Building vs buying a document generation solution

Introduction

You have two options when it comes to choosing a document automation system. You can either build the tools you need in-house or buy a specialized, industry-specific solution. The most forward-thinking firms and teams intelligently devote their technical resources to projects that create a unique competitive difference. Internal tool development is frequently a source of distraction.

Is document generation a core part of your product? It can be a core part but is it the unique part (IP) of your product? If not, then maybe it makes sense to buy. Following the best practices, it can be the same if we are talking about document generation. Doc generation can look easy, but you can end up with a massive project inside your product. This is associated with other additional costs, which we will describe in more detail in the next part of the article.

The fastest moving companies and teams wisely allocate their engineering resources to projects that move the needle in terms of unique competitive differentiation. Building internal tools is often a distraction. The Facebooks of tomorrow would be foolish to build much of the tooling they need to operate their organizations and infrastructure from scratch.

Bessemer Venture Partners: Developer law nr 7
Do I need documents generation?

Document Generation can be useful when multiple documents need to be generated and each document contains a mixture of:

  • Static content – the parts that remain the same in each document.
  • Dynamic content – content that is customised for the audience or recipient of the generated document.

Document generation is the process of creating business-critical documents such as invoices, contracts, sales proposals, and work orders. You can automatically create digital documents using your unique templates and branding, as well as gather data from several CRM systems using pre-defined rules, with the correct document generation tools.

What to consider before making the decision?

There are some crucial elements to consider before making an informed choice. Total cost, project complexity, potential dangers, and competitive advantages are some of these considerations. Let´s take a look at some of the considerations below.

Total cost

Understand the true costs of building versus buying software, including license models, implementation, and maintenance costs. Companies often find the initial cost of an outsourced document software system is less expensive than developing a similar system in-house. Small and medium-sized businesses, on the other hand, must take into account the cost of implementation as well as continuing maintenance. When these expenses are outsourced, however, they can be more easily controlled since solution providers can recognize problems and reduce risks.

Risk

Control, performance, and completion – all of which might fail throughout the building process – are all risks that are eliminated when organizations choose to acquire a software package. There are still vendor-related concerns, such as support and dependability.

Scalability

Purchasing an enormous document software program can be costly to maintain and run, whereas custom solutions can be developed to fit the unique demands of small and medium-sized businesses.

Time to develop

Developing an internal product requires planning, resource allocation, and preparing for the unknown. Because document generation projects are relatively new, it can be difficult to define the scope. This can lead to significant timeline risk. Building a document software system takes longer and costs more money than purchasing an existing service.

The scope of work might be larger than expected

The goal of most document generation systems is to deliver a minimal viable product (MVP) as fast as possible. While it is true that with a skilled engineering team, attaining high accuracy on big customers in a timely manner is possible, the last 20% of document variety tends to consume 80% of the time.

Developer productivity is the fuel of business, the speed of iteration is a key main factor of success. The Build vs Buy decisions are obsolete, they are replaced by Buy and Build: developers select a set of platforms that are easy to use and can be extended. Twilio is a great example of such a platform.

Algolia co-founder Julien Lemoine at Alven.co
What is PDF Generator API?

If you have not heard about the PDF Generator API, we would like to shortly introduce our main value proposition. PDF Generator API allows you to easily generate transactional PDF documents and reduce the development and support costs by enabling your users to create and manage their document templates using a browser-based drag-and-drop document editor.

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