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5 Reasons Why Home-Grown Solutions Don’t Last

Sep 14 · 1 min read

Some organisations come to Legito from a competitor solution, and some have no existing solution, but today I’m talking about organisations who have built a home-grown solution that isn’t meeting their needs.

Organisations with a requirement for automation are frequently big enough to employ technologists somewhere in the building. Or maybe they have a few people who have become experts in doing clever things with the usual office applications. One can do a lot with the standard suite of Microsoft office applications, especially if you’re willing to write some VBA code or macros. If your team needs a quick fix to a tedious or repeat task, there are many reasons why it might be appealing to build something rather than buy a solution from a vendor. If it fails, there’s no obvious penalty, or difficult conversations about wasted expenditure, and at least you can justify why you need to buy something instead? But…

5 reasons why home-grown solutions don’t last

#1 Document automation is harder than it looks

Building sophisticated solutions is technically demanding when you get beyond mail-merge, quick-parts, and other quasi-automation tools in Word. The first document automation solution to achieve commercial success had over one million lines of code – and it was years before vendors could offer the automation options you can get now.

#2 Home-grown solutions get stranded when people leave or move to other projects

I worked with an organisation that used a clever spreadsheet to calculate pricing. It was issued to all the sales execs. No doubt, the guy who created the spreadsheet was an Excel wizard, and the tool was smart. And then he left. Not a single person could fathom how to update the spreadsheet.

#3 Office applications evolve

I have a family member who worked for a large public organisation I dare not mention. That organisation generated some rather important documents. A keen individual wrote a script for Word. He shared it with colleagues. Soon, everybody used it. Microsoft brought out a new version of Word, with the .docx format – and the script was incompatible with the new version. The IT team had no awareness of the automation. As the new version of Word rolled out, it just stopped working. Sure, he could have updated the script – but he had authored many documents, and it would take time – which they didn’t have.

#4 In-house solutions are not built to be resilient or secure

Automation does more than execute tedious work. Modern business needs for automation frequently include business controls and compliance. There’s a need to ensure tasks are done correctly by people with the designated authority and backed up with auditable records. Business processes invariably require processing of personal data or confidential information. Enterprise-grade security and resilience must be designed into a solution, and that requires skills which are scarce.

#5 Off-the-shelf solutions have a lower cost of ownership

Volume fees from numerous users finances the build cost of commercial software. More commercial software is now supplied as a cloud-based solution which includes the cost of hosting the solution and providing support. The true cost of building and deploying an in-house solution is probably not measured – but it’s real and costly.

5 Reasons Why Home-Grown Solutions Don’t Last

Sep 14 · 1 min read

Some organisations come to Legito from a competitor solution, and some have no existing solution, but today I’m talking about organisations who have built a home-grown solution that isn’t meeting their needs.

Organisations with a requirement for automation are frequently big enough to employ technologists somewhere in the building. Or maybe they have a few people who have become experts in doing clever things with the usual office applications. One can do a lot with the standard suite of Microsoft office applications, especially if you’re willing to write some VBA code or macros. If your team needs a quick fix to a tedious or repeat task, there are many reasons why it might be appealing to build something rather than buy a solution from a vendor. If it fails, there’s no obvious penalty, or difficult conversations about wasted expenditure, and at least you can justify why you need to buy something instead? But…

5 reasons why home-grown solutions don’t last

#1 Document automation is harder than it looks

Building sophisticated solutions is technically demanding when you get beyond mail-merge, quick-parts, and other quasi-automation tools in Word. The first document automation solution to achieve commercial success had over one million lines of code – and it was years before vendors could offer the automation options you can get now.

#2 Home-grown solutions get stranded when people leave or move to other projects

I worked with an organisation that used a clever spreadsheet to calculate pricing. It was issued to all the sales execs. No doubt, the guy who created the spreadsheet was an Excel wizard, and the tool was smart. And then he left. Not a single person could fathom how to update the spreadsheet.

#3 Office applications evolve

I have a family member who worked for a large public organisation I dare not mention. That organisation generated some rather important documents. A keen individual wrote a script for Word. He shared it with colleagues. Soon, everybody used it. Microsoft brought out a new version of Word, with the .docx format – and the script was incompatible with the new version. The IT team had no awareness of the automation. As the new version of Word rolled out, it just stopped working. Sure, he could have updated the script – but he had authored many documents, and it would take time – which they didn’t have.

#4 In-house solutions are not built to be resilient or secure

Automation does more than execute tedious work. Modern business needs for automation frequently include business controls and compliance. There’s a need to ensure tasks are done correctly by people with the designated authority and backed up with auditable records. Business processes invariably require processing of personal data or confidential information. Enterprise-grade security and resilience must be designed into a solution, and that requires skills which are scarce.

#5 Off-the-shelf solutions have a lower cost of ownership

Volume fees from numerous users finances the build cost of commercial software. More commercial software is now supplied as a cloud-based solution which includes the cost of hosting the solution and providing support. The true cost of building and deploying an in-house solution is probably not measured – but it’s real and costly.

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