Product Guides

Document Generation Software: Build or Buy? Pros & Cons

June 10, 2022
Author
Inkit Team

Whether you work in a small startup or a huge corporation, the question of building vs buying software is probably always at the back of your mind as a developer. 

On one hand, you probably have unique needs and know your document generation requirements and features best.

On the other hand, internal tool development can be a time-consuming, and expensive source of distraction. 

According to Uptech, the ballpark range of software development varies between $50,000 to $250,000 and higher.

You could put in the hours and build an in-house solution yourself. 

Or, you could invest your IT budget into an industry-focused automation solution

But that’s an oversimplification of things. 

By the end of this guide, hopefully, you’ll have a better idea of whether you should build a document generation software yourself or buy one instead.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Document Generation Software Overview: What It Is And How It Works
  • 5 Factors To Consider Before Deciding On Buying Or Building A Document Generation Software
  • 4 Industries That Need Document Generation Automation And What Kind Of Documents To Automate
  • Pros and Cons of Building A Document Generation Software Yourself
  • Pros and Cons of Buying A Document Generation Software

Document Generation Software Overview: What It Is And How It Works

First things first, how does document generation software work?

Document generation software makes it simple to create, edit, customize, and print documents. 

A good document serves as a PDF creator, and document generator, which pulls data from third-party sources into standardized templates.

Document generation is useful when multiple documents must be generated and each document contains a mix of static content — the parts that remain the same in each document.

Dynamic content refers to content that is tailored to the audience or recipient of the generated document.

dynamic content, how it's generated and its uses

Source: Zesty

The process of creating business-critical documents such as invoices, contracts, sales proposals, and work orders is known as document generation. With the right document generation tools, you can automatically create digital documents using your own templates and branding. 

See our guide to the 13 most common document templates for automated PDF generation for more info and examples.

Application developers can generate documents from a variety of sources, including a CRM, ERP, and storage

Document generation software should be able to easily maintain brand consistency and provide conditional formatting. Documents created with these products include:

Essentially, the way this works is based on a document generation API.

Document generation API is a cloud-based service that allows you to integrate automated document rendering into existing web applications. 

Although rendering tools can generate documents in a variety of formats (e.g., Excel, Microsoft Word, Docs, etc.), PDF is the most commonly used. 

As a result, the majority of document generation software APIs convert HTML data sources to PDF documents. If you require automated document creation software API, you will almost certainly require an HTML to PDF converter.

Though before we get too off-topic, see our full guide to document generation APIs for a more detailed breakdown of this.

We’ll take a look at some more examples and industry-specific information below as well, so, keep on reading.

Now, if you’ve decided document generation is for you, let’s take a look at some factors to take into consideration before deciding on building or buying a document generation software.

5 Factors To Consider Before Deciding On Buying Or Building A Document Generation Software

Before making an informed decision, there are some critical factors to consider. 

Some of these factors include total cost, project complexity, potential hazards, and competitive advantages. 

Let's take a look at these factors below.

Cost involved

It is important to consider the total cost involved in building vs buying a document generation software. It involves the cost applicable to licensing models, implementation, development, and maintenance.

Companies frequently discover that the initial cost of an outsourced document software system is less expensive than developing a similar system in-house. 

Small and medium-sized businesses, on the other hand, must consider the cost of implementation as well as ongoing maintenance. When these expenses are outsourced, however, they can be more easily controlled because solution providers can identify problems and reduce risks.

As mentioned above, software development can cost you up to $250,000, though there are steps you can take to drastically reduce the number.

Meanwhile, most document generation proprietary software will range anywhere from $20/mo to $2,500/mo.

Though, this will largely depend on how many pages you're working with, managing, or generating per year. For example, Inkit’s pricing starts free for 100 pages per year and increases accordingly.

inkit's subscription plans

Risk analysis

By choosing to acquire a software package, organizations eliminate all the risks associated with control, performance, and completion, which can all fail during the building process.

While there are many ways to protect sensitive information, risk management is an essential part of any document generation software.

Scalability

It can be expensive to maintain and operate enterprise-level document generation software, whereas small and medium-sized businesses can develop custom solutions to meet their unique needs.

Time

Building an internal product necessitates planning, resource allocation, and anticipating the unexpected. 

Because document generation projects are still in their early stages, defining the scope can be difficult. This can put a significant amount of time on the line. 

Building a document software system takes more time and money than buying an existing service.

Out-of-the-box PDF generation
The easiest way to automatically generate and manage paperless documents at scale.
Start for free

The scope of work in your business

Typically, document generation systems are designed to deliver a minimum viable product (MVP) as quickly as possible. 

As much as it is true that great accuracy can be attained for big customers with a skilled engineering team, the last 20% of document variety often takes up most of the time. 

The other side of this is that many document generation software options were pre-built for certain industries.

This is something we’ll explore below.

