It is undeniable that software is an incredibly powerful tool that shapes the world we know. With custom software development, we can design solutions unachievable in any other way. However, the number of possibilities may lead to creating over-extensive solutions, with a number of unnecessary functions.
Understanding of the problem you are trying to solve is as significant as the quality of used technology. That is why it’s vital to place the same priority on the project’s business objectives and technology. To achieve that, the development team should consist of both tech (developer, QA, tech lead) and business (product manager/owner) talents. To achieve the product-problem fit, it is crucial to identify particular points of a process and evaluate which ones should and can be improved by software. Luckily, there is a number of methodologies that help to identify and design the solution to the core problem. Below you will find a list of four common problems, possible to address with both off-the-shelf and custom software solutions.
1. Managing operations in a scaling organization
The dynamic growth of the company entails all sorts of challenges – from imbalanced culture (increasing number of employees), through inefficient business operation systems to overgrown organizational structure.
The truth is that an organization can grow as fast as its weakest link. At the early stage of the company’s life, it is super challenging to predict where problems can occur. As we know, no two companies in the world are the same – thousands of processes and specific conditions affect the organization’s situation. Because of this, the problem-solution often requires remodeling of the company’s operations or structure to its particular conditioning.
The rapidly growing number of clients in the accounting company followed significant scaling challenges in operational processes. The reason is that the cost of service per single client was significantly higher compared to online accounting services. Conducted in-depth process analysis revealed that the primary source of problems were an inefficient external communication system and highly time-consuming document processing procedures.
Custom-made software that precisely addressed each of the identified bottlenecks. The desktop application significantly improved the process of customer service thanks to three main features:
- Integrated solution for quick scanning of high volume of documents, paired with OCR and automatic document classification and semi automatic verification.
- Back office application streamlining the process of document handling. Document workflow integrated with main accounting software, allowing to integrate both documents at the accounting office and uploaded by the customers.
- Desktop application resembling dropbox – allowing upload of all accounting documents by customers, often eliminating the need to send physical documents.
- Web application allowing customers to create invoices and have a live preview of their financial data and events or payments (including taxes) due in the given period of time.
Applying the created solution resulted in a significant increase in overall company efficiency. The automated system of scanning and processing documentation decreased time needed to proceed invoice. From now on, the accountant was approving automatically processed documents, instead of manual implementation to the system. Automation and increased workflow decreased manual labor, which in turn reduced costs. The overall performance resulted in:
- 9x lower cost of processing a single document / invoice
- 300% increase in number of customers that can be handleded by the same team of accountants
- Introduction of non-accounting roles responsible for scanning and document handling
2. Inefficient and scattered internal information exchange
Exchange of information is one of the biggest challenges in fast-scaling company. Organization’s growth often translates into an increase in the number of employees. Each new person onboard is an additional set of skills, talents, and information. Depending on organizational structure, people work together in departments, project groups, etc. Because of the universal problem characteristic, individual company conditions don’t affect overall communication problem. That is why – in most cases, off-the-shelf solutions will pass the test.
Most of the operational activities are grounded in the processes of gathering, proceeding, and exchanging information. Exchange of information is one of the most challenging and universal processes most of the companies have to face. To name a few issues related to storage, access, and knowledge flow:
- Materials often scattered between departments, project groups, devices, etc.
- Chaotic communication divided between emails, chats, calls, etc.
- Lack of access to communication history for all the stakeholders.
- Lack of unified systems to verify employee’s performance or work progress.
Some of the SaaS product solutions can address each of the named problems:
- Google Drive/Dropbox – cloud systems of data storage, make information easily shareable and accessible for all the company members, or chosen groups. Such solutions enable teams to collaborate on particular projects, including documents such as presentations or spreadsheets.
- Slack – internal communication system. The app creates space for common work, communication, and file exchange. The whole chat, organized around channels – enables employees to communicate instantly and transparently. All the stakeholders have access to information without unnecessary mailbox overloading.
- Asana – a solution designed to assign, manage task-oriented projects. The application includes features such as creating roadmaps, task boards or structuring processes.
- Dropbox – with over 72 offices in the world, thanks to Dropbox Expedia is able to collaborate on multiple projects in real-time. Find more in the video.
- Slack – for Intuit, Slack became the number one tool to collaborate between teams, departments, and headquarters around the globe. App reached an uncomparable high satisfaction rate among the Intuit’s employees.
- Asana – Helped Sony Music to increase creative production capacity by 4x and reduce campaign production time by 75%.
