student information system: build vs. buy

The decision “to build or to buy” is an important one that has many variables associated with it. The question may have crossed the minds of your institution’s stakeholders when considering the purchase of a new Student Information System. Some institutions still choose to develop their own SIS, which can result in uncertain outcomes and excessive budget overruns. If your institutions feels it is worth the risk, your CFO may want to consider the actual cost of building a proprietary software system, which is far more than the cost of hiring a couple of programmers.

Staying Current

Staying up-to-date means supporting a team that can keep up with changes in the market and stay abreast of new technologies. Education is constantly evolving, so building a new SIS will be much more than just making a one – time development effort to serve your needs for the next decade. A SIS software must continually add new features and enhancements to keep up with the latest learning trends, consumer expectations, and compliance mandates.

Consider your ROI

Consider your ROI when you pay staff to build a new system. To manage the usability and provide a robust enterprise system with interoperability, you’ll need a team comprised of the following:

  • An Architect
  • A Database Administrator
  • A Team of Web Developers and Designers
  • A Usability Expert
  • A Business Analyst with Education-based Expertise
  • A Subject Matter Expert on Compliance and Privacy
  • A Project Manager to oversee and prioritize development
  • A Technical Writer for documentation
  • Backup in case a member of the team leaves, or takes vacation\

Often, when faced with technology decisions, institutions rely heavily on their IT departments to chart the course of their growth, but few technology experts have expertise in finance.  Some education administrators, particularly in larger schools or districts, have the notion that the technology behind the scenes is a mysterious domain that only technology gurus know how to navigate – deferring key business decisions to their IT departments; but at what point, and to what extent should technology teams be brought into the decision process?  Input from IT does indeed play an important role in the process, but because developers love to develop, they often prefer to offer up their own services to create new solutions rather than purchase a system that has proven to be successful.

When the directors of a large state-run virtual program delegated the decision to build vs. buy to the new CIO, there was a conflict of interest.  The new CIO hired several new software engineers to increase the size of his team and began development, spending more taxpayer dollars in the first year than what the vendor quoted them for five years for a system that could have been up and running in 6 months or less. The architect quit after a few months, so several consultants were brought in. Five years later, they are still building and limping along with an out-of-date patchwork of systems that does not serve them, as the program falls behind to competitors with newer, faster technology.  Perhaps the quintessential example of the fallacy of let’s build our own with government funds was the LA School district’s roughly $2B in spending on SIS development.

The ideal time to bring in the tech team to help vet a vendor when make a technology purchasing decision, as a rule, should be after the CFO makes a business decision on whether to build or buy a new system to automate their business processes to make them more efficient, in lieu of bearing the risk and cost of maintaining a software house. The technology team can then research and advocate for the appropriate solution that has the features, flexibility and capability to support the unique needs of their institution.

Time to Market

If your IT department estimates it will take a couple of years to build, you can expect it to be at least double that before becoming fully functional, and by then,  many new requirements will have evolved. Can you afford to wait that long while your competition aggressively gains enrollments in your target market? You’ll probably have to do a lot of hiring  to manage data with workarounds for apps or add-ons that can’t be integrated.  Will you be able to provide the level of satisfaction that students and staff expect?

When you purchase a Student Information System from an established company that has a vast reservoir of input on best practices from a number of different institutions, and years of expertise in building the product, those headaches go away.

You get the technology and team you need, including:

  • A proven system, tried and true by years of implementation in the field
  • An architect with the expertise capable of coordinating the many moving parts of an enterprise software so they talk to each other fluidly
  • An entire technology team to support your needs and work with you as your business partner for far less than the cost of supporting an in-house team

Every educational organization runs their operation a little differently and has their own unique business rules, creating the need for customizations that not every out-of-the-box SIS can provide.

Maestro SIS is unique in the over 360 optional parameters that can modify the system’s functionality with the flip of a switch. Additionally, Maestro can be customized according to your unique organization to ensure scalability and success.

At BocaVox, we take the pain out of implementation, and support growth by keeping your institution’s administrative software up to date based on our awareness of technology breakthroughs, industry trends and market direction.

Maestro SIS by BocaVox– Focus on your Core Competency, and leave the technology to us!