Business software should never be thought of as just a supporting system; but a way of thinking that contributes to a competitive advantage and has substantial effects and implications on your organisation’s operations.
Whether used in the charity sector for volunteer management, fundraising, content management, email marketing, data management, day-to-day reporting or another business operation, using the right software to solve your challenges will make your organisation stronger, more competitive and more successful in an ever changing marketplace. Software development done right always takes into account the ultimate purpose of a solution.
Unfortunately many organisations operate business software solutions that don’t meet their needs, or even worse, software solutions that make things worse.
Below is a list of 7 signs a new business software solution may be helpful for your organisation.
1. You’re adjusting business processes to suit your software
For organisations operating in large and complex environments, it is almost unavoidable that at some point you will require your business software to do something it doesn’t do by default. Bending business operations to suit off-the-shelf software restrictions is not a sustainable strategy, yet this is often what ready-made software vendors seem to argue when they claim their solution will somehow solve many of the problems of a buyer.
The workforce will seldom end up learning intimately how a business software is supposed to be used in order to maximise the impact of their work or enable certain processes to run if the functionality and the features of that solution – as well as the way it works in general – is counter-intuitive and goes against an already established methodology or course; and all large organisations have already implemented such processes, it’s often one of the things that helped them grow to that level in the first place. In this respect, nothing beats a bespoke solution that was made to address very clear needs and business processes.
This is how some organisations manage to continue to grow despite an unfavourable market or context – they constantly adjust and one focused way of doing this is by using the tools they need to run their business or deliver their services and/or products.
2. Manual administration and activities are rising
As your organisation grows, operational administration can become overwhelming, stifling any growth or progression forward. Software can look after many of these mundane tasks, freeing up time to focus on growing or consolidating your business.
Automation is far from a fancy way of saying that we will need manual labour less and less; it’s becoming the norm for the majority of industries, including the services sector. Well-done software is less prone to error than humans, it can continually be customised to respond to new situations and needs, it can be incredibly efficient and 100% focused on its well-defined tasks, and the list of benefits can be long. But good-to-have features aside, companies will find it seriously challenging to excel in their markets when their competitors are faster, more efficient, more focused and generally better because they’ve freed up the time previously spent on manual, repetitive or simply slow processes and they are now spending it on growing and consolidating their businesses.
Whether we speak about human resources software, licensing and access management software, CRMs, data management or integrating multiple services into a super-product, the larger an organisation, the more activities will emerge and more specialised solutions will be required to maintain the growth, because every organisation’s challenges are becoming increasingly unique, matching its growth path and people.
3. Duplication of work due to lack of integration
Some businesses have unique processes that require multiple systems to operate their business (e-commerce websites, WordPress-based websites and corporate blogs, bespoke web applications, procurement systems etc). Dispersed data however can significantly hinder your ability to collect, compile, share, analyse and report on important information in a timely manner.
It’s important for organisations to be able to keep an eye on all its processes and running services, whether in-house or externalised, in order to be able to make intelligent business decisions and bank on them. Doing the same work twice because the data collected through the various communication channels isn’t automatically (and securely) stored in your CRM of choice is inefficient. Manually removing access to sensitive services for an employee that has left the company and wondering whether you’ve covered all your bases is not a good policy. Collecting data in numerous spreadsheets, formats and places, and attempting to make sense of it in useful time is so you can act on it is also not a strategy to go by if you are going to be using that data at all.
Companies, large and small, should consider whether they’re lacking the right tools to become more efficient and focus on its final purpose and create those tools if they can’t find them on the off-the-shelf market.
4. Performance issues
Though in theory old software should be able to run like a breeze on new hardware, considering how far we’ve come in terms of power and capacity in the last few years, this should not be taken as an universal truth. The new version of Firefox (Quantum, 57x), for example, is significantly faster and leaner than its predecessors (editions older than 57x); the same can be said about some operating systems and graphic editing software.
Depending on its application, old software tends to become slower when it depends on or works with newer software (think regular dependencies, components, third party plugins, frameworks and APIs etc.), new vulnerabilities are discovered, reverse engineering is used by the competition and so on.
Your current system is no longer a cost-effective solution as your organisation has changed over time and original feasibility calculations are no longer accurate. Alternatively, your software solution is so outdated to the point you can now operate an alternative system at the same or lesser cost, but receive more ‘bang-for-your-buck’ in terms of functionality.
Despite the higher initial investment for an organisation to develop bespoke software when compared to off-the-shelf solutions, in the long term it almost always pays off because the final product ends up adding real value to the organisation, either by facilitating processes that were difficult to be be implemented or run before in specific ways, by enabling the workforce or other stakeholders to achieve certain tasks, overcome challenges, or by efficiently addressing a situation through removing bottlenecks, workflow optimisation and more, all of which can prepare organisations to compete better in their niche.
6. Users not using the available business software solution
Employees begin to perform tasks outside of the system usually because the software cannot accommodate the desired action or the employee considers using the software unintelligible and counter-productive. Opting to work outside the business software generates isolated bits of information that could lead to serious inaccuracies and inconsistencies across your organisation. It also says in clear terms to the management that the tool used is either not fit for purpose or it’s become deprecated and there are ways or tools to achieve the same – or even better and quicker – results.
There’s also the reality of services externalisation, where skilled workers are outsourced; they regularly use other software and tools than your organisation and whilst sometimes they can be integrated with your existing software through APIs, oftentimes this is not possible and the end result is not quite on par with the rest of the output. Just think of the document differences between using a recent edition of Microsoft Office versus OpenOffice, for example. The opposite can also be true, where the organisation is using a slow solution that used to be the best tool on the market a few years back (Adobe Reader, we’re looking at you) and the outsourced people prove to collaborate a lot better and faster using a web-based equivalent that renders better results, or just leaner software (hello, SummatraPDF, Firefox and others).
7. Your business software in more than 3 years old
Ordinarily a business could maintain the same business software system for considerably longer, but technology has developed so rapidly in the last few years that you may be missing out on some impressive new features and functionality. One remembers without much effort how difficult it used to be to implement and maintain a client portal or intranet no more than 10 years ago, for example. Things have improved dramatically since then in every possible way.
Another easy – and quite visible – example of a piece of software that deprecates quite fast is the website of an organisation. Although it constitutes for many corporations the main (and often the most important) way to present its values and services, websites don’t get “refreshed” nearly enough to reflect the dynamic of their market and audience.
The web changes and improves with great speed, but many companies demonstrate lack of understanding regarding how this affects them and their potential customers. They either disregard the fact that their 4 years old website is not mobile friendly, it takes ages to load, it can’t be properly crawled and indexed by search engines or is using insecure scripts, or they treat this knowledge as an afterthought, because other matters are considered to take precedence. But one has only to think about the fact that in highly competitive markets where a significant percentage of clients are acquired online the “dinosaurs” – that proved too slow or thought they were too big to fail – have in fact fallen into obsolescence or have been taken over by younger, better equipped and attentive competitors.
It’s time to invest in new technology and software when the price to update your solution stack can be supported by the business or when building your own solution is going to help the company stay competitive and do its work efficiently. Waiting for things to become critical before you decide to invest in new software is, whichever way we look at it, a poor business decision.
We began working with Totally during a period of significant change for our business. The Totally team are very professional and VERY responsive. They have steered us through a major website and back-end platform redevelopment; we are delighted with the outcomes.