Buy or Build: Options for Document Imaging

Developing a robust application that meets the varied needs of users is no small task. The added complexity of building document viewing and conversion  components requires deep technical expertise and long development cycles to engineer properly. Working with an independent software vendor (ISV) to incorporate specialized imaging functions into your product provides you with the right capabilities to compete in the ever-changing landscape of document viewing and conversion.

The two primary options for using embedded imaging technology are software development kits (SDKs) and component applications. Understanding the issues of speed of implementation, scalability and sustainability related to these two options will enable you to make the right decision for your unique situation.

Software Development Kits

Using an imaging SDK allows you to maintain optimal control of the design, architecture, and implementation of your application. An SDK provides your software engineers with the tools they need to incorporate expert imaging functions while remaining focused on the core competencies of your business.

  • Speed of Implementation – An imaging SDK dramatically speeds up development by providing your engineers access to imaging functions through an Application Programming Interface (API), reference product documentation, and contact the vendor’s support team to assist with problems.
  • Scalability – Developing with an SDK resolves concerns about specific functionality requirements and integration with diverse legacy systems by enabling your developers to create the integration layers. Selecting an imaging SDK with support for multiple file formats will enable your solution to keep pace as your business grows or your applications are rolled out to new business units.
  • Sustainability – Reliance on a 3rd-party SDK requires the vendor to continue developing new functions for their library. The potential pitfall of losing vendor support can be mitigated by selecting a vendor with a solid history of continuously updating their imaging library while maintaining backward compatibility. Your previous work can remain intact until you are ready to use any new functions available.

Component Applications

One trend in building large-scale applications and systems is to use component applications for specialized tasks, such as imaging, to ensure users have a robust solution that meets all their needs. Imaging application vendors have a significant stake in providing functionality that is important to their customers; you should not have to sacrifice necessary features for a pre-built component.

  • Speed of Implementation – Using a component application can save significant time and cost by allowing you to bypass the development phase entirely. An application specifically built to be the imaging component of a larger system will also minimize the time needed for integration.
  • Scalabilty – Imaging applications should be designed as distributed applications. As your imaging needs expand, the process of pushing software to your users should be seamless. Successful imaging components are built to be distributed across multiple platforms and have user-interface and feature customization options that can be tailored for specific user groups.
  • Sustainablility – Sustainable component applications also require continuous development by the vendor to stay current with imaging trends and formats. A dedicated team should be available to provide technical information on integration and maintenance and accept customer feedback on new functionality needs. Vendors that also sell an SDK can give you the tools to develop, customize and maintain your application component.

Document imaging has become increasingly specialized as formats have multiplied and the use of electronic documents has evolved. Working with a vendor that has mature technology will relieve the burden of developing unique solutions to fit the needs of your organization now and in the future.