Build vs. Buy is Out: Today it's Trust vs. Control
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Build vs. Buy is Out: Today it's Trust vs. Control

Jamie Cash, SVP Technology for World Travel Holdings, Inc.
Jamie Cash, SVP Technology for World Travel Holdings, Inc.

Jamie Cash, SVP Technology for World Travel Holdings, Inc.

Trust. It’s a word that’s thrown around quite a bit in the tech industry. Zero-trust is all the rage in security circles. Conversations about the data we share with social media and other “free” consumer services inevitably center around whether those services can be trusted with the information. The concerns about pervasive AI stem from the question of whether we can trust what comes out of the black box. But perhaps there’s no more important arena for the discussion of trust than the world of cloud computing and software-as-a-service.

In the world of enterprise solutions, cloud services (and by extension any X-as-a-service provider) operate in an economy of trust, asking their customers to hand over control of critical business processes in search of some benefit—lower economic costs, better customer experience, etc. To some degree, this isn’t all that new--all business relationships are based on trust. At World Travel Holdings, the nation’s largest cruise travel agency, our customers trust us to take on the challenges of planning a complex vacation for them and their loved ones. In our franchise division, Dream Vacations, our franchise owners trust us to provide them with the systems, supplier relations, and support they need to enable them to focus on building their businesses and delivering excellent service. What marks the transition to cloud and X-as-a-service is the degree to which previously core elements of service and/or infrastructure are delegated beyond the control of the enterprise. 

 ​Building a solution for an Ag cloud-based decision systemfrom the expense consideration has taken on a different approach from the traditional capital expenditure 

We can compare this organizational delegation of trust to leadership skills. A milestone in any leader’s development is the point at which they gain enough confidence—trust, by another name—in their team and delegate activities they previously would have insisted on overseeing, even knowing that choices made by their team may not exactly align with what they had in mind. We praise the leader who pushes more out to their team, and counsel the leader who has trouble letting go of the reins—we value the decision-making that allows a leader to choose where to maximize what can be accomplished, even if it’s somewhat at the expense of the purity of their vision. The same is true for an organization—we must become skilful at finding the line at which we are willing to trust a partner and give up control so that we can focus on the initiatives that will truly drive our organizations, our teams, and our revenue forward. The old dichotomy of build vs. buy misses the point. We are engaged in the balancing of trust vs. control.

Build vs. buy is not without its uses—and it certainly presents a simpler way to quantify the tradeoffs. The total cost of ownership analyses has been an essential part of any software or infrastructure product selection for decades. Our CFO peers are used to seeing them, our boards are used to demanding them. Perhaps now is the best time to shift the conversation to the less tangible question of “Where is it absolutely necessary to retain control, and where can we grow faster by finding partners to trust?” This isn’t just a useful IT exercise but, properly deployed, can be a strategic lens with which everything not essential can be stripped away, clarifying the purpose of the enterprise, and allowing it to grow in new and exciting ways, securely in partnership with trusted allies.

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