Friday, 06 October 2017 23:36

Development of custom software as a business tool: case study Featured

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Running a business, among other things, involves setting up business workflows, operations and processes, tasks and procedures which we refer to as business system.  Your business system is expected to be clearly defined, stable and well understood by the whole team, customers and other stockholders. Moreover, More often than not, the difference between a successful and failed business could simply be attributed to few key aspects of running a business assuming that the business case is healthy such as business efficiency, business intelligence and quality of the response to the market.  Today I would like to discuss the efficiency component which is directly relevant to my experience and field of work.

Through the years we had variety of requests for development of custom software and applications for Large, medium and startup businesses. These requests vary greatly and cover different aspects of the businesses but there are few things in common that brought me up to writing this article.

Custom software as a business tool - inovosystems

Software as a business tool

About 70% of the requests we get revolve around this type of request. Be it for marketing, processing client information, logistics, workforce management, enterprise resource management, point of sale, inventory and audit, stat and data analytics, document management system, risk management etc. They all are about bringing important elements of running good business there by delivering efficiency and quantifiably of actions. 

As a business the importance of investing in a custom software does not make an attractive case especially when a business didn’t get a chance to evaluate its own input resource and efforts against the productivity. Moreover, thanks to the myth of “custom software is expensive” most businesses don’t even consider or explore the possibility of streamlining their business processes using a custom software which is cut and fit to their specific operations.

Usually when I sit down with a client and drill down to the numbers, investments vs benefits in form of the cost cutting and efficiency showdown; I always get a standard answer with exclamation mark “why didn’t I think of that early!”

Custom software needs: Case study

I will give you a concrete example my recent client is a construction company, locally they are known for their strict quality building methods and feisty about material testing. Our company was approached to help them with their marketing tools a mobile app and website combo. And I was given a contact person, the admin secretary, I will keep her name out of my blogging, to coordinate with the marketing and admin people and provide me introductions and set up meeting for me to do the requirement analysis. I was told she is the most resourceful employee and she knows all the material providers, surveyors’ engineers and authorities by name you want something you go to her she has the phone numbers and WhatsApp on her finger tips she will get you thru the day.

And that was true I might add! But one thing struck me one day between our conversations, “ I cannot help you today I have to do the pay slips for the employees and it takes the whole day” she says. I didn’t give it much though till my collogue found out the problem on his own. Apparently she had to use exls spreadsheet to actually put figures, calculate off days and remunerations one by one and format the pages and print them every month.

Gold knife to curve the stone wall

I know this sounds like I am bringing it up to build my case but it is a true story. From the employer point of view work is getting done and he/ she is not paying extra investment to buy or build a pay slip software. So from the surface all is good. However the hidden truth is that the employer is actually losing money by using a gold knife to curve a stone wall. She is a much more useful company resource who should spend her day putting operations in motion and making every bodies life easy by making quick informed decisions on tasks and operations, employees would love their job, customers would appreciate the help and service providers like our selves would accomplish their project with ease on time and on budget hell I don’t mind give that client a discount just so this specific employee to help me deliver the project. 

I know business managers and CEO can explain this better but you get the message. Software are there to get rid of the tedious time and resource consuming operations so that your employees can perform well and are kept happy. The value you get out of a happy relaxed employee is much more and exponentially more than what you would invest on a simple custom made software. 

The truth is that all businesses use software applications, mostly off-shelf, utility software such as your word processing, accounting etc. All these operations are part of your business process and you can see that it would be impossible to operate without word processing softwares, or accounting software etc... but here is the thing, if you are using software for your peripheral support operations and getting good results in terms of efficiency and getting work done why are you not using a software application for your core business? 

“field data collection system

It is your technology partner's responsibility

At the risk of us looking like we are hunting for more projects, this made us send our client a completely new proposal that actually focuses on the company’s core operations. Proactively we did a business analysis and come up with a proposal for an online software solution that handles project management, of course we did submit the marketing mobile platform we were asked for. 

Fortunately our customer could see the value we proposing and the benefits we offering, in construction industry what we learned was that there are so many moving parts and a careful evaluations and monitoring of project progress can make all the difference between ordering the wrong amount of a materials that runs to millions of lose, with idle manpower that has to be paid for services that was not utilized to a devastating in-coherent development operations.

We deployed a mobile app on android tablets for field data collection with AuZo back end where supervisors capture progress of contraction onsite with all the pictures and geo locations, fill in the material usage and task allocation. This information is sent to the main office live where it is checked from a dashboard on a desktop project management software we deployed and data is published to a secure web application where clients and partners can actually have access to the system and see their investment made reality.

With the project management solution we offered project managers, inspectors and clients were brought together into one platform where they can simply click and see what is happening.   Communication got a lot easier and people knew what to do when and issue of accountability of workforce and management start to hit the upper sealing. Similarly measurement of impact and productivity got a lot easier and objective.