Gravit-e Blog

February 12, 2016

Why Entrepreneurs Need To Automate Their Accounting Processes


In an ideal world with endless funding, every entrepreneur would have access to an accountant.  More often than not, most early stage start-ups are bootstrapping and cutting costs wherever necessary. This often means not hiring an accountant. In reality, most entrepreneurs find themselves performing the majority, if not all, of the accounting tasks associated with running their start-up. However, you don’t always need to hire an accountant to manage the financial aspects of your business effectively. There has been ample software developed to help businesses, both large and small, with their accounting. In fact, accountants make use software platforms themselves in order to do their jobs more effectively.


Why Entrepreneurs Need Good Accounting Skills:

    • Budgeting: Keeping track of how much you’re spending and when and where you are spending is essential for making decisions about where to put your money. You may find that some entrepreneurs endeavour to have a high ROI (return on investment) while others are not benefiting the business enough to justify the cost. Good budgeting can help you take advantage of opportunities and correct problems before they pose a threat to your business.


    • Tracking Progress: By taking a look at your profits and spending, you can get a good idea of how you are progressing. Looking at your financial history can enable you to make predictions about where your business is headed and then set realistic goals (for example, becoming cash flow positive in 3 months etc.).


    • Transparency: Demonstrating good budgeting abilities from the get go can also help you when seeking funding or looking for investors in the future. It also ensures that all stakeholders know where and how money has been spent -- this builds trust between partners.


    • Reliability: Paying bills on time and sending out invoices promptly will help you build better business relationships and show that you are serious in what you are doing.  


    • Scalability: If your business starts to take off, you want to be able to take full advantage of that growth and  not be bogged down with menial business tasks. By having the right accounting software in place, you will be able to take on more clients/users. You cannot create more time, so it is wise to eliminate time-consuming manual processes long before they become all-consuming.


    • Better Outcomes: Recent studies have shown that start-ups that demonstrate early financial monitoring grow faster in revenue and headcount. Read more about the study here.


By implementing accounting software early on, you can save yourself major headaches and make it easier for any accountant that you do hire down the line. In fact, you may need to hire an accountant as a contractor during the early stages of your start-up or find yourself outsourcing some of your accounting tasks. No matter what your accounting systems look like in a year or 5 years it will likely involve some form of commercial or custom-built software. The earlier you start using smart accounting software the easier it will be to focus on the core of your business.


January 25, 2016

Minimum Viable Product. What does it really mean?


As people in the startup and non-startup world have become increasingly familiar with the concept of lean development the term ‘Minimum Viable Product’ or ‘MVP’ has been increasingly misunderstood and misused.

An MVP is not merely the minimum number of features needed to launch a product. It also isn't the minimum number of features needed to satisfy customers, for that carries with it the assumption that you know what your customers want. A minimum viable product is most simply and accurately defined as the product with the highest return on investment versus risk, but what exactly does that mean?

Eric Ries originally used the term in his book "The Lean Startup' and defined a minimum viable product as: 

'that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.'

Overtime this definition has become 'the smallest thing you can build to launch.'

A minimum viable product is not just a cheapest version of your vision

While lean development techniques can prevent you from wasting money on the wrong product, that isn't necessarily the goal. The idea is to provide the maximum amount of customer value while spending the lowest amount of development time and money possible. The cheapest version of your product may not provide sufficient customer value to gain enough validated learning.

A minimum viable product is about finding out what your customers want as early as possible

Startups often begin with an idea for a product that they think people want. They then spend months, sometimes years, perfecting that product without ever showing the product, even in a very rudimentary form, to the prospective customer. When they fail to reach broad uptake from customers, it is often because they never spoke to prospective customers and determined whether or not the product was interesting. When customers ultimately communicate, through their indifference, that they don't care about the idea, the startup fails. 

A minimum viable product is designed to prevent this scenario from unfolding and accelerate the learning process. If the concept is going to fail, it is better to fail fast. If the concept needs to be refined, it will be refined earlier. During the process entrepreneurs can learn valuable information that may steer them in an entirely new direction, known as a pivot.

A minimum viable product isn't always an actual product

Sometimes you may not even need to build the technology to validate the idea. For example, you want to develop a new mobile application for tourists. You know it can be built, but before you even build the prototype you can validate the concept. There are a variety of ways to do this, such as building a landing page explaining what the app will do and collecting the contact info of individuals interested in being notified once it is developed. This is far cheaper than building a native application for smart phones. You can get proof of concept without a product.


In short, a minimum viable product is not the cheapest option or the smallest number of features. It's a ratio of the minimum amount of time, money, and effort required to begin the cycle of validated learning. Indeed, a minimum viable product may not even be the actual product you intend to develop but rather a means of validating it's construction. 

December 31, 2015

5 Ways To Cut Down On Software Development Costs


Regardless of whether you’re using an off-the-shelf software product or a custom-built solution, software can become expensive. One of the advantages of custom building your software is that you can take steps to decrease your spending, which you can’t with commercial software products. Vendors typically provide their software at fixed fees or tiered pricing, depending on the number of users or features you need. Here are some tips to help you take full of advantage of the financial control that custom solutions provide:


  1. Prioritize

If you don’t have the budget to develop every feature you would like for your software, you can prioritize the essential ones first. This has the benefit of decreasing the timeline for software development, in addition to decreasing the cost. Getting your staff to use a basic version of the software can enable you to see its impact and justify further spending on future developments to the budget decision makers.


  1. Hire the Right Team the First Time

While it may be tempting to choose a cheaper development option such as outsourcing, this can end up being more expensive in the long run. At Gravit-e, we have many clients who come to us complaining about outsourced projects gone wrong -- where the code is full of bugs and unusable, and they have to start their project from scratch. These scenarios result in a waste of both time and money and can cause budget decision makers to lose confidence in custom software development. By hiring the right developers the first time. you can save yourself from a major headache down the road.


  1. Communicate Effectively

Don’t leave your developers guessing, because they may guess wrongly. The more detailed your outline of desired features and functions, the less time and money you will have to spend on corrections. Communicating with developers throughout the process can ensure the software stays aligned with your vision. This is particularly true for projects that are billed on an hourly basis rather than on a fixed-fee structure.


  1. Perform a Requirements Analysis

Many software development companies perform a requirements analysis before proceeding with software development. This ensures that all of the business processes are fully understood and that the unique needs that necessitate custom software development are taken into consideration. While this may seem like an extra cost up front, it can save you money in the long run as it will enable the software development team to complete the project faster with less reiterations.


  1. Integrate

There is no sense in reinventing the wheel. While custom software development may be necessary to meet some of the unique needs of your business, it doesn’t mean all of your business software has to be coded from scratch. In many cases, commercial off-the-shelf applications can be integrated with custom software to provide full functionality without the increased cost of developing a completely custom solution. This is particularly true for accounting and customer relationship management software such as Quickbooks and Salesforce. In some cases, you may find a commercial solution that meets almost all of your needs and be able to build a custom add-on rather than a stand-alone application.

Whatever the project, the best approach to developing software cost-effectively is to have an in-depth understanding of your needs, the available solutions, and the capabilities of your developers in addressing those needs. Experienced development teams such as Gravit-e have even developed their own code libraries to decrease development costs and allow themselves to focus exclusively on what makes your project unique.


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