This article helps you decide whether your organization should choose a DAM solution
or develop proprietary software instead
When it comes to managing digital assets in general and images in particular, chances are that you have faced the following dilemma: in-house solution or specialized software, typically a Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform. It’s worth paying particular attention to this question given that there are big implications for your organization’s budget.
In the course of this article, we will give you the most relevant arguments on this particular. We want to help you can decide whether your organization should choose a DAM solution or develop proprietary software instead.
Plan ahead – and look beyond image libraries
Your organization needs a DAM to manage images and possibly video files. Great! But now what?
It’d be normal (even expected!) to think that your organization needs something like «just an image library». However, we invite you to think again and, more importantly, to think in the longer term.
The list below summarizes the key points and questions that will matter down the road when as a result of the growth of your organization managing digital assets becomes more complex and burdensome:
- IT and expansion of system capabilities: how important will cloud-based software become for your business operations?
- Business development: are there plans to expand your organization’s market share or to expand beyond your current market?
- Marketing: does the plan to increase revenue include channel diversification?
- Content strategy: is increasing the production of content key for your business goals?
If the answer that applies to your organization is affirmative for one or more of the questions, you’ll need a solution more capable than just an image library.
And we say ‘capable’ because a DAM:
- is essential in delivering your content the way you need and to whom you want,
- makes for a great way to track the movements of assets for security purposes,
- is a key enabler to mitigate the risk of improperly using digital assets due to the embedded permissions engine,
- fosters the reusing of assets and optimizes the creation of content by preventing duplicates,
- is key in linking the data about how your content performed to your company’s bottom line,
- facilitates the integration of other SaaS such as Content Management Systems,
- simplifies the generation of revenue from your assets and growing in popularity.
A self-developed or an off-the-shelf solution?
Back to the question of whether it’s best to build a DAM in-house or to use an external SaaS DAM, the most common arguments in favor of an in-house solution go like this:
- Lower prices of development and server maintenance.
- Easier to plan scalability of storage and processing power.
- (Mis)identify the need for an image library, which can be developed in a short period of time.
- An in-house solution will have built-in exactly all the features required.
- A SaaS solution is cheaper than software developed by the company.
- Making all the necessary integrations with external systems is not cost-effective.
Granted that in some cases these arguments manage to tip the scale in favor of in-house development. Even so, in most cases, the short, medium, and long-term consequences are too far-reaching, ranging from impacting your BAU to modifying your approach to digital transformation. This shows that this course of action can be an inefficient and impractical one.
Because of that, we want to share the insights of companies that have opted for a more practical, efficient, and flexible solution: engaging a cloud-based SaaS platform like Picvario. It has been reported that developing the software in-house poses the following risks:
- Expenses and costs: developing a fully-fledged solution requires very strict project management and implementation, and the cost of any delays, incidents, or even failure would fall on the company.
- Legacy systems: at the same time that the business needs of your company evolve and change, the software and systems developed and maintained in-house need to evolve at the same pace, and without disrupting the ongoing business processes. Else, the quarterly and yearly bottom line will suffer.
- Operations and BAU: if your in-house IT team is developing the software, will you have a separate team to run the business operations? Whichever the answer to this question might be, the reality is that mixing functions can hurt your business performance. According to an article by McKinsey: «On average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted»
Risk factors: cost, reliability and scalability
In the following sections, down you will find a categorization and a more in-depth comparison of the risks above, also in the light of both business and technical aspects. The factors used to decide on the categorization criteria are as follows:
Key decision-makers in a company can benefit from this framework to decide whether it’s more appropriate to engage an external SaaS platform or to go the in-house way.
Research conducted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) concluded that IT infrastructure developed according to the traditional methods are in decline. The number of companies that use such methods decreased from 77% to 43% between 2015 and 2018. Today it’s much lower given the rising availability and reliability of cloud-based services.
This factor includes the price (yearly/monthly) or cost of the in-house resources. In this section, we’ll focus on the aspects that in all likelihood will be more relevant for you and your company.
Costs: Short Term
The sign-up cost of a SaaS is initially higher since it comprises the performance of one-time services upon onboarding. As an example: implementation, the initial configuration of the software, and staff training. The vendor also focuses on embedding the new software into the existing processes at the company (or on creating new ones if necessary) to allow the customer to make the most out of it in the shortest time. At Picvario, this one-time onboarding process is comprised of an initial scoping, setup, and configuration following the identified needs during the scoping phase. The consultants will also pass on the best practices so the customer’s team can get started as soon as possible.
