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Student portal – To build it or buy it?

29th January 2020

A common deliberation in the education market is whether to build your own student app or to outsource – there are benefits and pitfalls to both approaches. Let’s look at some of the differences when considering digitising a campus environment and discuss four key areas:

  1. Control – ‘Control’ over the finished product
  2. Time – The time it takes and speed of deployment
  3. Resources and skills – The resources required to deliver and define a future roadmap
  4. Costs – The hard costs

1. Control
We quite often hear the words “We want to develop it ourselves because then we have more ‘control’ over it.”  That may seem true, but at what point do the pitfalls of building it from scratch (and there are many) far outweigh this? Especially when it’s easy enough to customise and build your own applications (with your own code) within a sourced digital campus environment. Plus, once you have the finished platform you’ve built, you must then maintain it and deal with the endless requests to make changes to things that you may not agree with, are relevant or a priority.
One of the main reasons that Collabco customers buy myday is for its development roadmap and continual updates. The knowledge has been gathered across many years and many educational institutions and sharing that knowledge makes the product market-leading. Starting from scratch means it’s your roadmap to research, create and sustain long-term.

2. Time
We live in a world where we want things faster – and millennials want it even faster than that. The speed of deployment in IT is often a big driver of choice. If you have a small IT department with finite resources, this may govern your decision to outsource.
In short, if you buy 80% of your student app out of the box, you could reasonably be expected to go-live within six months. It can be done even faster (and has been) and equally in some cases, may take a fraction longer, but six months is a ‘best practice’ guide regardless of the size of an institution, the number of campuses or users. By comparison to start with a blank sheet of paper and take the project on from scratch, two years to design, plan, research, roadmap, develop, test, soft launch, tweak and go-live – isn’t an overestimation and doesn’t take into account any curve-balls you may be thrown along the way. This doesn’t stop at implementation – maintenance and implementing the future roadmap must then be consistently delivered.

3. Resources and skills
Skills are a big part of delivering the finished platform if you decide to build it yourself. You may have infinite resources, but you must factor in the turnover of staff and how that impacts the project. Continuity can be a problem over time. One of the biggest expenses is employing a solutions architect. Finding that particular skill set for many educational institutions is difficult and expensive – it’s a premium skill, and it’s very much required in order to put in place the all-important roadmap.
Outsourcing the project to a specialist can save expensive consultancy advice at the outset of a project. Specialist market knowledge is imparted without the in-house premium skills requirement or the associated costs – and in many instances is able to highlight other knock-on issues that may occur along the way. myday has a team of developers behind it working constantly on updates so that the platform delivers a premium level of functionality straight out of the box – which can then be customised. The heavy development work is already done. Even if you have the resources to deliver a project from scratch – why reinvent the wheel? – why not put your resources to work on ‘value-added’ components – things that will deliver the icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself?

4. Costs
It’s difficult to attribute hard costs to either scenario, as each education institution is different – but costs extend beyond money. Time (see above) costs money, as does the safety of your students. A student app bought out of the box – such as Collabco’s myday – delivers a level of identity security that not only brings efficiencies in terms of reduced help desk time – but also in terms of student safeguarding. Access to resources is based upon each user’s identity and this works to keep them safe.


Use your resources wisely and let Collabco deliver your digital campus quickly and efficiently.

For an in-depth report on weighing up your options for either building a student portal in-house or to outsource,  consider downloading our whitepaper.

Whitepaper: Build it or buy it?

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