For many young businesses, custom software can seem like overkill. With a high initial barrier for development to overcome, custom-built software is easy to see as a solution only for the bigger players. However, businesses may find that custom software actually presents solutions to many problems they are already experiencing. In time, the potential advantages of custom software solutions will outweigh potential disadvantages in terms of cost or adoption risk.
The question remains, how can you identify when is the right time for your business to consider a custom software solution? To help answer this question, there are three big indicators that can signal you are ready to turn to solutions tailored for your own unique needs.
The Device Dilemma
All companies start small. Perhaps you had just one or two people at the start. At this point in the firm's lifecycle, it is still extremely easy to manage data syncing and security. If there are any problems, you can easily and quickly communicate the issue with your partner(s).
However, as business takes off, you may have found that you now need more roles, more team members, and more devices. It's undoubtedly great news for your company that your team is growing, but it can be bad news in terms of information technology and operations. Nowadays, every business is more or less completely dependent on having working, reliable, and secure systems for conducting operations. But what happens when you find your system is not?
This is a common problem that firms often first identify when growing their employee count. Your initial methods of syncing data, most commonly through the use of popular online services, are perfect for a few people. However, when more people need to access the same files, edit the same content, and generally synchronize their operations based on the same information, the need to have secure and up-to-date data, increases. The result is that you now need to consider file and device syncing.
With over 2.1 billion people in the world owning a smart phone, it's possible that each member of your team will work from their work computer, personal computer, and smartphone [Infographic: #3]. That makes it likely that you will have to consider three devices per person in terms of dynamic data access. Unfortunately, three devices per person are complicated to manage in terms of both managing flow of information, as well as security. Luckily, solutions both on and off the shelf exist.
Using customized software, you can simplify the way all these devices floating around in your business interact with your core business data. You can ensure that everyone is always updated, your data remains secure, and your business can continue to run smoothly.
Email: Your "Canary in a Coal Mine"
For small companies, it's likely you don't see so many emails per day. With a small team size, it remains feasible that work can be also done through face-to-face meetings.
As your business grows, the amount of face-to-face time for primary communication is likely to decrease while your reliance on email for communicating increases. Keep in mind that this data flow is also multiplied trifold: you have data flowing into your businesses, within your team, and back to the outside world [Infographic: #5]. For most firms, email represents the main form of communication with a total of 929 million mailboxes used by businesses in 2013 out of the 3.9 billion accounts worldwide in 2013 [Levenstein, Radicati].
But how does this email reliance make it a "canary" in your proverbial coal mine? Well, did you know that over 215.3 billion emails are sent worldwide, every day [Infographic: #4]? With this number of emails floating around, email can also present some problems: namely, distraction. The more emails your business needs for operations, the more time your employees will spend reading their inboxes instead of working. If such a trend continues, many important emails can easily remain overlooked just due to the sheer bulk of traffic.
When you find yourself losing hope of ever checking all of your unread mail, that's how you know that something needs to be done.
Let your company's email habits be your canary. Email traffic is a powerful guideline that indicates just when your communication methods need an overhaul. If you respond early, you can take steps to better control its flow and ensure that essential information reaches whom it needs, without causing unnecessary distraction. Customized software can provide a multitude of potential solutions for the email crisis by offering alternatives.
For example, such software can be designed in terms of a platform that can present each employee the necessary facts they need to get their job done, without them having to email someone else for information. Such platforms may also allow "issues" to be assigned to particular people, and therefore also decrease traffic. These represent just some of the potential solutions that custom software can bring, as by definition, this kind of software is created to solve your challenges in a way that is unique to your business needs.
Torturous Training Times
Training is always easy at the start. Unfortunately, it does not remain this way for long. Eventually, your business will need a software solution for some crisis. Such types of solutions, known as "Software as a Service" or "SaaS" for short, exist for nearly every type of business problem and represent a growing industry that shows no signs of slowing [Infographic: #6].
But what happens when you find yourself with many SaaS packages, all for different issues? Aside from cost, you also get complexity. And this complexity naturally means training times must increase. No longer do new employees need to know just how to use one system, but perhaps now they have to be trained in five, ten, or even twenty individual ones!
Beyond this, employees will also need to be trained in how such systems are expected to work together [Infographic: #8]. Sounds complicated? That's the point. And when your working landscape increases in complexity, naturally your training times also increase. This comes at both a time and money cost for your firm.
One study by on yearly total hours of training spent per employee found that small companies (100-999 employees) spend an average of 46.2 hours, mid-size firms (1,000-9,999 employees) spent 67.4 hours, and large firms (10,000+) spent 41.6 hours [Training Magazine]. Note the bump in training times for mid-size firms.
What is the solution? Keep an eye on the amount of hours you devote to employee training per year. Also, keep an eye on the amount of time people are wasting because they aren’t effectively trained. Set an acceptable limit for yourself (perhaps the industry average). If you find your training times reaching this limit and showing no signs of stopping, that's a big indicator that something needs to be done, and what? The answer is simplifying your work landscape.
Custom software solutions can help you simplify your 20+ SaaS packages into one integrated platform that can do it all [Infographic: #9]. If you can cut down the information that your employee needs to know just to be able to use your systems, you can cut down training times, and therefore also reduce costs.
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Many challenges that businesses face can be easily solved by custom software solutions. Whereas multiple single solution software packages can also provide potential answers, such individual packages remain weak in terms of integration for the sheer fact that it's just not a main consideration for the developers of these individual solutions [Infographic: #6].
Custom software differs by making integration its main aim when developing a solution to solve your business's challenges [Infographic: #7]. While many see custom software as the end-game solution for an evolving business, the reality is that it can also aid the evolution of the business by reducing pressure at key pain points such as the three indicators highlighted above.
Consider the challenges you currently face: is a custom software solution right for you?
- Infographic: "Evolution of a Growing Business's Software Needs," December 2016, Brainspire Solutions.
- Radicati, S., Levenstein, J. "Email Statistics Report, 2013-2017," March 2013, Executive Summary. The Radicati Group, Inc.: A Technology Market Research Firm, Palo Alto, CA. Accessed on December 8, 2016. http://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Email-Statistics-Report-2013-2017-Executive-Summary.pdf
- “2015 Training Industry Report,” November 15, 2015. Training Magazine. Accessed on December 8, 2016. https://trainingmag.com/trgmag-article/2o15-training-industry-report