OK, everyone now agrees; your current way of creating documents is broken (too slow; full of errors; impossible to maintain). So, how do you fix the problem? Do you build your own system, or do you buy something off-the-shelf? There are pros and cons of both approaches. But first things first; before you can make a Build-vs-Buy decision, you need to work out your requirements.
You quickly discover that requirements gathering and analysis is hard. In fact, conflicting stakeholder expectations and internal politicking make this the most difficult (and important) part of any IT project. Even if you know what the pressing issues are right now, what about 6 months, 12 months or 3 years down the track? What about potential applications and requirements for other business units within the firm?
That's why smart companies spend a lot of time researching solutions. Specialist document assembly vendors have the experience and expertise to help you understand the sorts of problems other companies have solved and how they've done it. Once you've clarified your requirements, you can start investigating your options.
This is definitely the way to go if your requirements turn out to be truly unique. However, you still need to be aware of the risks of building your own document assembly system.
If your project really is a "one off "with well known and defined requirements that are unlikely to change over time, then build it; but only if it makes sense economically and you have a well resourced, capable development team.
If it turns out that your requirements have similarities to those of other businesses, then buying is more likely to be the better option.
Ultimately, when making a Build-vs-Buy decision, you need to understand the total cost of ownership for each approach. That means factoring in all costs for the life of the project, including internal development costs, opportunity costs, ongoing maintenance costs, and integration costs.
Have you been through a Buy vs. Build experience? Please tell us what you learned in the comments below.