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Empowering Electrical Infrastructure: Building or Buying an APM Software Solution
In our last blog, we discussed what an Asset Performance Management (APM) software solution is and why it is important, especially in the Power Utility industry. After deciding that you want to pursue an APM, one of the next decisions is should you buy a ready-made solution, or should you look to develop your own internal solution? This decision involves several key factors, including cost, time to deploy, after-deployment support, and some other less obvious, yet important considerations.
Whether you choose to buy from an APM provider or build in-house, each option has its own associated costs.
Buying from an APM Provider
The fees associated to purchasing a ready-made solution are usually more straightforward. They will involve a fee for the software, which could be a one-time fee for the software or could be an ongoing annual fee in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Additional costs may include implementation or commissioning fees sometimes called professional services, or fees for ongoing support or system upgrades/enhancements.
When building an APM solution in-house, the costs are more approximate and will vary depending on several factors. The costs will involve expenses related to employing the necessary personnel or fees associated to hiring an agency or contractor. There is also a cost associated with the quality and the usability of the solution, which may be affected by the different expectations and preferences of the various stakeholders involved in the project. This can lead to a non-cohesive user experience, which can compromise the functionality and the design of the solution. Another cost factor is the speed of the development of the solution, which is largely dependent on the availability of the technical experts and the clarity of the solution. This can come in the form of time of your technical experts being pulled away to assist with implementation or delays in the project causing an increase in the amount of the contractor’s time.
Time to Deploy
Following the cost, let’s look at the time. The time to deploy can vary depending on which option is chosen on build versus buy, but delaying the deployment of an APM can have varying consequences ranging from more money being spent to unplanned outages that could have been prevented if a system was in place.
Buying from an APM Provider
If choosing an external provider you will spend time researching providers in the market, usually through a request for proposal (RFP) process. After an RFP, there can be a pilot program and then any time associated to internal approval processes. After a provider is chosen, there is time to configure and deploy the solution. This is where customers can realize a time savings due to the solution already being created and defined. There could be some additional steps when it comes to final sign-off or site acceptance testing but should be minimal.
Building in-house presents new challenges from a time perspective. This will require time to find, interview, and hire employees or contractors. There will also need to be meetings to define and design the solution, which may change as new needs and requirements are discovered during the project development. This can lead to constant feature creep, which can extend the duration and the scope of the project. Then there is the process of building and testing the system, and connecting and implementing it to the assets in the field. This may seem straightforward, but as anyone who has built or developed software will tell you, something unexpected will always occur and cause delays. Another key consideration, as discussed before, is the availability of technical experts. Their input and guidance are paramount to a project like this, and their availability will play a large role in how quickly the project can be deployed.
After Deployment Support
Support after deployment is often overlooked but is crucial for the smooth operation of the software. Support can be in terms of adding new assets to the system, troubleshooting if a networking change is made, or feature enhancement requests.
Buying from an APM Provider
If you choose a SaaS model, the support, upgrades, and feature enhancements are often included in the annual price of the software. If you purchase the software outright, these services are usually available as a separate package. There can be different tiers to the level of support provided by these providers but support from the provider is crucial to the long-term success of the APM.
If you develop your solution internally, you will need to designate personnel for support. These long-term employees will add to the total cost of the solution, and you will also need to be concerned about retaining them. If you lose the original developers or contractors, you may face knowledge gaps and challenges in maintaining and enhancing the solution. Moreover, if you rely on external tools or platforms for your solution, you may introduce dependencies and risks that can affect the reliability and security of the solution. You will need to keep up with the updates and changes of these 3rd party tools, and deal with any compatibility or performance issues that may arise. Therefore, the support cost and complexity of an in-house solution can be high and unpredictable.
Regardless of whether you choose to buy or build your APM solution, there will be a cost associated to it, some covered above and others not. It is important to consider these factors and others when making that decision. Only when looking at a complete picture of cost, priorities, and goals, can companies make an informed decision to best suit their needs.
If you are interested in learning more about Qualitrol’s APM offering, SmartSUB please visit here