Why Not Build Your Own BCM Software?

BCM software is a hot topic - good and bad - on LinkedIn BCM Groups. The topic that irks me the most is: "Why buy commercial BCM software when you can build your own?" It bothers me - not because I work for a 'commercial software' supplier - but because it's just not true!

Let me explain why it's untrue, using an analogy.

Suppose you need to buy a new car. If you're like most people, you start by determining two things: what you can afford, and what features you want.

Then you start looking at cars. In a perfect world, you'll find several cars that deliver all the features you want at prices you can afford. But it's not a perfect world. Your list of features looks like the Space Shuttle, but you've got a box-kite budget.

So what do you do? You've only got 3 choices:

  • Come up with more cash
  • Settle for the best available car (the feature you need instead of the features youwant)
  • Build your own car

Hardly anyone takes option 3. Why not? Because it's ridiculous concept. If you add up the cost of parts (used and new), labor, time and ongoing maintenance (no warranty!), you'd could buy a great used car for much less.

So why - when talking about BCM software - do some people insist you can build your own for less - and be perfectly satisfied with the result? Because they fail to point out the downside factors:

Sure, you can probably cobble together something using Office tools, SharePoint and some VBScript (once you learn how to use it) that will meet some basic needs.

But to return to our automobile metaphor...Have you built the high performance car of your dreams? No. A serviceable automobile you can drive where ever you need to go? No. What you've ended up with is a motor scooter that gets crappy fuel mileage and requires lots of maintenance. It may get you from point A to B, but it has few of the features you needed (like the ability to drive it on the Interstate, or in the rain, or to your next job interview).

OK you say - but it's inexpensive!

No, it's not, I say - it's cheap.

You've made major sacrifices. You have settled for what you were capable of creating - not what you really needed. You might make the self-justification that you didn't reallyneed all that stuff - like reports and business intelligence. But the reality is that you've created something that barely meets your absolute minimum requirements. And the same would be true about building your own BCM software application. Unless you have the knowledge and skills (and budget) to do it right, what you'll end up with is something that compromises your original intent.

Oh, and you can't ignore the most crucial factor: you built it, now you must maintain it. Because your IT folks won't touch it. Or remember to notify you before change management or a server upgrade kills your rickety little system. What will you do when one of your users accidentally deletes something major - and you find out that IT isn't backing up your database as often as you assumed (if at all)? Or the open source applet you use turns out to have a serious security flaw? Or when any one of a dozen other maintenance nightmares arises?

Congratulations! You just went from being a Business Continuity Professional to an IT Amateur. Good luck with that.

If your industry is regulated or your customers demand to see proof of your BCM program you need more than Word documents. You owe it to yourself and your organization's future to consider the many commercial software products available in the marketplace.

 Jim Mitchell

A frequent speaker at Business Continuity conferences, many of Jim Mitchell's white papers can be found elsewhere on eBRP's website and has published articles in DRJ, Continuity Insights and Continuity Central.

BCM Software, DR Software