One of the most common issues that we hear from customers needing to provide analytics to their application users is deciding whether to develop their own reporting, utilize an open source charting library as a starting point for development, or license and embed a 3rd party analytics solution into their software. In this blog, we’ll go over 5 important factors to consider when making a decision.
The Role of Your Analytics
The first factor to take into consideration when having the buy vs. build conversation is the role of analytics in your application, and to do that you need to examine what the current role analytics play in your application. What role do you see it having in the future both from a product and value perspective? And the first questions you should ask from that perspective are:
- If we increase the analytics capabilities of our product will it result in an increased revenue stream?
- Will our current and future customers get more value out of our product with the additional analytics?
- If so, does that allow us to gain more business and retain more business?
These questions although high level put an investment in analytics into perspective, and with changing user demands the answers to these questions can have a big effect on other parts of your business.
The second factor to take into consideration when having the buy vs. build conversation is what will be your users’ expectations for analytics both now and in the future. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Do our current customers expect more sophisticated analytics functions now or will they in the near future?
- How will building these types of features affect our product’s roadmap both in the short and long-term?
If you think 5 years down the road that a few static reports will still satisfy your customers then maybe embedding a 3rd party application isn’t for you. And that’s one of the biggest differences you’ll find when having the buy vs. build conversation, if simplistic reports which don’t change over time and have no interactivity will satisfy your users then building your own analytics or using an open source charting library is a feasible way to go.
But if your users are already starting to request things like self-service reporting, data discovery, more advanced data visualizations or the demand for reporting has grown more and more then you’ll find that developing these capabilities is prohibitive, expensive, and time intensive. All of which affects your time to market, your ability to focus on your core competency, and takes valuable time away from your support team and your development team. That’s where buying an embedded analytics solution really starts making a big difference because many companies don’t consider the long-term costs of developing reporting yourself or utilizing an open source library.
Initial development time aside, the third factor to take into consideration is the time it takes to support and update analytics. You have to remember that supporting an in-house built system means you have no support infrastructure to fall back on. All too often we see a company’s response time suffer with an in-house system because their support teams have to scramble to fix issues or have to get the development team involved to fix even basic issues. With an enterprise tool like JReport, you have a dedicated support team to help answer problems and fix issues with your implementation.
So as your product matures the ability to keep up with ever-increasing reporting demands can be difficult. And doing it in-house can have uncertain long-term costs and can affect your support team’s response time, creating a worse overall experience for your customers.
The fourth factor to take in consideration is the effect developing reporting in-house has on your ability to focus on your core competencies. By that we mean continually developing new reporting functions can take time, resources, and capital away from developing the parts of your product that make up your core value proposition.
Many of the organizations we work with tell us, “we have a customer demanding sophisticated reporting and analytics, but we don’t want to be in the reporting business because that’s not the primary value of our application.” And that’s where utilizing a 3rd party product that gets continual enhancements really comes in and makes a big difference. Instead of having to continually update your in-house built system or the system you built around an open source library you can future proof your analytics capabilities while feeding your user’s need for analytics giving you more time to focus on the core business problems that your company solves. We’ve even seen instances where a primary component of someone’s application is the reporting functionality, but the core value of the product is the infrastructure around that reporting.
Embedding vs. Development
Finally, if you are leaning towards embedding a third party vendor the last factors to take into consideration when you are looking to add or enhance your reporting capabilities are
- Does the vendor I’m looking at provide enough capabilities from a back and front end to create a truly seamless experience?
- And what happens when we scale?
The big worry for many development teams at the beginning of the buy vs. build conversation is the feeling that they might lack the control to create that seamless, scalable experience without developing everything in-house. But you will find that if you’re looking at JReport, the plethora of API and white-labeling capabilities it provides gives you that control and moreover at a fraction of the development time needed to create something yourself. And when you’re ready to scale JReport has clustering and failover capabilities that give you worry-free, scalable, highly available analytics.