Should You Build Your Own Enterprise Reporting System? Pros and Cons of Building vs. Buying

Often agencies or media companies who come to us to discuss buying TapClicks as a reporting software say that they’re also considering building their own solution in-house. Their thinking for building in-house is typically centered around cost: spend some in-house development resources now, build it, and take the recurring costs of buying a third party solution out of the equation.

But in reality, there are all sorts of ways this cost savings story breaks down — we know from having relationships with companies that have tried it. Time and again, the number one point of failure is this:

The in-house solutions built by IT end up being the equivalent of a static reporting platform, but the needs of marketing teams to perform complex and custom analysis aren’t remotely met by what’s built for them.

There’s also ongoing maintenance and development work that isn’t accounted for. Things that come up on a weekly basis like the need for API updates or new data source connections require regular time and effort from IT or whoever is managing development.

In this article we’re going to describe the thought process of the enterprise companies we’ve spoken with who are considering the option to build their own solution. Then we’ll discuss specific examples of the challenges that come with building an in-house system and contrast those experiences with the alternative of buying.

Lastly, we’ll wrap up with when companies should go with one option or the other.

If you’re making this decision and want to try out an existing reporting solution custom built for enterprise marketers, we offer a 14 day free trial.

Why Enterprise Companies Consider Building Their Own Reporting Tools

To understand more about the thinking behind building a solution in-house, we’ve asked companies who have considered this path (or tried it) to tell us more about what attracts them to it.

One television and broadcasting company shared a number of reasons:

1. Price

They were looking at the monthly fees of buying a third party solution. They were thinking, if it’s $20,000 per month, that’s $240,000 per year. That’s a large spend and maybe they could build something one time for $50,000 and then be done.

It’s true that they might have been able to build something in-house for less, but the costs of building your own system go beyond the initial development. There are recurring software costs for tech stacks that are used. There are recurring hardware costs. And most importantly there are ongoing maintenance costs.

When API’s and data source connections need updating (something that comes up on a near-daily basis for most enterprise agencies or media companies), someone in-house needs to be responsible for doing this. That means payroll costs to account for the actual management of the system.

And there are yet more costs (discussed below) that should also be taken into account when considering the true price of an in-house solution.

2. Resources and Know-How

This company was also thinking about how they have an IT and development team at their disposal with the talent to build a reporting solution. They could connect to the API’s of the big platforms and create dashboards to set up a system on their own.

This is absolutely correct. But this would come at the cost of maintaining the system indefinitely. That means staying on top of API updates which happen across platforms all the time — remembering that things break when you miss updates.

There would be an opportunity cost as well, because any bandwidth their IT or analytics department dedicated to maintaining an in-house solution would be bandwidth they couldn’t dedicate to something else.

3. Needs

Their initial thinking was that they just wanted a relatively simple solution that would allow them to bring in data, aggregate it, provide data visualizations, and produce PDF reports for their clients. Anything requiring analytics could be done with Tableau (which they already had a license for).

This was definitely an option for them, but it wouldn’t take into account the agency bottleneck problem — where media teams are forced to rely on analytics team members (the folks with the know-how to use complex programs like Tableau) for the tools they need to perform data analysis and make analytics updates for clients.

The truth is that companies like theirs do have talented IT and development teams. They do need a system that can bring in data and visualize it for clients and they could use Tableau for more complex data analysis.

But here is the fundamental problem that companies fail to realize upon deciding to build themselves: the complexity of what digital marketing and ad ops teams actually need often isn’t met by simple in house reporting dashboards — they require far more sophisticated data analysis solutions, which we’ll look at next. 

Specific Ways In-House Solutions Fall Short in Meeting Day to Day Needs of Marketing and Ad Ops Teams

Next let’s look at some examples inspired by stories companies have shared with us that demonstrate the challenges inherent in using in-house solutions.

Example 1: A Franchise Client Wants to See a Comparison of Google Ads Performance in Boston vs. New England vs. the East Coast

If your in-house reporting system is like the ones that have been described to us, it’s likely a static report that has been set up once for a client to show basic campaign KPIs with basic visualizations like line and bar graphs. In short, these solutions largely take campaign data from different platforms and consolidate them in one place.

So if your client were to ask for this location comparison, not only could your marketing team not easily set this up in their own reports, they certainly wouldn’t have the ability to drill down and layer different data sets over top of each other. At best, they could send in this request to the analytics department and hope they deliver something sufficient on time.

We’ve built TapClicks over the course of 10 years to be able to specifically handle as many of these analysis problems as possible. TapClicks was created to save costs and offer a simple solution — allowing your marketing team to answer any questions that pop-up, without having to rely on the analytics team. They could simply enter their client’s dashboard, use our drag-and-drop interface to set up a comparison chart, and select the different locations to layer and display data for.

