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8 Considerations When Deciding to Buy or Build Registration Software

Posted on Mon, July 27,2015 @ 9:35 AM

A decade ago, most ABC Signup customers dumped their paper, phone and fax-based registration process for the efficiency and convenience of online registration software. Today, most new customers come to ABC Signup from either an underwhelming third-party software provider or an internal system that no longer gets the job done.


Switching to a better solution needs no explanation, but why organizations choose to build their own in the first place – and still do so today – is a more complex decision. On the surface, building your own requires significant resources and expertise, but seemingly would result in a solution more tailored to the organizations. But nothing is that simple in the world of software, so we took a closer look at eight factors that influence – and perhaps skew – the buy versus build decision.

1. Cost
We can’t pin down every organization’s development costs, but the hourly rate typically billed in development is north of $100 (our former web developer, for instance, charged $150/hours). In just one week’s time – which isn’t close to enough time to build a complete registration management system – an organization would incur greater expenses than purchasing most registration software systems. The initial expense of development ABC Signup, just for comparisons sake, is in the six-figure range. And that doesn’t even include other expenses related to physical hardware and hosting.

On the build side of the deliberation, the development process would be a one-time expense, which over time could start to compare more closely to the annual price of third-party registration software. But, the next factor often sours the internal solution well before it gets to that almost-even-cost milestone.

2. Updates/Fixes
Software as a service, the web-based model of all competitive third-party registration software, has soared in popularity across all software verticals dues to its portability, low-cost and ability to seamlessly deliver improvements and updates across its user base. ABC Signup, for instance, is constantly updating its software to accommodate updates to browsers and operating systems, and at the same time adding new features and improvements to its platform on an almost weekly basis.

Organizations that build their own seem to struggle with this challenge, more often than not because their internal software developers are part of an IT department handling the needs of the entire enterprise. Accessing their time to perform routine updates or make improvements, per some of our customers, is difficult. The organization’s registration management needs can quickly outpace what their internal solution can deliver.

3. Expertise
Many large enterprises boast bigger, faster and possibly even better development teams than even the largest registration software providers. But, their expertise is not registration software. Companies such as ABC Signup, through years of experience and thousands of data points from customers, know the nuances of registration management and build and evolve their software accordingly. It is very difficult for in-house developers to match the expertise, quality and functionality that go into a complete registration management system.

4. Customer Support/Training
Customer support and training varies widely for organizations with in-house solutions. One constant in the registration world is that end users change frequently. And someone needs to train them or troubleshoot issues quickly before the next cycle of events. Some in-house systems do this well, others not so much.

Registration software providers worth their salt make customer service a top priority, handling support calls on the same day, providing periodic training, and offering a myriad of resources (help sections, video tutorials, newsletters, blogs and more) to keep the end user up-to-date and as proficient with the software as possible. The more the customer gets out of the tool, the thinking goes, the more likely they will keep using it.

5. Personalization
If there is one factor the “build” camp should win hands down, it is personalization. Ideally, the end user is working hand-in-hand with the development team to create a system perfectly suited for the organization’s registration management needs.

However, the organization may not have the expertise or resources to pull this off – or constantly improve it or steadfastly support it. And, we can think of one registration software provider that likely wins more customers than anyone because of its ability to meet the unique needs of its clients, either through its existing software or almost-made-to-order new features.

6. Security
At first glance, most end users would probably feel more secure in their software’s security if it were built in-house rather than provided through a third-party system. However, keeping customers’ systems and data secure is paramount to a software provider’s viability. They typically use high-level encryption, air-tight servers and ongoing dialogue with end users about best practices with logins and passwords. Without wanting to put a jinx on anyone, history has shown far more organizational security breaches than registration software provider breaches.

7. Integrations
Without question, software built in-house should integrate smoothly with other appropriate organizational software, be it accounting, CRM, payment processing, membership or something else. That’s not always the case. The other software may have arrived after the registration system was built, or the team didn’t have the expertise to integrate.

Third party software integrations are a mixed bag. A handful offer multiple integrations. Most don’t. And others, on occasion, will build integrations such as connections to payment gateways to meet the customers’ needs.

8. Data Importing and Exporting
Whether bought or built, at some point the software will need to import or export data, be it registrant information, financials or materials like nametags, certificates and attendee lists. Contact data should be able to be imported into the database just as easy as event data or evaluation results can be exported.

This can be more of a challenge to in-house systems simply because it isn’t their expertise. The capabilities of third-party providers vary greatly in this area of functionality, but most complete software systems provide robust tools for importing and exporting data.

These factors, admittedly presented while wearing registration-software-tinted glasses, at least present an idea of the important considerations involved in a buy versus build decision. Throw in the driving factor behind the deliberation in the first place – trying to simplify the registration management process – and we see why so many organizations today are leaving internal systems for third-party offerings.

What do you think?

If you want to discuss further the buy versus build conundrum, or just want to share your experiences, please post away in the Comments section below. If you would like to know more about registration software and ABC Signup, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

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