In this article, James Ducker, Managing Director and FileMaker Developer at Decent Group, discusses how a staggered approach to implementing business software can help a small company cope with the financial and organisational stresses of change.
Bespoke software and custom applications have been huge enablers for all walks of business, from the large conglomerate to the sole trader. Solutions that exist today can handle every administrative facet of a company, from keeping track of financials, tracking stock levels, managing HR practices and more.
Implementing successful business applications into a small organisation however is not a case of simply purchasing something off the shelf and pressing go. Plug and play solutions do exist, yes, but they are rarely tailored to the exacting needs of smaller high-growth companies which have a propensity to evolve rapidly.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
It is only natural when considering a piece of business software that a budding entrepreneur will want something all singing and all dancing from the word go. Something which can handle every element of their business straight away. Unfortunately however, solutions on this scale are often prohibitively expensive, and while desirable, the business ramifications of transitioning every existing process and system onto something completely new could be drastic, and questionable.
Existing staff members would have to retrain on a completely new platform, continuity of service would undoubtedly be affected, not to mention the gargantuan task of transitioning existing business data into the new system. In short, as much as a small business may be keen to streamline all its operations at once, this is by no means an overnight job, but by investing just a little amount of time in the beginning will save you hours later. I am not talking months of time, I am talking a few well invested hours in something tailored to your business needs.
Custom apps by numbers
The advice we give to many of our clients who have smaller-sized businesses is that whilst they should certainly have the end goal in sight when they start their journey into custom business apps, they should also appreciate that a staggered implementation often works the best.
What this means is that instead of selecting a turnkey system such as SAP for example, where once its turned on, everything needs to adapt to the new solution; they instead implement a series of customisable business apps over time which handle individual tasks. This approach pays dividends. Not only is the cost of implementation spread over months or even years, it also means the transitioning of business processes and business data is easier to manage.
For example, a product management custom app for a SMB retailer in month one, could evolve to incorporate a warehouse picking app in month two, gain ecommerce integration in month six, and so on and so forth.
The lesson for small business owners is that by implementing something yourself in this way, or if you call on the services of a third-party developer, the cost and workload can be spread to suit the pace of your business, maximising productivity in the process. Most importantly, it is vital that a correct software tool is chosen which allows this approach to custom applications which can grow and evolve alongside a business.
James is a FileMaker-certified developer and has been working with FileMaker since 1994. He runs Decent Group, a small team of FileMaker developers based in Swindon – and one of only a few companies to be awarded ‘Platinum’ status by FileMaker Inc.