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Investigating the Enterprise Content Management DIY Build vs. Buy Dilemma

Investigating the Enterprise Content Management DIY Build vs. Buy Dilemma

Investigating the Enterprise Content Management DIY Build vs. Buy Dilemma

As part of Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series—a collection of articles written by industry thought leaders in maturing software categories—Brian DeWyer, the CTO and Co-Founder of Reveille Software, delves into the build vs. buy debate surrounding enterprise content management (ECM) solutions.

Build vs. Buy? For enterprise software, this question has perplexed IT staffers for many years. The correct answer is wrapped in a problem of advantages and disadvantages that vary depending on each unique circumstance. Building your software brings a high degree of customization that tailors it to your company’s needs. When longevity is considered, the costs are lower because there are no licensing fees. By contrast, buying software brings a solution to your organization faster, can embed comprehensive domain knowledge, and include best practices that your in-house IT staff doesn’t possess. Adobe lists the most important considerations when deciding to build or buy software as the following: 

  • Use Cases 
  • Readiness 
  • Project Scope 
  • Resources 
  • Opportunity Cost 
  • Time-to-Value 

The build vs. buy decision must be weighed when managing an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) application stack. Your organization likely employs standard application and infrastructure management tools offered by companies such as Splunk, NewRelic, IBM, Broadcom, Dynatrace, Nagios, Zappo, and Microsoft. These monitoring tools are vital for modern-day enterprises. This leads to an option to take a DIY approach (i.e., build in-house ECM monitors). Be forewarned, though; your IT operations will be challenged when developing and maintaining genuinely effective solutions for ECM. 

Making The ECM “Buy” Case 

ECM applications are the backbone of many digital document processes. They serve as a hub for thousands of users accessing repositories and interacting with an organization’s valuable digital assets. The magnitude of user activity generates an immense amount of document transactions. The importance of managing ECM user activity cannot be overstated. Companies choosing to build their own ECM Monitoring Solution must consider these four factors before embarking on this custom coding journey. 

Development Knowledge Gap and Costs

Building ECM monitors from scratch requires investment in development resources. To successfully design and implement monitoring functionalities, it is essential to have proficient developers who possess a deep understanding of ECM system architecture, interfaces, and stack. Creating a development team entails allocating resources for salaries, benefits, recruitment costs, and the required hardware and software infrastructure. Companies must also consider the staff to produce and maintain such monitors because the software requires a team with specialized knowledge of multiple ECM systems and monitoring best practices.

According to AIIM, most organizations have at least four different ECM platforms. Organizations must invest in training programs to keep their IT staff updated with ECM platform technologies, monitoring techniques, and emerging industry trends to be effective in the long run. 

Development Time and Effort

Depending on the complexity and scale of the monitoring system, the development timeline can range from several months to over a year. Companies must consider these requirements when taking a DIY approach when building a cost-effective monitoring system for ECM:  

  • Obtain Software Development Kit(s) (SDK) for each ECM platform. 
  • Develop or obtain developer knowledge of SDK(s) for each ECM platform. 
  • Develop detailed requirements and project plans.  
  • Develop or obtain developer-level knowledge of ECM platform stack, interfaces, and operating behavior.  
  • Assign Project Manager.  
  • Design, Build, and QA the following:  
  • Tests  
  • Monitors  
  • Conditions/Thresholds  
  • Displays  
  • Dashboards  
  • Reports  
  • Remediations/Automation  
  • Notifications  
  • Move through a DevOps process to the production state. 

Ongoing Maintenance and Updates

Once the ECM monitors are deployed, ongoing maintenance and updates are crucial to keep them effective and aligned with changing ECM systems or organizational requirements. Maintenance requires assigning resources to monitor the monitors, fix issues, and introduce enhancements. The cumulative impact of this maintenance will strain IT budgets and consume a considerable amount of your staff’s time. These maintenance issues grow as ECM evolves with new features, including operating systems, databases, and application services; failing to keep up with these upgrades will result in the reappearance of monitoring blind spots. 

Scalability and Risk Challenges

As organizations evolve to support digital transformation initiatives, scalability and adaptability become vital considerations. In-house ECM monitors may lack the flexibility to adapt. In addition, incremental funding for changing circumstances, such as supporting intelligent automation technologies like RPA and other ECM platforms or automating ECM recovery actions, may not be available. Significant modifications are often required when attempting to scale a custom monitoring solution. The risk profile of a custom ECM monitoring solution increases over time compared to a proven “off-the-shelf” solution. This risk is especially true when the custom ECM monitoring solution authors are no longer in the same roles, and the ECM technical debt is expanding. 

Final Thoughts

After reading this, you may correctly conclude that the author is biased and prefers the buy solution over the build solution. Note the author has participated in and observed both approaches up close with numerous organizations. Building a software solution makes perfect sense for specific applications and companies with the time, human resources, and funds to complete this endeavor. They can get the customization needed for their particular environments and leverage existing monitoring tools.   

When considering building ECM Monitoring Solutions in-house, the pros and cons analysis tips the scale in favor of the buy scenario. ECM Monitoring Solutions are often too complicated and not a high-value activity for in-house IT talent with knowledge in many areas. To produce a practical solution, they need to become ECM experts quickly and spend less time delivering critical business applications. Today, there are proven ECM Monitoring Solutions that offer chargeback, capacity planning, content security, and many integrations to ensure an out-of-the-box solution at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to develop a lesser capable solution in-house. 

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