There was a time when nurses had to enter everything into a patient’s chart by hand. If you’re old enough to remember those bulky clipboards hung on the end of a hospital bed, it’s hard to believe that the medical community accepted the potential risk of pen and paper long after other industries moved onto automation and digitization.
Small business owners/operators often (at least in our experience) become overly reliant on spreadsheets or legacy solutions. Spreadsheet software has plenty of utility, no question, but it is both inefficient and fragile, i.e. easily prone to error. Department or division heads could be saddled with legacy solutions from a predecessor that neither matches their current needs, or can’t easily sync with other databases and applications.
The above two scenarios have a common problem: They both require a fair amount of manual, redundant or ancillary data entry. In the 21st century, businesses that are overly reliant on such manual workarounds are about as welcome a sight as a nurse jotting down updated medical orders on a piece of scrap paper.
Periodically, every business needs to analyze its day-to-day workflows and measure what tasks and operations could be made much more efficient, possibly with a custom business app.
It doesn’t take long for most business leaders—which could include everyone from department heads at a large company to a small business owner—to embrace that building a custom app can be far more cost effective than trying to shoehorn the organization’s needs into an existing solution.
This article clarifies the project management expertise you need for a seamless custom app development process, and what resources you will need on hand to complete, implement, and operate one successfully.
Tip 1: Leave it to the Experts
Building a business app requires a specialized skill set. Even if you currently employ a database admin or software engineers, pulling their resources away from their core competencies could (and usually does) negatively impact your workflow.
Even if they have the experience and knowledge, your in-house staff are already busy admins or devs working on your business. The more you divide their time and attention, the longer your app development will take and the more likely it is that your business will suffer.
You could hire someone to focus solely on app development…but for how long? At what rate? Who will this person report to? If you’re a small business owner, do you have the experience and knowledge base to manage that resource effectively? If you are already running a busy team: Can you afford to make more work for yourself by hiring a discrete dev for just one project without the remaining infrastructure needed to implement it?
Tip 2: Consider In-House Training Before the Build
When you’re developing a custom application, the hand-off to a live environment is just as important as all the alpha and beta testing. An experienced consultant can help facilitate coaching for your users, whether for day-to-day use of the application or for ongoing maintenance and security.
This especially becomes an issue as your organization grows and/or experiences turnover. Your staff will always be dynamic: people come and go, and outgoing staff often don’t have the time or inclination to train new employees effectively. Consider the convenience and continuity of working with a service provider that:
- Offers virtual training
- Specializes in training users and admins equally
- Has the capacity to bring staff on-site on an as-needed basis
- Knows the ins and outs of your custom build and can communicate those nuances to your staff
Tip 3: Use Data-Driven Customer/User Behavior Insights
Analytics can and should be a key ingredient in your custom app design. Before you jump into the process of developing an app in-house, ask yourself these questions: What assumptions lie underneath your application design? And are those assumptions backed up by data, or just by anecdote?
Just about every third-party developer on the market can share a story where a leader in an organization confidently described, in minute detail, exactly how their end users would use an application and what kind of interface they needed, only to find after a more detailed data analysis (or the failure of the solution to either perform as expected or be adopted ‘as is’ by the users) that this information was inaccurate or outdated.
In today’s business climate, technology adoption cycles are shorter than ever. As those new technologies evolve quickly, it’s not uncommon that, while you’re focusing on regulatory issues, product development, and revenue growth, your application interfaces have become woefully out of date.
A consultant has tools for data-driven customer behavior analysis. That detail-oriented discovery process both drives the app and provides you with a sometimes unexpected view into new innovations and improvements that you might never have considered otherwise.
Tip 4: Pay Attention to License and App Management
What is the optimal licensing arrangement for your organization? Who will you nominate to make this decision? How will you oversee the process to ensure that your software licenses remain active?
For that matter, who is responsible for app updates and backups? Who do you call when the system goes down? Do you have in-house 24/7 support for customer data?
The build, install, and roll-out are the beginning of a long relationship you have with any business application. Maintaining it and managing it on an ongoing basis are just as important. Data loss, downtime, inconsistent or untested backups, and hastily applied updates are all potential revenue vacuums.
You need (and deserve) to have confidence in handing off app oversight to a partner familiar with both the build and your business culture. Your priority, after all, should always be your customers.
Two Final Words: Workplace Innovation
There’s an old saying: You don’t know what you don’t know.
Software is constantly evolving and changing to keep pace both with customer expectations and with changing workflows. Whether you have a consumer-facing or a B2B business, you may need a team of experts who are deeply knowledgeable about current features that improve customer experience.
Discover how those innovations can reduce staff workload and improve business efficiency. That discovery process is exciting and illuminating when you work with the right partner.
For more concrete examples, read how we’ve helped turn inefficiencies into opportunities for growth…in any industry.