Build or buy application management software?

Build or buy application management software?

In today’s world, we all rely more and more on technology. People have grown accustomed to getting all their needed information and services online. Virtually every task can be completed in the digital realm, from leisure activities like buying goods to conducting business. In this vein, young people are using the internet to choose between higher education institutions (HEIs). From initial research to applying and enrolling in educational opportunities, students are relying more and more on online resources. Like everything else, education has become more global and prospective students are looking at the possibilities of studying abroad and not only near their home. This means that in the global market, HEIs are facing more competition, and they have to adapt to the global market needs. 

Not long ago, applying to a university was done purely on paper; filling applications and sending documents. Those days are over. Now, with every new release of a smart phone or network development, brings a new normal where people expect access to everything, wherever they are on whatever device they use. With this development, so, too, comes the necessity and importance for HEIs to deliver a platform for admission.

There are two, main ways organizations can upgrade to an online application system. One, outsource the project to a SaaS firm or two, build one in-house. Both have their pros and cons. In this article, we will look at both and see which is more advisable.

The main factors to consider when deciding between building or buying are time, money, and human resources. How long will it take to build the system?  How much human resources will be needed? What will be the total cost of the project?


Building an application management system requires a lot of time. Not only does the development require time, but also the analysis before starting to create your system. Every organisation has its own needs and these specifications will need to be accounted for in the analysis process.

Implementing a custom-made system takes months, even years, starting from analysis to creating, testing, fixing and learning. The length can be exacerbated by the size of the organisation and the complexity of the system needed (the larger and more complex = more time). All of this puts a strain on the human resources, it’s vital to account all stakeholders and future users to make sure every functionality is there and works as intended. Using a custom-made system means that everything stays in-house and the internal IT staff has to fix problems and make additional developments.

Conversely, SaaS products are being constantly developed with the feedback they receive from users. As SaaS staff only have to account for the software, unlike HEI IT staff, they are able to engage with more focus. It’s common that many users never find an issue because it was already detected and has been fixed. SaaS system implementation can sometimes be simultaneous, provided the initial needs are met and additional work isn’t required.

The question now is, are you willing to sacrifice a few special features you think you need or not?  SaaS systems are not built once and left the same way for ages. To meet more rising demands of users, the systems are constantly developed, which means that some new features that you thought you would need in the first place will be added later. So, you have to decide if you are willing to wait for the system for months or even years or do you want to stand out now in the global market and attract more students. 


How much does it cost to develop a custom application system? Most experts would be hard pressed to name an exact price because of the vast number of variables involved. it is not only about designing a system, it’s also about unforeseen issues that arise when starting to use it. Time is money, and as we discussed in the previous chapter, it takes a lot of time to build a good system. You will have many people working on the development from analysing to implementing, testing, training, and continuously supporting the system.

It’s also important to consider the resource expenditure. Are you willing to sacrifice a lot of your employees’ time on analysing, testing and development? If so, you would possibly need additional staff to maintain your own system.

SaaS systems are created by a team of developers, testers, and users. Systems are customised from a general blueprint meaning the cost is divided between many clients generally resulting in a much lower cost than developing your own system. As there is a separate team in place working solely on this system there is an accountability for continuous operation and all problems are addressed quickly. If you start using a SaaS system, you can be certain that it has been tried out, and that you will always be supported for onboarding.


Both previous questions end up addressing human resources. To have your own custom system, you will need people to work on it from the start. This means that you would need a project manager to lead the development and maintenance of the system, developers to create and offer support, etc. This comes with both time and money.

SaaS systems have been developed over many years by many people. A good SaaS system is developed together with clients, taking into consideration the needs of users and overall user experience. Purchasing a SaaS system is also buying all the additional human resources that develop the system constantly. In addition to your own users, you will also benefit from the suggestions of other clients, making all problems being found and solved way faster than having only your own people reporting back. 


In an ideal world, we would have unlimited resources. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Therefore, it is important to consider the various factors of time, money and human resources when considering whether to build or buy a management system.

It takes a lot of resources to have your own custom system, both initially and to maintain it. However, when using a SaaS solution, you can have your employees focus on your customers, applicants, and students, and leave all the development and support to a well-chosen partner. With the best SaaS partners, and you can start your new application process in just a couple of weeks.


We have developed DreamApply since 2011, and we are still constantly evolving. The DreamApply system was created from the start, together with higher education institutions, to meet their requirements and to satisfy their customers and applicants needs. There is a team of developers, testers, and support people available 24/7 to make your life easier.

Every year we set ambitious goals for ourselves and strive hard to meet and exceed them. Last year, we added machine learning capabilities to our platform as well as the ability to conduct video interviews – and this is just the beginning. Every year we’ll keep adding functionalities to reduce your workload and further your endeavours with international students.

Our goal has always been to make our system simple and user-friendly to both applicants and admissions officers. DreamApply is customisable to fit your organisation’s brand identity.

Since 2011, we have helped solve student admission issues for more than 200, education institutions in more than 25 countries. Our clients have increased their administrative efficiency by 40% and have grown their international applications up to 100% a year.

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