In the Field

Build and Buy

An Oracle technologist looks at the principles for integrating built and bought solutions.

By Andy Flower

July/August 2011

Today, it is uncommon for organizations to completely build their own enterprise applications. There are better options for acquiring packaged enterprise solutions with some level of customization that serve a particular need in our organizations.

Inevitably, there will be parts of our organizations whose needs are not met by the enterprise solutions, which will lead to departmental efforts to buy or build applications that satisfy those needs. These applications often undercut our ability to consistently and cost-effectively manage our software and technology ecosystem.

As a result, many IT organizations face three basic questions:

  1. What do we need to build, customize, enhance, or extend to fill the gaps in our enterprise applications and still maintain consistent use of information resources?

  2. What do we need to do to support consistent integration of departmental applications built with nonstandard technologies and toolsets with our enterprise applications?

  3. Finally, what do we need to build or buy to support our disparate enterprise and departmental customers and environments?

Customize, Enhance, Extend

We need to be prepared to make changes that extend the enterprise software’s capabilities. To get in front of departments that are frustrated by lack of functionality or the slow pace of change, we as technologists need to provide a common platform and toolset so that we can provide consistent support. For customizations of the core system, the obvious solution is to leverage the development tools and flexible data structures provided by the platform to enhance the existing functionality.

Customizations and extensions are not always seamless, however, and that leads us to the next question: how can organizations support consistent integration?


Consistent use of both function and data is one of the largest challenges our organizations face, which often drives the desire for an enterprise solution. However, as described above, finding the perfect fit is elusive. Inevitably, we will need to integrate custom or third-party functionality and data with our enterprise applications.

There are four basic types of integration: service, information, process, and technology.1 Any time we integrate solutions, we need to be cognizant of all four aspects. Services, or the basic functionality of the processes we integrate, must be complementary. Information, or the data we need to share across services, must be consistently managed and shared. Processes must be flexible to orchestrate the sequence in which services are executed and information exchanged. Technology, or the platforms that enable service, information, and process integration, must also be a manageable, consistent stack.

As technology professionals, we typically focus on the technology platform. There are tools within Oracle Database that support the development of both services and information integration capabilities, including PL/SQL, Oracle Application Express, and Oracle Warehouse Builder. From a middleware perspective, Oracle Fusion Middleware products and technologies—including Oracle WebCenter Suite, Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle Data Integrator, Oracle Business Intelligence, and Oracle Business Process Management—also support more-complex service and information integration.

Supporting Our Environment

Regardless of whether your applications and technology platforms include only Oracle products or a mix of other products, the key to success in build-versus-buy scenarios is having a consistent technology platform and development tools. What we can control through consistent use of platforms and tools is the time to market and overall cost to support the integration of departmental customizations and third-party extensions.

Where to Get Answers

If you have questions about build-versus-buy decisions or any other issues around the use of Oracle software and hardware, there’s good news: communities of Oracle users and customers have been helping solve problems and sharing solutions for decades. And although each group has its own focus, the different groups are increasingly working together because their members are increasingly working together. (See “Next Steps” for links to the largest Oracle user group communities.)

1 Enterprise Integration: The Essential Guide to Integration Solutions, by Beth Gold-Bernstein (Addison-Wesley, 2004)

Next Steps

LEARN more about
 the Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG)
 the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG)
 Quest International Users Group

Photography byLuana Azevedo,Unsplash