Are your spreadsheets telling you to develop an application? DAVID MARKUS
By David Markus
Many small business owners start their business on a spreadsheet and struggle to evolve. The accounting system doesn’t talk to your quoting system, your email marketing is running from somebody’s Outlook contacts instead of your customer database, and you have three different systems for managing other things in your business that just evolved over time.
Did I mention your website? Let’s not even talk about where leads from your website end up.
We frequently discover businesses in this state. They often have the same lament: “I run a unique business, I can’t just buy an application that works for us because no one can predict my needs.”
This is a warning sign to us, as software development is a specialised field and usually an expensive proposition. If you embark on development of a custom application you are likely to develop something that works well with a small static component of your business, but fails to integrate with applications used by other parts of the business.
The key to smooth, productive work environments is integrated software. Whether you run a services based company as I do, or a manufacturing or sales based organisation, there is software developed that will fit your business to within 80% of your needs and require a little extra effort in integration, reporting or data capture to enable your business to be tightly integrated and highly productive.
So you have a few choices.
Buy an off-the-shelf package that is specific to your industry and change your work practises to fit around the capability of the package (customising and configuring it as much as possible).
Engage a development/integration partner to build you something that integrates (and be prepared to spend big money with the vendor, plus you need to hire internal resources to write the specifications and manage the delivery).
Look for something that gives you an 80% solution that could potentially cover 80% of your business needs and start planning your migration to it, strategically and in small steps.
Well, there’s the fourth option – do nothing. But we won’t talk about that, as it is unlikely to make your business problems go away.
If there is an area of your business you would like to automate let me know and I may write about solutions to your needs in future articles. Just fill in the comments field below.
David Markus is the founder of Melbourne’s IT services company Combo. His focus is on big picture thinking to create value in IT systems for the SME sector.