Build or buy a DMS

Document Management

Build or Buy a DMS? Easy way forward!

In this guide, we’ll help you figure out if you want to build or buy a DMS and how your organization’s needs can dictate this decision.

Documents are an essential part of any organization, whether paper or digital. Business information comes from a number of sources. Thus, it’s important to organize this data properly to avoid mishandling and loss.

A modern way to handle electronic documents is to get a document management system for your business. In today’s age and time, an average worker spends 50% of their time preparing and creating documents. Due to this, document management systems have become a necessity.

First, companies have to realize the need for document control and document management. The next step is deciding whether they want to build a DMS or buy one. Not an easy decision, but hey we’ll help you.

Build or buy a DMS

Should You Build or Buy a DMS?

A document management system is a hub for all information entering and leaving your organization.

Don’t forget to check out our ultimate guide on DMS (Document Management System)

It helps enhance productivity and speed up workflows. When you decide to implement a document management system, you have two options to move further with; building a DMS or buying one.

Which one do you choose? Here are a few factors that can help you make this decision.


At the end of the day, a document management system helps reduce costs. However, before you can yield this benefit, you need to spend money on setting the DMS up. This is another very important factor that you need to consider when making that decision to build or buy a DMS.

If you plan to build your own DMS, it will definitely require a high upfront investment. Especially if you need a number of custom features. Meanwhile, if you get a ready-made solution, prepare yourself to pay a subscription fee every month. Of course, perpetual models (once off payments) also exist but at a much higher cost.

On average, a document management system costs $20 to $50 for each person using it. Most pre-built document management systems come in three levels; Basic, Pro, and Enterprise. As you ‘unlock’ more premium features, your subscription cost increases.

So, it comes down to this; you either choose to pay a higher upfront cost or a recurring subscription fee.

Support Structure

Building your own DMS requires you to have a software development team on the premises at all times. In case things go wrong or there’s a glitch, you need the experts to be there. This could sometimes require hiring additional experts, which increase your operational costs.

Meanwhile, a commercial DMS will most probably come with reliable customer support. In case of an issue, you can readily reach out to the vendor through phone, chat, and email.

Document Management support


Every business has unique needs. It’s not always easy to find a commercial DMS solution that fulfils your organization’s needs.

These document management systems are built to cater to a number of different industries. So, they often have many features that you may never need. They may also lack some features you require due to your niche’s particular requirements.

So, when choosing commercial document management systems, you have to make peace with the fact that you’ll be paying for some unnecessary features.

On the other hand, when you build a DMS, you can design it to precisely have every feature you need. However, bare in mind, this would need continuous enhancements as your business needs change.


It’s always best to think of possibilities or future needs down the line, like integrations with other systems. Quite often Commercial document management systems or ready to go DMS offer some kind of integrations with other systems. If not, you must consider how easy it will be to do some form of customization.

The Ultimate Document Management Guide

Document Management Guide

Key Features of a DMS

If you have decided to build a DMS, you should pinpoint the features you need the document management system to have. Of course, it needs to be aligned with your business needs. Even when choosing a pre-built DMS, you need to keep the following key features in consideration.

Also check out, the top essentials for Document Management.

Straightforward File Structure

In the case of a DMS that serves as a repository, your document management system should have an easy-to-follow file structure. User adoption is key. Governance should be in place. You should have governing rules for everything from a file and a subfolder to a folder.


The pandemic has shown us the need for remote working. Therefore, any DMS you choose to use or build should be accessible across all devices and platforms. For example: it should run on the users’ tablets, mobiles, and desktops.

Robust Search Functionality

Hundreds of documents may be entering your organization, depending on its operational scale. Finding the right document can be very hard and tedious if your DMS does not have a robust search engine.

Garter reports that professionals spend half of their time looking for information. It takes 18 minutes on average to find a document. Think of all the time your employees are wasting searching for documents simply due to the absence of a robust search engine.

The DMS should allow users to search for documents based on different criteria, such as tag, author, category, date, department, title, etc.

Third-Party Integrations

Did you know enterprises use an average of 288 apps while small businesses use 102 products in their day to day business functions? If your document management system does not integrate with these solutions, you’ll have to make multiple copies of the same document to use it in different apps.

If not all, your DMS should at least integrate with the apps that you use most. You should also be able to import and export files easily from these software products.

Version Control

It’s not a good idea to have numerous versions of the same document. Think of the confusion and maintenance of the versioning if this is done manually. Can you keep track of all your colleagues updates? Think of all the copies of the same document being sent via email. This is a serious problem.

Instead, you need a more comprehensive and organized approach. Version control allows employees to collaborate on the same document and backup their files as required.

Final Words

Every organization needs a document management system and a document retention policy to ensure no important documents are lost or exposed to cyber threats.

Using the information in this guide, you can decide wether your should build or buy a DMS, depending on how to intend on using it, the size of your organization, your particular business needs, and whether you have the resources to build a document management system.

You can now decide if you want to build or buy a DMS based on the following:

  • What are your organization’s requirements?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you need the DMS to be integrated with other software?
  • Do you need this almost immediately or can you wait until it is fully developed?
  • Can you maintain or support it?
  • Can you enhance it as your company scales?