3. Excessive use of resources
Spending too many resources on processes that could be done with way smaller costs is where no company wants to be. Saving resources by improved efficiency or well-structured processes is what we aim for. By resources, we mean all the things involved in the process to achieve desired results. To name a few employee’s time, money and materials. Depending on industry, condition, department, and process – the problem is extremely specific, often unique for a particular organization. In this case, we have two solutions – custom software or off-the-shelf ERP software. Let me introduce you to the story of one of our clients.
Decathlon faced a problem with store safety audits. The foregoing execution of the procedure combined with a growing number of stores was time-consuming and dispersed. The reports were in a printable form; the audit proceeded with the use of paper documentation and excel spreadsheets. This form was generating vast paper use and required time to print and manage the physical documentation. What is more, the end results were scattered, which made it difficult to control the process from one place.
A web application with built-in guidelines about the store safety audit. Thanks to the interactive interface, the use of paper, and related activities weren’t necessary anymore. Additionally, the app is connected with a database, which enables to update the same safety standards or audit tasks simultaneously for all the stores. What is more, the app enables employees to send audit results, report accidents, and day-to-day changes about the particular store. It enables managers to control and maintain the same standards across all the stores and warehouses.
The new system reduced the time required to conduct a store audit by 40% and paper use by 95%, compared to the previous system. The app is being used in over 60 Decathlon stores and warehouses now. Real-time reporting system greatly improved safety and reaction times in case of emergency. Last but not least, the reporting system enabled managers to plan future improvements based on the built-in reporting tool supported by the user-friendly dashboard.
4. Fostering company’s values
If we could name one thing that outdates rarely and should remain unchanged along with the organization’s development – hands down for values. The fact that culture is difficult to measure, keeping this aspect under control seems to be quite tricky. In a small organization, you can deal with this by maintaining old school human relations (1-1 conversation) or providing a comprehensive onboarding process. However, this approach is nearly impossible to scale along with the organization’s growth. Preservation of initial vision becomes more and more challenging with each new employee on board. This problem is especially visible in a fast-growing organization. Because fostering the culture is quite a specific process – it requires both universal technology and highly specific communication. The solution to these problems can be solved by both – simple off-the-shelf software and more comprehensive custom software. Let’s take a closer look at both approaches.
Along with extremely dynamic growth (160% year to year), Airbnb faced difficulties in maintaining their culture. The growing number of new employees each month, entering with their own habits and culture, was bringing completely new DNA into the organization. Additionally, the dynamic environment made it difficult to proceed with the long-lasting, detailed onboarding process.
In Decathlon, dynamic growth and hundreds of physical locations may cause difficulties in maintaining high-standard company culture. Under such conditions, it is easy to lose inclusivity among employees. Despite comprehensive onboarding, it was challenging to foster the values and update employees on the company’s mission on a daily basis. Decathlon took a step ahead and decided to design a solution that would deliver comprehensive information and the latest news about the company.
Airbnb CEO executes a “hands-on” strategy. One of the most significant elements is a weekly newsletter written by the CEO to every employee. In the letter, Brian Chesky covers all the most important events of a particular week, future plans, and all the additional thoughts. Each employee can reply to the email and discuss it with the CEO. This solution can be made with the use of any newsletter tool – such as MailChimp or Freshmail. In this video, you can find more about Chesky’s culture-building philosophy.
Decathlon designed an app dedicated to maintaining employee’s inclusivity. The mobile app makes the solution easily accessible to all the employees – also those working in the stores. The app includes articles, the latest news, and the company’s plans. The main advantage of this solution over emailing approaches is gathering all the company’s internal information in one place. Even a new employee can easily reach the full knowledge base. Apart from sharing the information, employees have access to tools and valuable content to enrich their knowledge. In addition, the management board receives exact information about published content performance which helps to produce better quality content in the future.
It is hard to evaluate the culture in numbers. However, it is worth to mention that AirBnB can boast of one of the strongest organization’s culture in the world.
Decathlon’s culture reflects in very high ratings on job portals. The app itself became a daily source of information about the company. The app is actively used by employees, noting over 5000 launches each month with over 500+ active installations.
Despite diversified processes and industries, all the examples above share one common ground. The solutions were designed based on real core problems existing inside the organization. It is undeniably the first critical factor in the result-oriented software development approach. As you noticed, some problems may be solved with off-the-shelf solutions, while others require custom software. The approach depends on the specific company’s situation; that’s why it is important to precede the design-solution phase with equally important process mapping and business analysis process.