The Cost of Data Collection & Reporting Software

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Have you ever spent time shopping around on different websites, trying to get a sense of just what in the world the company is charging for their product? In the roughly seven year history of Stacks Data, we’ve seen and heard lots of questions, but we know that foremost on many people's minds is: how much does data collection software cost?  

This article will help shine a light on the answers to that question, but we’re going to try to be a bit more ambitious than just giving you pricing information and sending you on your way. We’re also going to give you a bit of context so you can begin to figure out what your data is worth and what makes it valuable, which should make you a more informed shopper.

And just so you know where we stand, we’ll finish out this post with Stacks Data’s own pricing information. So let’s go!

Quick Overview (and Spoiler)

Companies are spending increasing amounts of time on compliance, especially in heavily regulated industries like chemicals, oil & gas, and food production. All of this activity costs money, and a large chunk of that can be attributed to the software needed to manage the data that must be collected to maintain compliance.  So the question is, what does this compliance data software cost?

The short answer is: usually about $100k to implement company-wide, or $35k to implement for a specific factor (like "Reach compliance" in the chemicals industry).

But as you may have guessed, it's more complicated than that, so the real answer is, well, longer. Before we get in too deep, however, it is useful to take a step back and try to understand the context underlying this question of cost. It is fair to wonder: what is my data worth? How do my needs compare to others? What am I getting for my money when I buy software?

What is Your Data Worth?

We hear a lot about the high cost of shuffling data around from company to company, but rarely in explicit terms. Ask a software vendor in the data collection business what her product costs, and chances are you'll hear some variation of "it depends."  And that is fair enough – it usually does depend, on a great many things. Let's take a look at the some of the macro trends involving data so we can first make some guesses before attempting to hone in on more specific and verifiable enterprise data pricing information.

First of all, data is everywhere, and we're all dealing with it all of the time. 44 Billion GB of data is created globally every day and, while some of this is useful for one reason or another, there are also clearly problems with this daily flood of information (namely "information overload", which has been estimated to cost businesses something in the range of $800B a year in lost employee productivity and innovation).

But data clearly has value as well. It has been estimated that - on the consumer side - the personal data of the average person in the US is $240. If we use the number of US households (about 114M) as a proxy for the number of consumers, this means that consumer data alone is worth more than $27B. This is a lot of money, and is also likely a severe under-estimate of its true value.

What is the Value of Data in the Enterprise?

Enterprise data is trickier to quantify, simply because there are so many different kinds of it, and because most businesses tend not to think too much about its value (yet). There are many reasons for this, including the fact that there are lots of ways to actually go about valuing information, but the real reason is usually that they just don't know how to do it!

When we hear the words "enterprise data", most of us probably associate it with sophisticated algorithms or top secret formulas, but this isn't always the case. After all, email is data and boy, is there a lot of that -- 269 billion email sent and received per day in 2017, which may cost knowledge workers 28% of their workweek. Ouch.

The resultant loss in productivity may be higher than $1 trillion annually (when you factor in social media and other distractions).  So it looks very much like our communications systems are responsible for draining not only our energy and attention, but the growth of our economy as well.  

What does this all have to do with the cost of compliance software? A lot, actually. The ability to eliminate compliance-related email is in itself a major factor in many companies' decisions to buy compliance and related software. If the average worker is spending over a quarter of their time managing emails – and we assume that compliance data is a big part of that (for the people considering software solutions) -- we estimate that compliance email overload alone costs more than $10k per compliance worker.  

What Should Your Data Collection Software Do For You?

There are, of course, other costs associated with compliance, and these must be factored in to any purchasing decisions. Setting aside the policy analysis and other mostly legal work, there a few key, baseline tasks that your data collection software should definitely help you with. (It may be useful to try to quantify what these tasks cost your company in terms of time/other resources.) They are:

  • Tracking the progress of requests/responses. Most companies try to do this with email. This does not usually end well.

  • Making changes to already-existing data. Most companies try to do this with Excel. This does not usually end well, either.

  • Having conversations between requestor/responder about specific data points (and collaborate with colleagues). See the first bullet point.

  • Verify/validate collected data. Try this with Excel.

  • Analyze the data.

Different companies will place different values on these basic points, but all companies need a system to accommodate them. We bring this up because it deals directly with the question we opened this article with - how much does data collection software cost?  

These bullet points, when combined in a cohesive software suite, can dramatically reduce the costs of compliance. They tend to lead to more centralized record keeping; tight collaboration; clearer analyses; and quick, effective reporting. In other words they add value.

Bringing it All Home - How Much Does Data Collection Software  Cost?

With all this in mind – what data is worth in the world; what it costs in the enterprise; what value it brings to the enterprise -- we now have the context to answer our main question...

There are a few tiers of data collection and reporting software:

  • Enterprise level packages (SAP, Oracle, etc.)

  • Specialty software (Business Survey Forms, scorecards, etc.);

  • DIY systems (Excel/Word/PDF + email).

Each of these types have different strengths and require varying levels of support.

Each also can vary greatly in costs, depending on implementation, modules, consulting help, etc. But here's a rough picture of the range of fees you can expect from each level:

Cost Image Table 1.JPG

There is, of course, a wide range of costs here, but there are some patterns. Mom and pops are going to go for Tier 1 and occasionally tier 2; SMEs are going to most likely flock to Tier 2; and enterprise users will go for Tier 2 and Tier 3.

Here's what you can expect to pay for a Chemicals compliance solution, for example, at different levels:

Cost Image Table 2.JPG

If you're a medium sized business, your best bet is probably the appropriate specialty software for your needs. You'll likely pay around $25k in the first year, and a percentage of the value gained from the implementation in subsequent years.

For the very large businesses out there, expect to pay $50k for specialty software in year 1 at a pilot level, and a percentage of the value added thereafter. No matter which route you take, hopefully this article helped put costs in perspective, and helped you frame it in terms of the less obvious benefits for your business.

What Does Stacks Data Cost?

Stacks Data loves to work in those “bridge areas”, where companies are looking for solutions to data problems that are too big to solve using spreadsheets and email, but not quite so big that it would make sense to use an enterprise solution. We’ve tried to engineer a solution that can be easily tailored to your unique situation but still maintain the overall ease of use that we pride ourselves on.

So, if you’re a mom and pop shop that just needs to manage a handful of products, you can start for free and build up to a paid tier if and when the need arises.

If you’re a small business, you’re likely to begin with our base level pricing -- $649 per month for the license, plus additional year one costs for setup and implementation.

For medium sized businesses, the costs depend on the size and type of project, which can vary tremendously. But for an idea, a company managing 200 products on the platform with average complexity can expect to pay between $10k and $25k per year.

Where to Go Next

We recommend that the first thing you do should be to take an inventory of your current data management tools. Particularly focus on some of the key needs we introduced earlier and try to take stock of which of them are/aren’t working for you. If you can, place a monetary value on each one - you don’t have to share it externally, but it will give you a good sense of whether the offers you get as you start to shop for a solution make sense for you or not. Then, find the company that addresses your specific needs.

One last point:  Before you buy, make sure you are comfortable working with the people there - data collection and management can still require a lot of human input. So it’s a good idea to enjoy the company of the humans you choose to work with for your data projects.

Click here for a free trial.

Scott Kaufman