team’s primary goal is to ship features, does it make sense for you to task them with building and maintaining a feature management solution on their own? Ideally, your feature management solution is put to work for your team; not the other way around. 

Where do you want to spend your time and resources?

Teams often find that investing in a third-party solution is actually more cost-effective than constantly pooling money and resources into a homegrown solution. Think about it. You can only make money on code that’s been released. And you hired your developers to release code—not build a feature management solution.

Technical Expertise:

Your developers were hired to build software in your industry–whether that be ecommerce, media, finance, etc. Our developers mission is to develop incredible feature management software. Asking your developers to focus on building yet another internal product that helps you deliver your actual end product is spreading your already constrained resources even thinner. 

Let our developers handle the feature management, and let yours get back to doing whatever it is they do best. 

What goes into making a feature flag management system?
  • Software Engineering Expertise 
  • UI Design
  • Feature Flag Expertise
  • Time (to build & to maintain)
  • Money (hiring new devs, or compensating your current ones even more)
  • Infrastructure
  • 100% up-time
  • Onboarding new team members to the platform
What’s needed to buy a solution:
  • Money to invest in the solution 
  • Onboarding new team members to the platform

You know your team best. But you’d need to be pretty confident that your own developers have the time and resources necessary to build something like this before springing the task on them. 

‍Managing Flags at Scale:

Getting started with feature flags is usually a very seamless process. Any engineering team can do it. It can be as simple as adding three lines of code and boom–you’ve got a feature flag! But as your flag usage increases and your organization grows, managing them at scale becomes increasingly difficult. A proper feature management solution that actually enables your growth requires a lot more than just a few feature flags.

We’ll leave you with some solid questions to ask yourself before making the final decision:
  • Has your team built a feature flag system before?
  • What will the short-term impact be on the company if I task my engineers with this project? The long-term impact?
  • How will building and maintaining a new system affect the workload of your team for years to come?
  • Will we be able to build a solution that performs at an enterprise level?
  • Will we be able to easily onboard our product team, key business stakeholders, and new team members?
  • Does it make sense to divert my engineers’ focus from building and improving our core product to building a homegrown solution?

Click here for more information on how our team at DevCycle evaluates the pros and cons of Build vs Buy!

Written By

Taraneh Dohmer