Be sure to check out our guide on how automated document generation helps operations teams save time and money for more info on how this affects the scope of your business, as far as documentation is concerned.

graphic showing the regular lifecycle of a document

4 Industries That Need Document Generation Automation And What Kind Of Documents To Automate

Document generation is used in a variety of industries such as:

  • Legal.
  • Finance.
  • Medical.
  • Healthcare.
  • Government.
  • Transport.
  • Defense.
  • Education.
  • HR.
  • Insurance.
  • Logistics
  • And more.

Looking for more information on documentation generator tools?

See our guide on considerations for integrating API documentation for other factors you should keep in mind.

Now, let’s zoom in on a few industries to see what kind of documents and templates you can be automatically generating with the right software.

Finance operations

Invoices

Invoice automation is critical for fundamental business processes, including accounts payable, accounting, and VAT compliance. 

With the help of automation tools, companies can reduce their invoicing costs and errors and handle related business functions in a shorter time. 

For more details on invoice automation, you can read our in-depth guide on PDF rendering for invoices.

Offers

Offers clarify the terms of an offer to a potential customer. If the customer approves the offer, it can be included in their purchase order as well.

Order forms, purchase orders, and POs

Sales, order management, supply chain management, and logistics teams can benefit from automated order form processing and generation.

HR operations

Receipts

HR units are responsible for paying for employees’ business-related spending. Automated receipt processing simplifies a company’s travel & expenses management process.

Pay slips

HR units need to prepare pay slips for their employees. Automated pay slip processing and generation can also be integrated into loan application processes in the banking and finance industries.

Healthcare

Medical records

They are used for communication between different healthcare providers, by insurance companies in claims processing and offer preparation, and by legal service providers in lawsuits related to claims.

Prescriptions

Healthcare and pharmacy businesses can automate prescriptions to provide faster services. 

With prescription automation, doctors can provide standardized prescriptions rapidly, and patients wait less for their prescriptions to be taken and filled, which improves customer satisfaction.

In addition, both the generation and processing of bank statements, medical records, annual reports, and numerous government documents can be automated.

If you’re looking for healthcare document generation specifically, see our guide on build or buy in healthcare.

Now, let’s get into the “meat” of this guide and explore the pros and cons of building or buying document generation software.

Pros and Cons of Building A Document Generation Software Yourself

Each business has unique requirements, and there are real benefits and drawbacks to both buying and building software.

So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of building the software yourself first.

Pros of building your own document generation software

The pros of building document generation software yourself include:

  • You own the code, which means you can profit from it by marketing and selling it if needed.
  • You will have complete control over development and features.
  • The software and its reporting capabilities are tailored to your specific requirements.
  • You can design it to integrate seamlessly with the rest of your software stack.
  • If you discover that it is missing a feature that your company requires, you can prioritize adding that feature.

Cons of building your own document generation software

Meanwhile, the cons of building document generation software yourself include:

  • Building software requires a significant amount of time, resources, planning, expertise, and effort, even with an established development team. Aside from development, you are also responsible for code maintenance and user support year after year.
  • Your IT or HR staff must train users and provide ongoing support for the application.
  • Staying current is difficult when business needs change quickly and the applications integrated with your software release new versions, necessitating adaptations of your own software.
  • Typically, your application will have less functionality than that of a vendor.

What about simply buying software or API instead?

Here’s what you need to know.

Pros and Cons of Buying A Document Generation Software

If there was an easy option, most businesses would choose software tailored specifically to their needs. 

However, for most businesses, the ease of buying a ready-to-use solution makes purchasing the better option.

Pros of buying a document generation software

The pros of buying a document generation software include:

  • Ready-made solutions that are available when needed.
  • Increased adaptability and flexibility.
  • Thousands of hours have already been spent developing the app and ironing out the kinks.
  • Typically, functionality is enhanced through customer feedback, anticipating rather than reacting to your changing business needs.
  • Purchasing document generation software is going to be drastically cheaper than building one from scratch.
  • When you buy, the SaaS provider will handle everything from training to hosting to maintenance, allowing you to focus on your business.

Cons of buying a document generation software

On the other hand, the cons of buying document generation software include:

  • The developer retains the coding rights.
  • Product functionality is determined by the vendor and may not meet your specific business requirements in terms of software features.
  • You rely on the vendor's support to resolve issues.
  • The document generation software can be unreliable or unsafe, depending on the company.

Where To Go From Here

So, where do you go from here?

Deciding on whether you should buy or build document generation software is no easy task.

But hopefully, the above factors helped.

Buying is generally preferable to building due to the ongoing maintenance, long-term system integrity, and costs of retaining in-house knowledge. Purchasing an off-the-shelf software as a service solution is almost always the best way to go for more general system requirements. 

It saves you time and money in the long run. It's no surprise that so many businesses prefer to buy rather than build.

But chances are, you’re not ready to make a decision instantly.

More specifically, when deciding on document generation, the first thing you should do is write down a list of features needed for your operations.

Then, start researching a list of potential document generation software. 

At that point, you should check out our guide on evaluating document management solutions. In it, we explore 5 other considerations and software implications you should keep in mind.

Out-of-the-box PDF generation
The easiest way to automatically generate and manage paperless documents at scale.
Start for free