Custom Applications Increase Your Productivity!

If you find yourself using one application to enter in sales invoices and then some other application to manage all of your customer data from those sales, then you may benefit from having a custom application developed for your business. A custom application can eliminate a lot of redundant work if you are entering the same data into multiple databases or if you are still using a non-GUI (Graphical User Interface) interface. This article will discuss some of the factors to consider when determining whether or not to have a custom application written for your business. Productivity Gains, Cost and Flexibility are some of the most important things to consider. Hardly any software that you purchase will meet 100% of the needs of your particular business. And, as you use that software over a period of time you will most likely find that the original percentage of the needs met by the software quickly diminishes. So, you install this new software package to run your business with, and as you start working with it you find yourself thinking, "I wish it could do this!" or "I wish it could do that!". This is where the advantage of having a custom software application developed to meet your particular needs can pay for itself quickly. There is a greater cost in having a custom application developed, but the long time pay back can far outweigh that cost.

Most sales people who are automated, use one application to track all of their sales contacts and another application to enter in sales for those contacts. However, this leads to redundant data entry of customer information or the need to at least synchronize that data between the two applications. If this duplication of data can be eliminated, then your sales force will have more time to sell and will be spending less time entering and locating data. You may also find that the application that you are using to enter your quotes and sales orders is out of date and may not even be a Graphical User Interface. Therefore, by have a new GUI interface designed to allow you to have access to multiple windows of data simultaneously can also provide you with additional productivity gains as well. Imagine having 4 or 5 customers displayed on the screen at once as well as multiple quotes. Now instead of typing in part numbers or customer numbers over and over into data entry forms, you could simply drag and drop those part numbers or customer numbers right into your quote entry form to have all of the information automatically filled in for you, thus eliminating a lot of typing as well.

Custom applications can be written to work in conjunction with data from some generic off the shelf applications or they can be completely written from scratch to run your entire company. The latter is a more expensive alternative but may provide you with even more productivity gains in the long run. When considering the cost of the application, I first suggest that you look at any trade magazines that are particular to your business. There may already be applications that have been custom written for your business. The cost of these applications may seem high, but they have been written specifically for your type of business. This means that they have already been tailored to do the things that are particular to your type of business. These applications will typically be less expensive than having an entire application written from scratch to suit your exact needs. Your business may still be able to run with some of the "Off The Shelf" applications such as QuickBooks, PeachTree or AccPac Accounting. It is very difficult to know how an "Off The Shelf" product will work for your business until you’ve actually used the product for a while. There are a lot of products that try to handle most situations for most businesses. Most businesses follow standard practices of invoicing clients (Accounts Receivable) and paying bills (Accounts Payable). In order to perform these tasks, you need a databases for tracking customers, products and vendors.

Most general accounting packages have fairly standard fields for holding the information that you want to track for your customers, vendors and products. They usually have some additional database fields that allow you to enter in custom data as well. This data structure will work fine for most businesses, but what if you wanted to track additional items for your particular products or customers that just isn’t available in the "Off The Shelf" package. This is where customization comes in. This where you can "Have it your way!", in a matter of speaking. This additional information might just be what you want to help push your company into a more profitable status by tracking that additional information right inside your sales and accounting product. This customized solution can end up saving you several hours a day in redundant work thus paying for itself quickly. It all depends on how well your business runs on generic applications.

The cost of custom software development can be reduced if you first come up with an outline of your objectives as to what you would like to have the application do for your business. Sometimes this is determined together in a meeting with both the consultant or developer and those people that will be using the software. By outlining the business needs it can be fairly easy to determine the benefits of having a custom application designed to handle an individual business’ specific requirements. The more information that is available to the consultant or developer up front can reduce the amount of rework of the project as well. A lot of times there are a number of things that are not thought of when first starting into a development project that can add a lot of time to the backend of the project’s cost. Therefore a good outline detailing what you do in your day to day business and what information you want to track is a healthy start to a custom development project.

Another cost factor to determine when having a custom application developed is how much on line help do you need to have written for the application. Most Graphical User Interface (GUI) applications follow a lot of the same standards which make using custom applications much simpler to learn and use today. However, if you have a number of turnovers in your line of business, then having an on line help file developed can ease repeated questions with new users. On line help can sometimes take nearly as much time as the development of the application itself. But this can also benefit you in the long run with much less on going support charges from the developer.

The flexibility in having an application developed specifically for your business can also pay off in future changes to the way you do business. If you decide in the future that, "I wish it would do this!", then you can have those changes made to the software to meet your changing wish list. Sometimes those little changes can make a world of difference. Some wishes are easier to grant than others but almost anything can be done today.

 

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Last modified: March 02, 2009