The initial cost will be lower if the in-house resources develop the solution. The challenge will be to strike a balance between the costs from including all the required features (longer development) and progressing fast (to keep costs low). If external help is required or the expertise is not found within the team, the company might need to engage the services of a consultant or hire a specialist, which will increase the price tag.
Long-term Capital Expenditure (CAPEX)
A SaaS solution entails a lower upfront capital expenditure than one developed in-house. In the long term, costs like cloud and platform maintenance are not shouldered by the customer, but by the vendor.
In addition, there is the option to connect your own S3 object storage or Google Drive and pay for your cloud directly to your service provider without overpayments.
Picvario’s subscription and cloud-based offering is a predictable and easy-to-account-for investment due to the monthly fee.
If everything goes according to the plan, the costs of in-house development can remain constant. For this to happen, it is necessary to account for any unforeseen circumstances, improvements, or changes that were not included in the scoping. These expenses can take different forms like changes in priorities, establishing a new system scaling level or new requirements.
The solution offered by vendors very often includes training and initial consultation aiming at allowing the customer to start using the product as soon as possible. Having an already developed software makes things faster as it only needs some setting up and configuration prior to being rolled out. At Picvario, we transform our customers’ brand strategy and goals into a customized, enterprise-focused DAM solution. The implementation takes on average of 3-5 days.
The team that can develop an in-house solution needs to be adequate and able to drive the entire process until completion. This team needs to integrate different functions from different departments from across the company. This is to ensure that key needs, as well as common processes, are accounted for, aiming at determining with a degree of certainty the features that need to be implemented in the solution as to serve these present and future needs. All the above results in that, when compared to a SaaS solution, developing and implementing the software in-house requires more time given that the technical specifications need to be determined ex-novo and do not count on already-existing standing infrastructure.
Cloud-based solutions offer an interesting feature: resource pooling. It enables vendors to distribute features to all clients. Picvario leverages customer insights and the latest technological advancements to determine its product roadmap. A continuous feedback implementation process means that the new features offered by Picvicario solve real customer problems.
The costs of unforeseen events such as changes in the project or new stakeholders normally fall to the IT department. This resource reallocation for the maintenance or improvement of the project may result in the team shifting their focus from the essential business operations onto the in-house solution.
Reliability of the solution is defined by the ability to respond to access requests whenever it’s required, regardless of geographical location, day or time and in accordance with international data privacy regulations.
The requirements arising from choosing a cloud-based SaaS solution are much lower: only a working computer and a reasonably fast internet connection. Everything else is provided for by the vendor. As a consequence, the DAM is permanently accessible, even in a remote way. There’s a focus on establishing a secure connection and environment so you can access your assets remotely from your smartphone or tablet in a simple way, as you would a regular website.
When it comes to remote access, in-house solutions necessitate from external identity and access management providers. If those services are not correctly set up or are limited, accessing the DAM remotely can be problematic and it would require in-person office attendance in order to access a file on a server. Another option is turning to a secure VPN connection to access the data in storage. The downside is that VPN connections tend to be slower because of the higher-than-normal security, in particular in the case of big-sized files. If additionally you want to integrate a built-in CDN, the complexity of the solution increases even more, and ends up not being a full in-house solution or a cloud-based one.
There are a number of security, privacy, and compliance rules and criteria that SaaS have to respect and comply with; all to ensure the safe handling and storage of a customer’s assets. Normally the verification on these aspects is performed by an independent organization or entity (cloud-hosting service provider).
Having all your data in a centralized place that’s under your control can be reassuring, but there are many obligations that come alongside it: securing and safely distributing the assets within the organization, but also managing the relationship with external partners. It can be a complex and lengthy development process the one that can deliver a platform that doesn’t limit the access, collaboration, and distribution of content, and there’s always a risk of employees adopting other free available solutions, also known as ‘shadow IT’. In in-house platforms, there might not be a robust system for managing user access.
The vendors of SaaS solutions ensure smooth operation and minimum downtime by signing SLAs (Service License Agreements). Picvario’s cloud-based architecture is built on leaders of cloud service providers, which offers features like 99.9% uptime.
Self-developed in-house solutions required problem-solving and troubleshooting systems so as to lessen the impact on the business operations. Accessing assets remotely can be a slow process, especially when handling large files.
Backups and disaster recovery
Backing your content is essential, and in a cloud environment, this is done automatic and regularly. In terms of resource usage, because of the scalability capabilities, the customer only pays for the used resources. Also, in case of harm to the server human error, the content will be backed up and safe. Picvario is kept from damage to the physical servers. It is really easy restoring and accessing files removed by accident.
