When an organization sets out to create a custom business application, the ultimate goal is typically to increase the productivity of the company by improving the quality of their processes or products. How does the company achieve this goal? In short, by doing things more efficiently.
Two productivity strategies
Broadly speaking, there are two strategies you might employ to meet that aim. First, you can streamline operations. Second, you can provide management with clearer, more accurate, and more robust information about what’s happening in the company, allowing leadership to make more responsive and informed decisions.
The best starting point is the operational side of the equation, since this is really the foundation of all your efficiency improvements. Once you build a custom operational system, you can draw key data for decision-makers from that – but if you lack effective operations systems, it’s much more difficult to collect useful, detailed data about your organization.
So how do you start building a custom business application to drive your operations more efficiently?
Eliminating redundant effort
One of the most powerful benefits of custom business software lies in the elimination of redundant effort. Often, a company’s operational processes include tasks that that can be streamlined by having a system that makes it easier to capture data. These opportunities for optimization in data collection might include tasks that are performed manually as well as those that are heavily repetitive or more clerical in nature.
Once the data in question is captured, a custom application can coordinate the information’s flow through a business process to accomplish whatever its purpose may be.
What does this look like in practice? If a company tracks employees’ time through a manual system, for example, someone likely has to gather and process all of that information, assembling timesheets and running the numbers. But a custom time-tracking system, used by all employees and that automatically logs the relevant information in a centralized database where it may be analyzed, could streamline the entire process.
Why custom business software?
For some operational goals, companies may have a choice between utilizing custom or off-the-shelf software. In many cases, custom software is the better option for an organization’s needs – and often for a set of common reasons.
Ideally, your software should align with the goals and needs of your organization. Something to keep in mind in terms of off-the-shelf applications is that they can sometimes impose processes on your business that aren’t tailored or suited to your particular needs.
With custom software, you can take a more flexible approach, identifying the specific, software-solvable problems you need to focus on and then finding the right solution through an iterative, exploratory development process.
- Tailored solutions
Custom software doesn’t just prevent your organization from getting locked into a process that doesn’t suit your needs: it facilitates tailored optimization of the processes that are specific to you.
Custom software can eliminate workflow dependencies according to the unique processes of your company and break down any unnecessary delays. As you develop and implement the software, you may find that person A doesn’t actually need to interface with person B to transfer a certain piece of data. But off-the-shelf software isn’t necessarily going to identify or respond to these kinds of granular details.
- Coordinating diverse processes
A building management firm with global operations might have many different sets of processes for the same tasks, all defined locally. This wouldn’t be surprising: business processes tend to be responses to the particular needs of particular people doing their jobs in particular situations. But by stepping back and taking a global view of these processes as you develop a custom business application, you can take the opportunity to devise a new solution that fits all needs better.
Relatedly, if you build a custom solution that can be used globally (or simply by a widely dispersed workforce) within your organization, it can help to break down geographic barriers in an organization through common processes and a sense of overall organizational unity.
- Improved project management
In terms of project management, custom business applications can help those people who need to focus on the big picture do just that, instead of spending time and energy on repetitive or redundant manual data collection and other tasks.
Once you’ve built a custom business process application, it’s relatively easy to implement reporting capabilities, to provide management with useful data on activity within the company. By streamlining operations and enriching the information at decision-makers’ disposal, a company not only improves efficiency in the present, but also gives itself the tools to continue improving in the future.