When making a large-scale software purchase, organizations are faced with a key decision: build or buy? This decision can be especially difficult to answer in areas where there has historically been little third party support, such as research evaluation and reporting systems. Due of the lack of research reporting vendors, organizations may have been more inclined to turn to their internal development resources. In this article, we’ll address the organizational need for a research evaluation and reporting solution, discuss the current research evaluation software landscape and look at some key factors when determining the path you should take.
What is a research evaluation and reporting system?
A research evaluation and reporting system serves as a linked, centralized repository, search engine, and reporting system for your membership’s research activities and accomplishments. It allows your institution to efficiently showcase its research both inside and outside of the organization, and keeps your research staff focused on the research itself.
Due to lack of third-party options, research organizations across the industry have built a wide variety of in-house systems. Other institutions have used off-the-shelf solutions that may not be perfectly suited to deliver all types of information needed.
Build or buy?
Several key factors are present in the build vs. buy decision regardless of the system you’re evaluating. What is the true cost of ownership? How will each system support your staff and your institution’s day-to-day operations? What is the ongoing support structure of each proposed system? How well can you trust your homegrown vs. vendor system? When specifically assessing a research evaluation and reporting system, here are two important factors:
How unique is your need?
Do you have any special requirements that separate you from peer organizations? Many needs filled by an off-the-shelf research evaluation and reporting system are shared by research institutions across the board. If your peers face similar challenges, it may be worth exploring whether their solutions can be adapted to your business processes.
Do you have the resources to keep up?
A key component to many systems is ongoing maintenance and development. If your organization is building a research evaluation and reporting system in house, are you able to secure the necessary resources both now and in the future? Do you have a contingency plan in the event that developers leave the organization? What other tasks are your IT personnel responsible for beyond server provisioning and maintenance? Effectively showcasing your research outcomes can directly affect incoming grant dollars, so is it worth the risk to potentially use an outdated system with inaccurate data?
In many cases, your internal development staff will make a push to build. If your needs are similar to those of your industry peers, it may make more sense for your developers to focus on solving problems not already addressed by a commercial product.
Making your final decision
When considering whether your organization should build or buy a research evaluation and reporting system, be sure to consider your unique needs and your ability to maintain updated foundational resources. In the end, you will need to place equal weight on your needs both now and in the future and make a non-emotional, data-driven decision.
Editor’s note: A version of this article was originally published on April 15, 2016.