For an in-house solution, investing in storage and server cannot be avoided. There are also other costs to take into account, such as the operating system license, server and storage, and backup software. There might be unnecessary data bucked up, which is not efficient and increases cost. Also, if any incident happens, there is a chance that data loss might happen if there are no buck-up solutions in place. This type of software would also need a license, increasing the costs further.
Scalability refers to the ability to adapt and expand your digital asset management operations through company growth. This section covers sustainability in the long term, as well as platform and infrastructure scalability.
When you engaging a SaaS platform, it’s on the vendor to ensure that the system is properly set up so you can be productive from the very beginning while you can forget about the burdens that come with in-house development. At Picvario, the one-off fee includes initial scoping, technical configuration following customer requirements, and internal rollout and training by an experienced onboarding consultant. Picvario’s Customer Success Team is experienced and knows how to roll out the platform in different use cases according to the specificities of different customers and will gladly share these with your team so they can achieve the best results.
An in-house solution may fulfill the immediate business needs, but only as long as these needs stay unchanged over time. What happens in the day-to-day of a business is that these needs do change and they need an adaptable solution. If the in-house solution is not adaptable and does not meet the needs that it was created for, it might lose traction which might result in a bigger budget. Then it becomes complex and the expertise might not be within the team. This intricate situation is difficult to solve and might entail rethinking the whole solution, with loss of time, resources, and opportunities as a consequence.
It’s possible to integrate SaaS applications with other systems by the means of APIs. Over time, performing other integrations becomes easier as you choose other cloud-based solutions.
Custom connections and integrations with the existing tech at the company can be beneficial since they cannot be found «out-of-the-box». However, this comes at the cost of maintaining the systems and the resources required to adapt the solution to the new versions of that external software that you’re integrating.
The increasing popularity of cloud-based SaaS is due to the possibility of rapidly scaling storage and processing power without the limitation that a physical system would have such as the storage or server room. As a result, any sudden and unexpected changes in computing needs, such as massive onboarding after a merger procedure or the addition of hi-resolution assets that require distribution to partners or media and press. SaaS vendors are constantly adapting to the needs of their customers to satisfy customer needs. That means that any solution that you buy today will be future-proof since it’ll scale alongside your needs tomorrow.
By allocating more IT resources, in-house solutions can be scaled and more hybrid servers can be integrated. These are very volatile factors in case of sudden changes and can rake up significant costs if not foreseen. The in-house solution needs to evolve and adapt to the changes over time, such as the following:
- Extending from image or file management to optimizing creative and content workflows.
- Brand asset safeguard.
- Catering to the growing number of channels of marketing and customer experience.
- Continuous update of security features
- IT resources lifecycle management
- Support contracts for all IT resources
It’s in the best interest of the SaaS vendor to maintain and improve the software, and to keep offering competitive services. Many a vendor are successful Customer Success Managers dedicated to ensuring that the client has everything that’s needed to succeed. This reduces the burden of companies in relation to hiring new IT staff as they do not need to build large teams to produce and maintain applications.
The management, maintenance and improvement of a solution developed in-house is the responsibility of the IT team and will require developing or acquiring expertise to build out solutions that meet the company’s requirements over time.
If the company is willing to gather the expertise in-house or to hire external experts, this could be a viable option.
Other major considerations to take into account include:
- Long-term maintenance and necessary resources of all the systems, and if it’s in the best interest of the company.
- Whether you have decided to overcome the «image library» approach and invest in a longer-term solution that scales and adapts over time.
We trust that we have fulfilled the promise we made at the beginning about providing you with a complete perspective on the in-house vs. cloud-based SaaS debate when it comes to DAM platforms. If you believe that an off-the-shelf SaaS solution is the best fit for your organization, or if you’ve got any questions at all, we’d love to talk.
Here are a few reasons why our customers choose Picvario:
- SaaS model spreads investment over time with predictable monthly subscription fees.
- Dedicated developers release updates, new features monthly.
- Experienced onboarding consultants and, Customer Success and technical support teams.
- Fast implementation–on average 3 to 5 days until full setup.
- Our cloud-based architecture guarantees 99.9% uptime.
Want to learn more?
Picvario is a unique solution for every business. The digital asset management pricing ensures that every client gets the most value. The solution that Picvario offers is developed in partnership with a solutions consultant, and is based on specific use cases. For more information, please book a demo or request a quote.