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Project Management Tips for Custom App Development

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

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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?

An experienced Project Manager:

  • Creates and oversees realistic and predictable budgets
  • Has additional resources to manage timelines and schedules
  • Comes equipped with the right experience out of the gate
  • Integrates the app into your company or department throughout the development lifecycle

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

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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.

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A third party that oversees the app itself in a live environment:

  • Frees up internal resources and staff
  • Allocates crucial app management to trained and trusted experts
  • Provides access to time-sensitive support
  • Guarantees partnership with a well-trained expert in your business environment

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.

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Software That Facilitates Business Agility and Adaptability

Has your business’s software tools ever slowed your team down? Have you been disappointed by the static capabilities of off-the-shelf software in the past? For organizations that prioritize business agility and adaptability, these are common challenges that quickly interfere with broader goals and objectives. Fortunately, there’s a Workplace Innovation Platform built with your struggles in mind—FileMaker.

If these struggles sound familiar, you’ve likely never heard of FileMaker before. In this post, we’ll explore why a FileMaker solution is the logical next step for businesses that need to remain agile in today’s ever-changing business environment.

Understanding Business Agility and Adaptability

In the business environment, agility is the ability of an organization to rapidly identify, respond to, and evolve with internal and external changes to achieve broader objectives. Markets, consumer preferences, and supply chains are changing faster in today’s world than ever before. If your software tools don’t expedite adaptability, it’s only a matter of time before your business gets left behind.

Starting With Spreadsheets

Many of the growth-oriented businesses we work with started out by entering, tracking, and managing data with an ever-increasing framework of spreadsheets. But when you’re focused on growing your business, it’s easy to lose track of which spreadsheet is most up to date, what data has been shared with which users, and how you’re securing that data. Most importantly, inefficient data management is a distraction that draws you away from doing the work you most enjoy.

For businesses that prioritize adaptability, spreadsheets simply don’t have the flexibility to align with your long-term strategic plan. While you don’t necessarily need something more complex, you do need a platform that offers a centralized data resource with the customization features to evolve with your team’s workflows. That’s precisely where the FileMaker platform excels.

Simplifying Complex Data

The problem with relying on spreadsheets to manage ever-growing amounts of data is that they have to become increasingly complex to achieve that goal. In contrast, the FileMaker platform allows you to track, analyze, and store larger amounts of data while grounding that data in a centralized, easy-to-use software solution.

If your team members already know how to use Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel to manage spreadsheets, they can just as quickly learn how to use a customized FileMaker solution to accomplish the same tasks more efficiently. Plus, all of your data sources are updated in real time to ensure that everyone in your organization always has access to the most relevant, up-to-date information.

We Begin With Business Process Planning

Skeleton Key leverages the power of the FileMaker platform to deliver a customized software solution that prioritizes business adaptability and agility. With Skeleton Key on your team, you’ll never have to worry about your business software holding you back again. That’s because our experts take the time to understand your business processes from the inside out. Whether you have a clear vision for what your software needs to do or merely a rough blueprint of your team’s workflows, we have the skills to bridge the gap between your business’s ongoing evolution and the software you need to succeed.

If you’re ready to start exploring how the power of the FileMaker platform can transform the inevitability of change into a catalyst for growth, contact the team at Skeleton Key today.