How to select the right applications for your business
So you finally start your business or side hustle. You have your trade license, business plan, marketing plan and finances all sorted out. What’s next?
You get into the business operations and start the real work. As time goes by and the number of customers increases, you find your self doing more tasks than you can handle. Things pile up, you lose track and before you know it your customers start complaining about your service.
It is rarely that we see small enterprises identifying and planning for the technology and applications they are going to use prior launching the business. It is perhaps assumed that they do not need anything beyond a website and a few social media accounts. But technology and automation can play a vital role in the sustainability and growth of businesses.
A MARKET FULL OF CHOICES
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing businesses when deciding which applications to use is that there are many choices available in the market. Many applications look similar but the small differences between them may have a big impact on the current and future business operations.
We usually deploy applications and integrate them with our business operations to: facilitate access to data, maintain and manage data, visualize data and automate repetitive tedious tasks & workflows. However, not all applications do well in minimizing known data issues such as typos, inconsistencies, and incomplete vital fields.
what to look for in an application?
In this article, we provide a set of questions that need to be answered by enterprises before selecting applications for their businesses.1) Is the application supporting the business vision?
An application that is planned for deployment has to serve the business and not hinder its journey towards its vision. The impact of the application on the ongoing tasks and workflows has to be understood before selection and rollout. Since businesses care about their customers, any application that negatively disturbs the customer’s experience is a big no.
2) Is the application capable of handling the data required by the business?
Businesses need to identify the list of data relevant to the objective of the application in question, for example if you are considering a marketing application you should not expect it to tackle your financial data. Once the list of data is ready, investigate how it is going to be collected and loaded into the application. You need to ensure the availability and completeness of the data deemed necessary for the business.
3) How easy is it to load your data?
The application’s data loading feature needs to be easy to use and not introduce additional manual work that would not have been otherwise required using excel sheets (the go to application for most small businesses). Personnel working on the data loading need to be trained and committed to this task. If you were using excel before rolling out the application, it is important to ensure that the person responsible for the data loading does not go back to using excel sheets. Otherwise data silos will be created and ruin the potential for generating useful reports that are needed in your decision making process.
4) Does the application have any data Quality Check (QC) capabilities?
It is ideal if the application has quality check capabilities, such as ensuring that mandatory fields are never left empty and that important fields are protected against typos using preformatted fields and menus. Other QC capabilities include restricting the formats of data fields that are needed for generating reports and dashboards, such as date and currency.
5) Is the application capable of reporting and visualizing data?
Being able to report and visualize data is the cherry on the cake. It doesn’t matter how complete and accurate your data is if you can’t visualize it and derive insights necessary for proper decision making.
6) Do you need a
knowledge database? Does the application have this feature?
Industries running several projects may want to have a knowledge database where lessons from one project can be recorded so that they are accessed and applied by other projects. This requirement is not applicable for all industries and applications.
7) Can the application automate repetitive time-consuming tasks?
Automation of workflows – such as notifications, reminders and forwarding tasks to different team members – is very important especially when the customer base is huge. Otherwise, the alternative would be to recruit more and more staff to tackle these tedious tasks but we know too well that this wouldn’t be the most efficient and cost-effective solution.
8) Is the application capable of integrating with existing applications? (Optional)
The ability to integrate with existing applications used by the business is of real value so that stored data can be retrieved and utilized without further data loading efforts. Most of the time applications do not have the ability to integrate with other applications without customization and coding involved. Having said that, there is a workaround through third-party solutions focused on integrating applications but there might be a cost incurred.
9) Can the application grow with your business?
At one point, your business will grow and the number of clients, products, services and suppliers will increase. The question is: will the application be able to accommodate these anticipated future requirements? If the answer is no but you would like to deploy the application then ensure that you will be able to easily migrate the data to its future replacement.
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