The primary goal of creating and investing in a custom software application for your business is to improve your business -- profitability, efficiency, customer experience, revenues, etc. You know that much. Now, you need to identify what your business really needs so that you can develop the right custom software solution for your users.
First, Identify the Problem are you trying to Solve
You are likely coming to the idea of hiring a developer to create custom software for your business because of tedious manual processes or because out-of-the-box software just isn’t a good fit. We hear it from our clients all the time: “People recommend Software X, but that’s not how I want to run my business!”. You don’t want your business processes to be determined by a piece of software.
Here are some typical signs that you might need a custom software solution:
- You are manually entering data and running ‘reports’ -- spreadsheets!
- You hit the end-of-month crunch to get your information updated
- Your customers, vendors or suppliers are complaining about late delivery, payment, or orders
- Somebody is doing tedious work and saying under her/his breath, ‘There’s gotta be a better way.’
- The more your business grows, the slower these processes get -- it’s not scaling. You’re continually re-inventing the wheel.
- You regularly worry about compliance and security.
- Your business has multiple locations or remote employees and data isn’t getting synced and shared.
- You’re choosing not to update your software because you’ll lose functionality you rely on with the newer versions. Or, updates might break integrations with other software.
- You are starting to lose confidence in the accuracy and freshness of your data
- It’s time to innovate and retake that advantage from your competitors
- High attrition rate of customers or employees
Second, Understand what your Business Needs
Is it customer driven or driven by your business processes?
You have identified the key purpose or outcome of this project -- higher profits, more revenues, better customer experience, etc. It’s just as important to know how you’re going to get there. As a business owner or manager, you set goals and identify measurable activities that will get you there. The same thinking applies to your software. Consider those outcomes for your software. Is that driven by customers? Is that driven by team members? What about your vendors and suppliers? This will help you identify who will be using the software and begin the process of figuring out what it will need to do.
Analyze current software and information flow
Look at any off-the-shelf software you’re using today. What’s missing? What does it do well? What functions or features do you depend on? Identify what is currently working that you need to have as part of your new solution and build from that. Also list out the parts of your current solution that you never want to have to deal with again.
Identify areas in your business that cause bottlenecks, have gaps in the exchange of information, or where you see your team getting frustrated.
Here are some examples:
- Invoices go out late to your customers, causing cash flow issues
- Back orders cause customers to get impatient
- Sales activities aren’t getting done, leads not followed up on
- Your customer service reps hear the same complaints over and over again
- Reports take so long to generate, they’re almost outdated by the time you review them
- Bottlenecks in production
- Missing deadlines
Take a look at what your employees, customers, vendors/suppliers are doing manually today that could be automated. Not sure? Ask them.
Look at complaints and recommendations from your potential users. Users might be customers, team members, or even vendors or suppliers. What are they asking for or complaining about? How is information being used and shared between these groups?
Third, Choose The Right Software Solution
Now that you have identified both the problem you need to solve (or the opportunity you need to seize upon) and your specific business needs, the next step is putting the two together to identify the right software solution for your business. In our Information Design article, we shared some basic types of software solutions, including:
- Digital Products that can be viewed or downloaded
- Automation tools that can help you create efficiency in your business
- eCommerce: Selling products online
- Customer Support: ongoing support for a service/product after the initial sale
Then, ask yourself who will be using the software. As we mentioned above, that could be customers, employees, vendors or suppliers. It could be any combination of those, utilizing different roles within the software to allow access to specific information.
Finally, end with the end in mind. We began this ‘guide’ asking about your business goals and the desired outcomes for this software. Keep those up front when determining the custom software solution you will ultimately create for your business.
Finally, Choose The Right Software Developer
If you’ve gotten this far, you realize that your business needs a good, custom software solution. You have a better idea of your goals for this software, the type of software required, and even who will be using this solution. Now, it’s time to choose a software developer that can get all of this done for you, that can take you through the development process in such a way that you will end up with just the right solution for your business. Ping! Development can make this decision an easy one, too. Contact us today to get the process started, knowing that you’ll get just the solution your business needs.