You’ve decided you want to take a more proactive approach to managing your data quality, but what now? There are two primary routes you can take – buy a ready-made data-quality tool or build your own.
Each option has advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered, but before you do that, it’s essential to first establish your requirements. If you take the time to define what you need a data-quality tool to do, and how it will support your goals, it will pay off in the long run.
Be as specific as possible by asking questions such as:
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- What is the ideal solution to that problem?
- Who will be involved in fixing the problem?
- How technically skilled are those people?
- How will the business benefit from the problem being solved?
Once you have the answers to those questions and have a clear vision in mind, it’s time to start weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of buying a pre-built data-quality tool versus building your own solution; here are five things to consider when making your decision.
While buying a data-quality tool is usually more expensive up-front, building your own demands a longer investment of time and resources, which could cost more in the long run. It’s useful to therefore consider the total cost of ownership, encompassing the cost of developing, testing, supporting and maintaining your own solution.
There is also the ‘opportunity cost’ that must be considered. The time your developers spend on building a custom solution is time they could be using to generate value elsewhere, working on different projects.
Overall, the odds are normally stacked in favour of buying a ready-made solution. For an IT supplier, selling the same software to multiple customers means that the associated costs are spread across multiple parties. Furthermore, some ready-made solutions, including those specifically designed for the housing sector, cost less than you expect. While the big names cost hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of pounds each year, there are lesser-known solutions that offer similar features and functionalities for a fraction of that.
One of the most compelling reasons for building a solution in-house is a lack of budget for buying an off-the-shelf product. Sometimes budgets are allocated for internal IT development but not for external capital investment, so if you have a team of developers with little to do, then it makes sense to keep them busy building a solution. However, don’t forget that they might not be quiet for long so if you go down this route, make sure you have considered the ongoing commitment required.
Pre-built data-quality solutions are often more comprehensive and far-reaching, so they can often be used across several teams for a variety of initiatives. If a tool can be used by multiple teams, such as customer services, assets, repairs and development, this might mean the tool’s funding and investment can be spread across multiple departmental budgets.
Alongside cost and budget, the other crucial resource to consider is time. If a specific event has triggered the need for a data-quality tool, whether that’s a regulatory breach, a digital transformation programme or simply a senior executive realising that data quality is essential, then that could dictate the timeline.
A pre-built tool can be deployed much faster than an internally-developed solution. No matter what expertise you have available, building a solution from scratch requires a significant amount of time to build, test and deploy.
When considering functionality, it’s important to question whether your challenges are actually unique. Building your own data-quality tool might be necessary if they are, but there’s a very high probability that your problems are shared by many other housing providers; you certainly won’t be the first to struggle with, say, regulatory requirements or keeping tenants’ contact details up to date, so there’s no need to start from scratch.
Pre-built tools often offer more advanced features, such as user-friendly search capabilities and automatic monitoring of data-quality problems. In addition, because the tool has already been built and tested, these features are very likely to be more reliable than a custom-built alternative.
The housing provider and IT supplier relationship is relatively simple in comparison to working with your internal development team because buying a tool puts a helpful distance between you and the team providing the solution.
When no other tasks overlap and fewer personal connections exist, it’s easier to be upfront about your needs and hold the IT supplier accountable. Having this distance ensures a more streamlined and efficient approach to resolving any problems.
Do you build or buy? If you have limited budget or need very specific functionality, then developing your own tool might be the only option. However, buying a ready-made solution tends to have many more benefits; lower costs in the long run, faster implementation, better functionality and easier management of relationships.
After all, most people prefer to buy a ready-made house or ready-made car, rather than building their own from scratch.
Catherine McHugh is an account manager at IntoZetta.