Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Extranet - Build vs. Buy

A number of questions are often asked about the financial returns of extranets and client workspaces, how to decide on building vs. buying a system, etc. This posting and future postings will attempt to answer some of those questions

Should one build or buy an extranet system?

Assess your law firm's internal expertise.

It is critical to access the expertise level of your law firm in building applications from the ground-up, if you are considering doing so. The skill sets required to implement packaged software vs. programming new systems are fundamentally different. To build new software, you need, among other things, a software development lifecycle methodology, strong project managers to develop requirements and translate them into functional specifications programmers can work from, strong programmers obviously, and a strong database analyst to assist in both data structure design and supporting a production application.

For extranets, one also needs experts in obtaining SSL certificates, setting up an extranet zone, and web-server management.

In my experience working with law firms and their technical departments, the trend I observe is a very strong competency in supporting networks, telecom, implementing litigation support and office productivity software, and security.... but less so in applications development. So, in my opinion, I think for the most part law firms are better served, if they are starting from scratch, looking at external alternatives.

This opinion is somewhat dependent on expected system usage and how high usage might tilt the analysis (when looking at this topic from a ROI or cost/benefit perspective), and that will be the topic of a future posting on this blog.