Project Management Systems: Should You Buy or Build?
For more than two decades, our team has followed the evolution of project management systems. This has allowed us to better organize tasks and track communications among real estate and construction project teams. These tools have morphed from simple Microsoft Office add-ons and desktop software products to the current state of online software-as-a-service subscriptions. Today, there are dozens of off-the-shelf platforms to choose from if you are eager to plug and play. On the other hand, you can hire a consultant to custom-build a project management tool just for you.
So, should you buy or build? That’s the question we want to help you answer by sharing our story.
Our challenge: Accounting for multiple operational facets.
As a consulting firm that provides adaptable services in roles ranging from technical advisor to comprehensive manager of project results, we needed a flexible system — to say the least. During our latest 12-month search for this tool, we discovered that while many applications provide generic scheduling, task management and online document storage features, only a limited (but admittedly growing) set of systems were targeted for our development and construction niche. Of those, we found some fine tools that focus on assisting general contractors, as well as some good ones that help architects during the design phase. In addition, a very small number of platforms were geared toward owner representatives and construction management agents like us. Seeing those eclectic choices before us, we struggled on the options of subscribing to someone else’s program or building our own.
To buy or to rent, that was the question.
Before making any decision, we like to establish the pros and cons of every potential avenue. Here are the points we drafted in order to help us make an informed decision that would facilitate growth.
- The platform is already made and can be implemented immediately.
- We can leverage the platform’s investment rather than pay for an expensive custom build.
- The subscription service would provide the hardware and programming resources.
- The platform would be responsible for keeping up with the growing competition, technology changes and maintenance.
- The platform would provide support and knowledge of best practices.
- There would probably be a large set-up cost as well as initial purchase and ongoing subscription fees.
- We would need training on the platform.
- We would be limited by the tool’s adaptability, terminology and current features.
- We would have to rely on the service for data security.
- We wouldn’t own it and would have to hope that our goals stay in alignment.
- The platform would be customized to our needs, terminology and processes.
- We could evolve it as necessary.
- We could monetize our investment by renting the tool to others.
- We would need to hire a company to design and build it.
- We would be responsible for infrastructure, hardware and software development costs.
- It would take months to get the basic build out and potentially years to get what we need / want.
- Building would also require a huge time commitment to correct issues and keep evolving the system, which would distract energies and staff away from our core business.
The final decision.
After an exhaustive evaluation process, we made the tough decision to rent a platform. It should satisfy at least 70 percent of what we need rather than go down the path of building our own. We really wanted to take advantage of rapid implementation and lower upfront costs, while leveraging best software and management practices. Renting would also take much less effort on our part to maintain going forward — and we could avail ourselves of the service’s support team. Future improvements would be undertaken by the vendor, too.
In the end, we selected a product that was developed for our type of business. It was created by a company that has a track record and we believe is aligned to support our future. Since we are only two months into configuration and just rolled out the platform to employee use in February 2019, we’ll report in a future blog about some of the lessons we’ve learned. Please check back.
For more information on industry developments and how Real Projectives® uses project management tools to better serve and communicate with our clients, browse some of our other articles — or give us an old-fashioned call at 888.357.7342.