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Build vs. Buy – Seven Steps For Large Services Organizations to Make the Right Choice for a Global Time Tracking Platform

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In the new hybrid digital era, amidst changing business models and customer expectations, professional services firms are increasingly being forced to rethink how they operate. Driving profitability, minimizing costs and maximizing innovation are just a few of the concerns they face on a daily basis. To find a solution, they are looking to empower their employees with a connected employee experience as employees are the most important asset of any professional services firm. 

With disruption looming large, firms must become increasingly agile and leverage enormous volumes of data to generate insights into billable time. Unfortunately for most firms, their ecosystem is filled with disparate time tracking systems, making it too complex to collate the data needed to drive insight-based decisions. Therefore, a revamp of their enterprise time tracking system becomes necessary. 

However, this presents business leaders with the unique challenge of evaluating between building a custom system and buying one off-the-shelf. To help you in determining the right choice for accelerating your firm’s growth, we present seven critical questions to ask as you make the build v/s buy decision.

1. Does the IT Budget Cover All Factors?

It is not uncommon for enterprises to simply look at development costs when considering building a time tracking solution—but that is only a part of the puzzle. There are several other factors that directly or indirectly affect the costs and your budget must be large enough to accommodate that. 

When building an enterprise time tracking platform, the costs depend on factors such as the number of countries and locations you operate in, the expertise in accounting and taxes, the legal expertise, data governance and how quickly you need the platform available. As a result, the first-order costs of building typically end up being several times higher than preliminary estimates. Then there are the costs that arise during development such as resource costs, technological investments, hardware and software acquisition costs, licensing fees and more.

Compared to the unpredictability of development, the cost of buying is fixed. There is typically only the upfront investment necessary for the subscription fee and the one-time implementation service costs. This fee can vary based on the active user count, support services, and potential custom integrations to your existing software ecosystem. Nonetheless, business leaders may find the fixed periodic costs of buying a bigger comfort than the challenge of building a global time tracking platform.

2. Will the Point Solution Be Relevant for the Future?

Ultimately, your choice of platform depends entirely on the use cases that you want to solve with it. The use case determines who will be using the platform on a daily basis and who the stakeholders are going to be.

If you have several use cases to cover, choosing to build a time tracking system can be risky unless you have strong expertise on the different use case niches. Organizations with legacy platforms will also need to consider their internal systems and technology that are likely to break at scale. They must also focus on bringing in new technologies that are necessary for adding new use cases. 

Buying a global time tracking platform enables firms to leverage the existing expertise of the vendor across multiple use cases. There is no need for them to understand the intricacies involved in developing features for every use case they need. After all, most vendors will already possess experience in several areas of time tracking competence and will ensure that their platform can overcome the challenges that global firms might face. As a result, buying a cloud time tracking platform allows firms to immediately cover several use cases such as payroll, billing, global governance, data security, and labor compliance. As new challenges arise, the platform will already have features in place to fulfill those requirements without any waiting period or additional investment.

3. What Is Your Time-to-Market?

Organizations simply cannot afford to wait too long to get a cloud-based global time tracking platform. Customers are no longer content to wait for organizations to deliver better experiences. A shorter time-to-market ensures that these customers remain engaged while allowing organizations to position themselves as a market leader.

During our research, we discovered that organizations who chose to build a platform spent two to three years on average. Despite the time investment, they still found their home-grown platform lacking the expertise around intricacies and logic necessary for a cloud-based global time tracking system. It is not uncommon for requirements to keep evolving, which means teams are unable to adapt quickly. This not only impacts the ROI of such a platform but also forces the organization to question if the final product can fully address the challenges it was created for. 

If the time-to-market is a concern, buying a platform is the way to go. It can take anywhere from 8 to 16 weeks for a time tracking system to be implemented in an organization, a significantly shorter time frame compared to building the same. 

Moreover, buying the platform helps address major concerns such as revenue loss and inefficiencies almost immediately.

4. Are You Managing Compliance For Your Time Tracking System?

Labor law compliance has always been a tricky subject, particularly if the organization operates in multiple locations around the globe. Strong data governance systems are a must for ensuring proper compliance. Non-compliance, unintentional or otherwise, can result in massive fines as well as an erosion of customer trust. Therefore, any system that reduces this risk will be worth the investment.

