As an Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) solution vendor that’s been in the market for over 10 years, we occasionally get asked why someone would buy our product when something similar could be developed by themselves. 

With the recent market focus on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI-powered cloud, OCR, the question to build or buy has surfaced again. In response, we’d like to offer some of the most common questions prospects ask when considering building their own IDP solution.

Q: With recent advances in cloud, AI-powered OCR, does it now make sense to build my own IDP?

AI-enabled OCR and data extraction, the hardest parts of building IDP, are now available as a cloud service from Amazon, Google and Microsoft, making it easier to build your own system. These services can be enticing, but might not outweigh the risk, cost and time needed to build your own IDP system. There are a lot of other considerations and features that will need to be designed and built.

Q: If I decide to build, what are the design considerations?

A full-featured IDP solution consists of more than just OCR and extraction. You will have to build:

  • Capturing document images from a variety of input sources
    • Email attachments
    • RPA Bots
    • Scanners
    • Multifunction Devices (MFDs)
    • Network drop folders
    • eFaxes
    • Content management systems
  • Image processing 
    • Eliminate blank pages 
    • Deskew and normalize images
    • Run OCR routines (this is available as a service from Amazon, Google and Microsoft so you will have to build the integration and pay for those services)
  • Classify and separate different document types
    • Build a machine learning (ML) model for document recognition
    • Devise a ML training system and create fully labeled training documents 
    • Build a human in the loop (HITL) user validation system to allow any errors to be corrected in the model by a human operator
  • Extract data values
    • Build a machine learning model for data extraction rules based on document type (this is available as a service from Amazon, Google and Microsoft so you will have to build the integration with those services)
    • Build a system with rules that flags any low confidence extraction
    • Allow a human operator to adjust and further train the machine learning extraction rules as necessary
  • Deliver extracted data to relevant business systems
    • ERP systems
    • CRM systems
    • RPA systems
    • EMR or EHR systems
    • LOS systems
    • ECM repositories 
    • iPaaS or workflow systems
    • Other line-of-business systems

Q: What if I can’t find a vendor that fits my use case?

Look for a vendor that will allow you to customize the IDP platform to meet your requirements. Spend your development time on configuration and governance policy, not building from scratch. IDP platforms can process a huge volume of document types and formats from a variety of global industries.

Q: What if I have workflow requirements that are unique to my business?

IDP platforms service customers from hundreds of industries across the globe, using a variety of business requirements. Some can customize their platform to meet your specific needs and they integrate with RPA and iPaaS systems to satisfy even very customized workflows.

Q: What if there are use cases unique to my business that IDP vendors can’t support? Should I build my own?

It may be more efficient to examine your use cases and make adjustments to your business processes. We have found that some customers have paper-based processes that can be easily transformed into digital workflow processes, modernizing the business and saving money in the process. Customers are currently using Ephesoft in more than hundreds of use cases.

Q: How should I think about the total cost of ownership if I’m thinking about building my own IDP platform?

Here are a few statistics about customer development that you will want to consider:

    • Custom development for this type of system can range from $250,000 to $800,000 (1).
    • Custom development projects can take 4 – 9 months to complete, whereas buying and customizing an existing IDP system can take as little as 6 weeks (2). However, depending on the use case, Ephesoft has implemented customer solutions as quickly as several days to one week to a month.
    • Maintaining intellectual property and specific developer resources (3).
    • Maintenance and development support account for 79% of total project cost over the first 5 years (4).
    • Offshore development teams may cost ⅓ of a US based team, but extensive documentation and a dedicated project manager will be required (5).
    • And, 1 in 6 projects have 200% cost overruns and schedule overruns of 70% (6).
    • In a tight labor market, spending valuable internal resources to build something that can be purchased rather than focusing on your core business, could have a huge opportunity cost.

The bottom line:

You might be able to find a turnkey solution that fits your needs allowing you to implement in a short amount of time and help you realize ROI fast. If your processes require customization, that doesn’t mean you need to build from scratch. A flexible platform can provide you with a solid foundation while allowing you to customize the solution based on your specific needs either on your own or by leveraging professional services.

Contact us to further discuss your consideration to build or buy and let us help you make the right investment that will give you the returns you are looking for.

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(1) Dr. John Flackett PhD Artificial Intelligence | Co-founder AiLab & Australia AI Collective | AI Specialist in Residence @ AUT | International AI Speaker (No Manels) “How much does it cost to build a software application?” 11/22/2015

(2) Clear Launch, “How long does it take to build a custom software solution?” 2020

(3) Guest contributor for Intellectual Property Watch, “Custom Built Software And The IP Law – What You Need To Know” 07/11/2017

(4) Ruediger Zarnekow, and Walter Brenner, Distribution of Cost over the Application Lifecycle – a Multi-case Study, Posted January 2005

(5) The True Cost of Hiring Developers in the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands [+Comparison With Ukraine] Posted Apr 01, 2021 Trends

(6) Wouter Van Geluwe, Jenny Medeiros, and Jody Arthur. “When to Build vs. Buy Enterprise Platform: Risks, Benefits, and Considerations” 6/16/2020