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Intranet Functionality: Build or Buy?

You just got off a call from your company's HR Director. She needs a whiz-bang new feature added to your intranet and she wants it yesterday! What do you do?

Mark Harle • 12-Jan-2017 • 489 views

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Intranet Functionality: Build or Buy?

If you're a developer, your first thought is probably "Sure, I can build that!" And if you're a digital marketer your first thought is probably "The last thing we need around here is another IT project!"

And the funny thing is both of you are probably right.  All professional developers like a challenge and are confident in their programming chops. On the other hand, IT projects that come in over budget and behind schedule (if they are even finished at all!) are all too common.

With DNN You have a Choice!

The good news is DNN gives you alternatives. DNN is a standards based Microsoft ASP.NET platform; so your IT team can develop most any new functionality you can think of. All the tools are there; you are only constrained by your creativity, skill set and budget.

Want a quick peak at our recommended DNN modules? Click here to see what modules might meet your needs.

On the other hand, you can enable a tremendous amount of functionality with absolutely no development. The DNN eco-system has a world of plugins, widgets and extensions (known as modules in DNN lingo) available. And unless your new functionality is extremely specialized or proprietary, odds are off-the-shelf modules already meet your requirements.  

So you are faced with a traditional build vs. buy decision. As you make this decision you should consider the following points:

It might make sense to BUILD if...

  • You need to integrate your new web functionality with proprietary corporate systems is part of the project. Say, for example, your project needs to interface with your company's HR or accounting system.  Generally these types of integration will require some level of custom DNN development, at least on the integration side.
  • Your deliverable is highly proprietary or represents a core competitive advantage to your organization. For example, say you are a manufacturer of custom auto parts.  And you want to add a tool to your DNN storefront that gives your users the ability to custom design a specific part or help them determine the optimal auto part they should purchase.
    Given the highly proprietary nature of this it is unlikely that a pre-built DNN module will meet your needs.  Hence this type of project will likely call for custom development.
  • The new functionality is just Phase 1 of a broader project. In this case you need evaluate your consider your ultimate business requirements; and not just the Phase 1 deliverables. And as the scope of the project expands, custom development becomes increasingly more likely.
  • You have unlimited funds and you can push back the delivery date whenever you feel like it (Sorry, just having fun with that one.)

It might make sense to BUY if...

  • The feature set or capability you want to add is fairly generic in nature as opposed to something that would provide you with a fundamentally new feature set.
  • Speed to market is essential; and you don't have time to go through the usual IT project governance, analysis, development, testing and deployment cycle.  Or stated a bit differently, getting it out quickly is more important than meeting 100% of the requirements.  This gives you the option to go with a pre-built module, even if it may not fully support all of the 'nice to have' features.
  • You don't have the budget or IT resources available to take on a new project.

Managing Risk of Third Party Modules

There's risk with both building and buying. But many organizations are more comfortable with the risk associated with internal development; if for no other reason than companies are used to this risk.

Organizations new to the DNN platform often struggle with embracing the modular approach. Items like vendor reputation/stability, performance, security and scalability are valid considerations that need to be addressed.

Refer to Managing DNN Third Party Module Risk for guidance.

Next Steps

Like any potential development project you need to start with your business requirements. Your requirements document will allow your development team to estimate the project and serve as the criteria to evaluate potential third party module solutions.

When your development team is completing their estimates, you can evaluate in your DEV environment the suitability of any pre-built DNN modules that appear viable. You'll then be in a position to make an informed build vs. buy decision. 


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