For most organizations, the burden of compliance falls upon several regulation teams, each with a focus on specific risks. Since each team operates in silos, there is a duplication of efforts resulting in layers of inefficiencies and a lack of coordination. Moreover, building a platform requires considerable expertise on compliance across multiple global jurisdictions along with the necessary knowledge to bake those capabilities into a platform. Such development invariably requires significant time, effort, and investment. 

Buying a global time tracking platform with built-in compliance ensures that you get instant support of all labor law compliance and pay rules requirements. You gain a configurable rules engine out of the box, allowing you to rapidly implement all policy variations to prevent non-compliance. The software can do the heavy lifting around all compliance areas such as employee classifications, employment agreements, time off policies, tax requirements, and more. Moreover, these platforms automatically update their compliance library to reflect any change in legislation, which is one less thing you need to worry about.

5. How Do You Gain A Competitive Edge For Your Business?

The shift towards cloud computing is becoming mandatory across all industries and it is easy to see why. For time tracking, the cloud offers the ability to access all time entries and reports in real-time on any device from anywhere in the world. For professional services firms in search of the competitive edge, adoption of cloud time tracking should be one of their first priorities. 

Many firms argue that they have a unique business environment with unique requirements that cannot be fulfilled by commercial time tracking solutions. This would have been true years ago when few off-the-shelf platforms were available but this is no longer the case. 

Today’s leading time tracking solutions are vastly more flexible and customizable. As a result, vendors can rapidly modify their solutions for unique business needs that a firm might have. It is also easier now to integrate these new solutions to existing systems, ensuring a hassle-free experience for organizations.

6. Do You Think Your Development Team Can Build It?

For building a platform as complex as a global cloud-based time tracking solution, the development team must possess incredible levels of agility, maturity and competence. The team must come with a proven track record of delivering custom solutions that are not only functional and user-friendly but also are configurable for multiple use cases. They must also be skilled at maintaining an innovative mindset to meet the constantly evolving needs of the end customer. 

This is why building a time tracking system requires significant investments of time and resources. Most enterprises fail to realize the risks and challenges associated with building such a platform from scratch. Without actual experience with developing timesheet applications, the risk of the end solution lacking critical features is high. 

Buying a platform allows you to partner with a vendor, one that is wholly experienced and specialized in a time tracking platform and understands the needs of the professional services business. Moreover, as their focus is entirely on developing a configurable and agile time tracking system, you can expect the solution to cover all use cases you might encounter. At the same time, this allows you to free up internal resources which can then be utilized to drive strategic initiatives and value-added services for the organizations, helping you uncover hidden growth and revenue opportunities.

7. How Will You Manage Maintenance, Support And Security?

Simply having an enterprise time tracking system is not enough. It must be updated and maintained on a regular basis. This is not only to meet upcoming security standards but also meet changing needs of internal business processes. Moreover, for a time tracking system, there is also the concern around the ever-changing legal compliance requirements, which must be implemented with urgency to prevent non-compliance and audit risks.

For most enterprises, upgrades take a back seat after building a platform, usually limited to every quarter or even less. Additionally, it becomes imperative to keep dedicated teams to monitor and maintain the system. 

Any timesheet solution provider will have an upgrade and maintenance mechanism in place. It is their responsibility to ensure functionality, stability, and reliability in addition to offering the best security measures possible. For enterprises, this is an advantage since there are no extra costs associated with the maintenance and support services. 

On a general note, building a global, scalable, and cloud-ready time tracking platform in-house is always going to be a more expensive option, not only in terms of resource costs but also in terms of time spent. Moreover, they often lack the breadth of functionality and features of commercial timesheet solutions. As a result, the ideal choice is almost always to buy a robust time tracking platform from a leading vendor.

Are you evaluating a time tracking platform for your business and stuck with the decision whether to build or buy a platform? Download our latest Build vs. Buy Guide and learn how other large services organizations are driving growth in a world of disruption and accelerating revenue growth with a connected ecosystem.

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Shivani Bajaj


Shivani Bajaj

Shivani is an Director - Product Marketing at Deltek | Replicon. She is a technology enthusiast who loves tinkering with technology products. Deltek | Replicon provides award-winning products that make it easy to manage your workforce. With complete solution sets for client billing, project costing, and time and attendance management, Deltek | Replicon enables the capture, administration, and optimization of your most underutilized and important asset: time.


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