Software for businesses has been around for a long time. Programs like MS Access have played a vital role in the daily running and reporting required for any busy company..
As with most things, time can take its toll and your once powerful software package now requires more TLC than you have to spare. Is a faster, more efficient alternative is on the cards?
So how could a new database driven software package benefit you and your business? Here’s 7 reasons..
1. You’re hurting your business
If you answer yes to any of these then you could be holding your business back from its true potential:
- You know in the back of your mind there is a quicker, easier way to work
- The software you use is slow or regularly crashes
- You want to make simple changes but the current software doesn’t allow you to
- Repetitive jobs take time and cause human error
- You are unable to expand with your current setup
- License fee or maintenance costs are increasing
- The hardware or software is no longer supported
If any of the above statements describe your current situation then you may be ready to move away from the under performing software to a new, fast, future proof, fit for purpose platform built to your requirements.
You are not on your own in suffering from these common issues, in fact most growing or long time established businesses come across similar problems.
This usually starts from a suitable solution which ticks all the boxes but as time goes on, business grows and more complex processes are required, the once suitable solution no longer works as you want it to.
At this point, moving forward onto a new, custom built solution which incorporates all your requirements and has room for growth and future advancement will improve your business, save time and in turn save you money.
2. Software outsourcing is cost effective
Imagine for a second you have decided you need bespoke software development to assist in running your back office systems for your business but what would it cost to do it yourself?
Without knowing the exact specifications let’s assume you will require the following members of staff:
- Graphic designer
- Database developer
- Systems software developer
- Server engineer
- Team manager
And without listing their salaries putting this team together along with their hardware and software requirements, will cost more than an established company who already provide software development services.
So outsourcing or hiring the correct skill sets from an experienced company is certainly the best option as it also gives the chosen company the responsibility of providing what you are paying for.
It is common practice to pay a deposit or portion of the overall price upfront. This helps to pay for the resources required to start the project and depending on the size or cost there could be more scheduled payments at pre-determined milestones. It is also common practice to pay the final balance upon completion or going live. This gives you the peace of mind that the chosen company will endeavour to complete on time and to specification.
Another common practice is to provide support after launch as bugs or new requirements are highlighted in the live use of the software. Any software bugs or incorrect specifications are normally fixed for free whilst changes to the specification require further payment.
3. Software development is for small and big businesses
Just because you are small doesn’t mean custom software solutions are out of reach or expensive. Similarly being big in business doesn’t mean you should be stuck on the same platform for life.
The cost of custom software development depends on the requirement. Simple functioning database software for your business will be cheaper than complex, multi functioning design and you will get what you pay for and this is an advantage.
Your requirements are the building blocks of the solution and if correctly actioned will give you everything you need and hopefully for the right price. If you can do without a specific function and it proves to be cost effective then that is your decision to make. It can be completely tailored to you. Or if your business logic absolutely requires a specific function or process, you can agree the price upfront with no hidden costs.
Moving from a current solution to a new future proof system is also possible. Most business have been running on one form of system or another and that doesn’t mean all the current data will be lost. The software development design phase can include the option to export the data from your old system and import it into your new system ensuring a smooth transition. They may require some data restructuring to allow for a better structure but that shouldn’t be a problem for a competent development company.
4. Web based databases can be safe and secure
There are a lot of stories in the headlines about hackers and stolen data and for good reason. As business software development moves onto the web, so does the data held within them and if proper security steps are not taken someone can take advantage.
Luckily this is not the case with every piece of software. Only a tiny percentage fall foul of hackers and most remain safe and secure to use. There are many tried and tested processes for securing websites and eliminating any potential security issues.
One common method to avoid potential disaster of stolen data is to store only the minimum required, so you have nothing of value to steal. If you only require a name and email address then there is little need to collect and store their age and postal address.
If sensitive data is required and will be stored then there is the option to encrypt the data so if it is stolen then it should be useless. This is a preferred method for storing passwords since users, against best practices can use the same password across multiple websites and software packages. If an email address and an unencrypted password are stolen from one website, the chances are the same details could work on another website they have registered with.
Another regular requirement for multiple employees is role based access. This provides each employee with a username, password and role. Once logged into the system they can only carry out tasks allowed by their specified role. Common roles include administrator, accountant, secretary and warehouse. Each role carries different access privileges and access to different sections of the software. A administrator would have total access whilst an accountant would have access to financial information, a secretary access to calendars and email whilst a warehouse role would have access to stock and product data.
5. It isn’t only web based software development
If being available on the internet is too much of a security risk or just is not needed, for an Intranet for example then you can always stay in house.
Similar to the internet, an internal network can be setup so you can use your software via your own web browser but from within your office or building. This provides a physical barrier between the outside world and your in house system for a more secure software solution.
As mentioned, a common use for this would be an Intranet for employees whilst in the office. They could use their browser as normal to navigate the internet and also view the Intranet as if it was on the internet. The benefit of this means search engines like Google and Bing would never have access the internal network and would not be able to list the Intranet pages in their search results, keeping the company Intranet private from the outside world.
Another use would be for sensitive data. If you had a legal obligation to keep your data off 3rd party hardware like a hosting provider then you could use an internal network and keep everything held within a PC safely stored within the building, behind lock and key , but also available to employees connected to the network.
6. How to find the best web development agency
There are many great development agencies out there but the opposite is also true so how do you tell them apart? Taking an in depth interest in your project requirements and specifications is a good sign. A prospective agency will need to understand your project and should produce a document detailing your requirements and this is usually called a brief or scoping document which is used to communicate what you have asked for and what the agency will deliver.
A price will then be obtained based upon the content of the brief or scoping document and this acts as guide and an agreement on what the development company will deliver and what you will receive. Any change from this document could require the price to change as more or less work is required.
As we’ve have described, a payment schedule would explain when and how much would need paying to enable the developers to start and finish their work. Be suspicious of companies who ask for everything up front. This is not how most o work and it leaves you vulnerable to missed deadlines and incomplete work.
The idea of moving away from an established system can seem scary especially if you have only ever used one system but do not worry, the right development company will understand this and put processes in place to make the transition as smooth as possible. Running the new system in a ‘sandbox mode’ which allows evaluation, testing and training is a useful stage and can go a long way to alleviate any uncertainty and iron out last minute bugs.
7. What good software development management looks like
As we have discussed, a brief or scoping document is normally written describing the project in every detail. At this stage you do not want any ambiguity in the requirements or you may receive something you have not asked for and good management of your project will make sure this does not happen. Wireframes are a good tool to describe a function or view which look like a basic drawing, void of graphic design and colours but do explain key elements to the developer, designer or you and can be a key piece of content for the brief.
Project management software is usually used for larger projects, detailing specifications and milestones and can act as a form of communication which records conversations to refer back to. It is too easy to lose track of emails and phone conversations discussing important requirements which can be forgotten or incorrectly passed onto the key person so tracking conversations can be key to good communication.
Time is a big factor with project management and you should have an agreed schedule, usually referred to as milestones. These milestones would be based upon a key elements, functions or stages being completed. At these milestones it is common to have a review, demo or update to the progress of the development, keeping you in the loop and aware of any possible issues.
We hope we have helped you in the world of business software development and answered a few questions you may have had. As you may now understand, the relationship between you and the development company is very important. If they do not understand you or your business then they will find it very hard to produce a product fit for purpose.
At Excalibur Digital we have worked with a range of businesses and industries, creating their own bespoke software to help them run their business more effectively.
If you’d like to talk to us about how we can support and advise on your software development project than please contact us and we would be happy to scope out your requirements.