We recently surveyed over 1,000 research administration professionals and found that a whopping 70% feel they have insufficient staffing resources and time to manage their research portfolios effectively. Over 20% also struggle with inefficient processes while 82% expect an increase in workload in the coming year, adding fuel to the fire. With workloads rising while resources grow scarce, many research institutions face a turning point. 

If adding more resources isn’t possible—or practical—increasing efficiency is the best way to help your current staff accomplish more. 

Homegrown software systems can actively work against this goal, even though they were usually designed to support the objectives of the team that built them. Often, designing software is not the team’s primary job, so homegrown tools don’t usually evolve as quickly as the institution does. Instead, organizations tend to conform to the constraints of their software rather than the other way around.

Although homegrown technology solutions were once an effective way to customize processes and cut costs, those benefits diminish as institutions grow and technology advances. Commercial SaaS solutions offer flexibility, business continuity, up-to-date technology, security, compliance, and reduce time spent on administrative tasks. 

For most institutions, the optimal research administration software stays at the cutting edge of technology, incorporating the best feedback and ideas from a host of customers who effectively collaborate to make the product better while monitoring software advances that can also improve the user experience. Homegrown technology, by contrast, was built to conform to the business that created it and may not take advantage of technological advances, so it’s often left behind by its cloud-based counterparts.

Here are five signs that your institution has outgrown its in-house software solution.

#1: The creator is an individual or a very small team

Often, in-house software was built by a single developer or a very small team. Even with a third-party vendor, an individual or a small team is typically responsible for writing custom code. 

If this describes your homegrown software, it could be time to consider alternatives—particularly if the creator remains the only person who can update it as your needs change. It won’t be easy to replace that person if and when they leave, and new hires are often unable to navigate custom-created code.

If your in-house software cannot be updated or changed by anyone other than its creator, this could be a warning of trouble to come. Even if that creator is a loyal, longtime employee, it’s impossible to guarantee that anyone will stay with your organization indefinitely. 

#2: You find yourself application-switching

Many institutions find that they’ve outgrown their custom-created software when it no longer solves the original problems that prompted its existence in the first place. As your business grows, homegrown solutions can act less like a facilitator and more like a constraint. New processes and opportunities must often conform to the parameters of the software rather than the other way around.

Technology is constantly in flux, and if your research administration software can’t adapt as quickly as your needs change, you will need to find a solution that can. Software that was helpful even a few short years ago can easily feel outdated and restrictive today. Institutions may respond by adopting additional software to supplement their homegrown system, but this often results in clunky workarounds and constant application-switching.

Modern software should be able to scale quickly, integrate different areas of your institution’s administration, and streamline processes. If you spend a lot of time jumping between programs, each of which must meet a separate need, consider this an indicator that it’s time to find software that will increase your efficiency through robust integration.  

#3: Access is limited

Is your homegrown software solution accessible from anywhere, or do employees need to use specific in-office computers? Can they access it from a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet? The shift toward remote work and hybrid solutions has meant a sea change for most research institutions. Software that is confined to a physical location simply doesn’t support most institutional needs anymore. 

Cloud and mobile technology are changing the landscape for research administration teams. You shouldn’t have to call people into the office when things go wrong. With cloud-based solutions, your team and software provider can access the information and processes they need from anywhere.

#4: Lax security

Security is a major issue for all software, but particularly research software that handles sensitive intellectual property. Investments made in improved cybersecurity now will help ensure compliance with regulatory standards and protect your peace of mind moving forward.

Older, homegrown software systems are generally more vulnerable to attack. In-house teams simply aren’t equipped to keep pace with evolving online threats. If your IT department can’t confirm that your current software can withstand a basic security threat, it’s time to upgrade right away.

If you’re looking for indicators that your software could use security improvements, these are a good place to start:

  • No multi-factor authentication
  • Non-encrypted databases
  • Unmonitored remote user sessions (common in hybrid working environments)
  • No regular vulnerability scanning/patching

#5: Maintenance

Some organizations choose to build their systems in-house so they can control the development and keep costs down. However, most homegrown systems require so much ongoing maintenance that they tend to suffer from a lack of upkeep. They may “get the job done,” but often don’t utilize the latest features and functionality you’d expect from modern software—and would find with a laser-focused SaaS company.

Here are a few signs that your in-house software isn’t upgrading quickly enough:

  • Sluggish performance/slow load times
  • Reliance on workarounds to replace features that don’t exist within your current system
  • Major updates are spaced a few years apart
  • General feedback from users is consistently negative
  • Competitive research organizations have better tools
  • You’ve hit an efficiency plateau 

If you’re looking for a cloud-based alternative to your homegrown software, Cayuse can help. Request a demo to learn how our integrated software platform streamlines research administration and increases operational efficiency.