The TapClicks Widget Library lets you plug in and play around with different visuals for your dashboards.

 

And if they were unsure of how to do this, they could call their dedicated Customer Success partner at TapClicks to walk them through it on the spot. No waiting around. No taking away bandwidth from the IT or analytics team.

TapClicks Analytics

Example 2: An Ad Ops Team Wants Several Views of a Recent Social Media Campaign (Executive View, Ad Ops View, Client View)

Most in-house reporting systems are set up to show a single view. Whether it’s geared towards an executive view, a view for the team actually managing the campaign, or a client view is decided (or not decided) up front — and what you see is what you get.

But most enterprise companies can relate to needing several different views on data even for the same campaigns. The internal team needs an interactive dashboard that helps them see into the weeds. The executive team needs a dashboard that helps them see the 10,000 foot view on performance. And the client needs a dashboard with the information they want to see and the information you need to convey to them.

To get these different views with an in-house system, they all need to be set up separately by whoever it is that has the know-how. Since requests for changes can come from any of these different stakeholders involved, updates can be needed often. And when you scale this up to the level of an enterprise operation, this can quickly become a nightmare to manage.

With TapClicks, these different dashboard views and requests for changes can be done easily by ad ops and marketing teams (and when necessary with the help of our team). All of this can happen in one platform. Analytics and IT can continue focusing on other things. And permissions can be managed so that the right people have appropriate access to the right parts of the system.

These are the types of nuanced needs that enterprise marketing operations have that in-house systems usually fall short in meeting, which, again, is understandable. Since they are trying to build an ad hoc solution to save costs, they can’t be expected to have the full feature set of TapClicks — who focuses 100% of their energy on developing the highest quality solution with the end goal of optimizing performance in multiple departments and keeping overhead costs low.

Nonetheless, what the executive, marketing, and ops teams really need is a marketing performance environment where they can access and manipulate real-time data.

Beyond Reporting: The Features of TapClicks

For enterprise companies with complex needs like the ones we’ve described in this article, going with a third party analytics platform like TapClicks comes with additional benefits that go beyond just reporting and analytics tools.

In short, here’s an overview of the different features we offer enterprise companies:

  • Orders: This feature allows you to connect your CRM to our platform for a seamless transition between sales and marketing operations. When a new campaign is booked through a client or an advertiser, the order is automatically passed along to the person in charge of kicking it off.
  • Workflow: This feature allows all accountable team members for a given project to be notified when it’s their turn in the process, and to see the status of campaigns across clients at any given time. It’s built to help your team coordinate management for ad operations, billing, and fulfillment.
  • Analytics: As described throughout this article, this feature allows you to analyze the performance of your marketing in nuanced ways to improve your team’s responsiveness, optimize campaigns by identifying issues, and spot opportunities to drive better ROI for you and your clients.
  • Reports: Reporting with TapClicks can be done two ways. The first is through a client dashboard that you can customize and grant your clients access to for self-service reporting. The second is through our marketing report studio which allows you to set up automated or custom reports by pulling data from corresponding dashboards (making the reporting process easy by automatically populating a templated powerpoint-style report).
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Our SEO research tool, Raven Tools, allows you to gain detailed and actionable insights to help Improve organic and paid traffic campaigns and conversions. You can use it to detail out KPIs across your multi-channel marketing operations, and to understand and enhance your online visibility and improve performance.
  • Competitive Intelligence: TapClicks also offers a competitive intelligence tool, iSpionage, allowing you to uncover your marketing blindspots to outperform your competitors. TapClicks allows you to cross-reference SEO tools to uncover SERP and keyword tactics that can help you boost your digital footprint. Ultimately, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your competitors traffic and conversion strategies.

Note: We are also a white label solution that allows you to brand and customize the entire experience inside our platform — perfect for client or customer facing interactions.

When to Build vs. Buy

If your needs for a reporting system are less complex, and static reports that don’t need a lot of updating or flexibility is sufficient for you, it’s likely that building on top of Google Data Studio would be a better option than building your own custom system.

However, most enterprise-level marketing operations require more sophisticated reporting systems than can typically be built in-house. If you’re working with lots of data from different sources and have many stakeholders involved from clients and customers to internal teams (all with their separate needs for custom reports), buying a pre-built solution that’s flexible and offers you support is the way to go.

If you’re interested in seeing how TapClicks can streamline your reporting and analytics, or in need of piping data to your third party BI tools, try our free 14-day trial.