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Build vs. Buy – A Decision-Making Framework for Software Development

Think About It

Virtually every development and product leader will face numerous build vs. buy decisions throughout their product lifecycle. The explosion of packaged point solutions, open source code, and frameworks means that there are multiple options for just about every component of a software project.

Your choices will have immediate and long-term impacts on revenue, resources, customer satisfaction and even employee morale. All too often, these decisions are made without the advantage of a holistic consideration process.

Get The White Paper and Worksheet Now - It's FREE!

CONFESSION: I have witnessed, and unfortunately been guilty of, making important product decisions based on casual off-hand comments made in hallway conversations. I imagine I’m not the only one who has heard or participated in conversations that went something like this, for example:

Stephanie: “Hey, have you looked into using [packaged solution name] to solve our [feature gap or performance issue] problem?”

Steve: “Nah, it would probably take just as long integrate [packaged solution name] with our application as it would to just build/fix it ourselves.”

OR

Dave: “Hey, I saw a REALLY great demo of [packaged solution name] the other day and I think it will solve our [feature gap or performance issue] problem. I went ahead and purchased/downloaded the product. I’ll send the details. Let me know when you can get it integrated.”

Danielle: “Oh, ok. I’ll let you know.”

These examples are admittedly oversimplified but illustrate a few common tendencies:

  1. Decisions are made with very narrow criteria – often forgetting to consider things like documentation and support, the impact to resources and the potential of lost opportunities, the return on investment, and the fit of the solution to the real problem.
  2. ‍Developers tend to want to build things themselves (and have occasionally been known to underestimate time and effort) while Business people tend to want to buy “quick” solutions to problems (and have occasionally been known to force ill-fitted solutions upon their development teams and customers).
  3. ‍Decisions are made without facts to back them up. Not everything can be known or estimated with 100% confidence, but the more complete the criteria and data, the smarter the decision.
  4. The long-term impact is left out of the conversation. Ongoing support, development and the evolution of customer needs can’t be understated when making build vs. buy decisions that you’ll be living with for years.

Graphic of a hammer hitting a bug, a piggy bank, and shapes

We have something to help!

Windward Studios Build vs. Buy white paper is a decision-making framework that can be used for just about any software build vs. buy decision.

This is our second edition of the popular white paper, with more illuminating questions you’ll want to answer and a built-in worksheet that will allow you to score and weight the criteria to arrive at an informed recommendation. It will be equally helpful, whether you’re making the decision yourself or as a team.

Many of our customers and prospects have found the previous version both unbiased and valuable as they’ve considered their options. We believe the Windward Studios solution offers the best of both worlds, so our interest is only in helping you make the smartest build vs. buy decision possible. The white paper is free to download and share!

Enjoy!

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

Get The White Paper and Worksheet Now - It's FREE!

Robert Nendza

VP, Marketing at Windward Studios

Robert's experience spans a variety of Product and Marketing leadership roles with a focus on content and publishing systems.

robertn@windward.nethttps://www.linkedin.com/in/bnendza
Written by:_
Robert Nendza
VP, Marketing at Windward Studios

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