Application Development Blog
Can custom web applications improve your business?
Published: 2014-03-03Applications (apps) are everywhere these days, from desktop computers, through tablets to phones and, most recently, watches. In the personal world they can help us monitor our home, schedule our entertainment, find bargains, communicate with friends and even meet that special someone. In business, productivity apps like document editors, spreadsheets, email and calendars all have mobile versions. But what if there was an app for your business? An app that that allowed you to put in and get out the data that you wanted. Could a custom app help you be more competitive?
As business owners we know it takes more than a good idea to be a success in business. It takes a whole business process to deliver the concept to the market and maximize customer engagement. The life-blood of a business processes is information, and the key to a successful business is getting the right information to the right people at the right time. This allows everyone involved, including customers, to make the best decisions possible.
First lets look at what a "custom web application" is. The term "web" implies two things: the application runs in a browser and runs over the internet. While both of these assertions are usually true, there are exceptions. The application may run in "native" mode on a mobile device. It also may run on an internal company network, rather than over the internet.
This brings us to the next term, "application". What is the difference between a web site and a web application? A web application is the interactive entry and/or retrieval of dynamic data over the web. Today most web sites have both "static" content and some interactive applications to provide specific services. Here are some examples:
- Banks have web sites that lists services, locations, hours, policies and provide a mortgage calculator application and personal banking applications.
- Social web sites, like Facebook, LinkedIn and dating sites are 95%+ application with almost all of the content entered by the users for the users and very little provided by the companies.
- Search web sites like Google and CareerSeer are applications with the content updated daily.
- Retail web sites may be are largely applications with the content being provided through an internal inventory management application and purchases being made by an e-commerce application. Sites like ebay.com provide public access to entering inventory the inventory application.
Types of Business Applications Business applications can be internal and/or customer facing. The specific rules depend on you business model. For example inventory management has traditionally been internal. Today many retailers provide public web access to pricing and inventory by store. As mentioned on-line retailers allow sellers to enter and manage inventory on-line.
- Calculators - There are hundreds of types of calculators, here are just a few examples: mortgage, amortization, net present value, units conversion, simple and advanced math, calorie counters.
- Data Access - Store locator, Inventory & price checking, Executive Dashboard
- Promotion and Loyalty: Contests, surveys ...
- Financial: Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Payroll, Cash Flow, Net Present Value ...
- Management: Inventory, assets, business intelligence ...
- Tracking: Time, issues, leads, bugs, complaints ...
- Executive: Dashboard, Reports ...
Here are 2 simple questions to help determine if a custom business app might help you business:
1. Is there information that would help improve business decisions if you could access it?Here are some more specific questions to get you started:
- Do you have field staff that have information that would be useful to have?
- Do your suppliers have information that would help you manage inventory more efficiently?
- Do your customers have information that might help you improve your product or service?
- Do your prospects have information that might help improve sales?
2. Can the people who need your company data access it when and where they need it?Here are some more specific questions to start the discussion. Consider everyone from the President to the customers.
- Does the executive have a "dashboard" for at-a-glance understanding of the companies important metrics?
- Do prospects have access to pricing and inventory levels near them?
- Do managers have the information they need to manage effectively?
- Do you have information stored in Excel spreadsheets or databases that can not be generally accessed?
- Are you ever surprised when someone else knows company information before you?
Assuming that you have identified a need, the next step is doing a cost/benefit analysis. We will leave the benefit analysis to you and we will provide some cost information in our next blog.