When it comes to your company's software infrastructure, it can be an uphill battle to convince the business team to move from commercial to custom software in order to handle internal data and content management.
Sean Mahoney, president and chief executive officer at AndPlus, works with small businesses to find technological solutions to workflow challenges. With his expert guidance, let's take a look at five reasons custom software can be an important and wise use of resources:
1. Custom software brings employees into the process. Custom software allows team members to help determine how workflow software is implemented. By starting with the "needs and wishes" phase of data collection, companies rolling out new content-management infrastructure can tailor it to help employees most.
2. Customers become part of the workflow. If your online point of sale is linked to your custom software setup, then your customers can fill out online sales forms and provide the data that your sales processing team otherwise has to collect. And once all that data is collected, it's mineable. You can use custom software to find new patterns and correlations between customer backgrounds, decisions, and purchases that will help you get those customers back into the sales funnel.
3. Cost savings through analysis. One of the great things about custom software is how easy it is to analyze. Linking all actions to a dollar value allows you to scan your infrastructure for unnecessary — and unprofitable — workflow actions. These can then be removed or re-engineered by your IT staff.
4. Custom software brings partners into your process. Information flow is everything. When you're dealing with a spectrum of supply chains, vendors, and markets, you want to capture as much data as possible and analyze it for efficiency. As with internal actions and workflow, custom software can also provide ways to integrate all these other resources into actionable information. The point, again, is cost savings. You're streamlining the time and effort it takes to do all these day-to-day tasks.
5. Three-hundred-and-sixty degree awareness. This is where custom software can help small business owners. Explains Mahoney:
"Knowledge is power. Custom software allows any piece of the value chain to notify any person you’d like, including yourself. Want to be notified every time you make a sale? Get an e-mail each night showing a sales report? Do you have a settlement report that is your responsibility for your union members?"
All of these things can be automated via custom software. Of course, custom software has its costs, and small businesses need to be certain they're implementing the right kind of infrastructure.
The bottom line, according to Kate Horstead, writing for ICAEW, is that custom software works best when it minimizes the kinds of repetitive tasks we addressed above. Or, as Ciaran Kenny, founder of Macnamara IT, told Horstead: "Think of your business in terms of data — the information you need to communicate to other people — rather than technology. Ask yourself ‘What is the data and what are we using it for?’ It will then be possible to assess what systems you need to automate or customize."