Gravit-e Blog

August 15, 2014

Using Custom Software To Drive Business Growth


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Technology is absolutely critical for supporting business growth and expansion. However, as a company evolves, it begins to outgrow its technology. Larry Cox, owner of Ontario-based trucking firm Polaris Transportation Group, faced this predicament. Polaris was enjoying significant growth, but its outdated computer systems were acting as a ceiling to its expansion.

“Our computer systems were cracking due to the sales volume,” said Mr. Cox in an interview with BDC.

One of the biggest benefits of custom software to a growing business is its versatility. Commercial software is not as dynamic and improves at the pace of the masses. However, adapting your software to meet your changing needs isn’t spontaneous -- it requires planning and preparation.

Here are four steps to make custom software part of your business growth strategy: 

 

 

 

1. Embrace New Technology

 

Excelling businesses employ technology strategies that give them a competitive advantage by improving workflow, saving time and money, and providing superior quality and service levels. However, custom software may seem intimidating and costly to a tech sector outsider.


“Businesspeople have difficulty spending money on something they aren’t familiar with. I have no problem investing in a new model of truck or trailer. But when I’m faced with technology that I can’t touch or feel, it’s harder to see the value in it,” Mr. Cox told BDC

 

Despite his trepidation, Mr. Cox decided to invest in custom software several times. As a result, Polaris has boosted its capacity and tripled its gross sales. When competing in today’s increasingly tech-based marketplace, a business must embrace changing technology to survive.

 

2. Streamline

 

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” -- Bill Gates

 

Before applying a custom software solution to your business processes, it is essential that you evaluate the processes themselves. Can you eliminate any processes? Can you merge some activities? Take the time to streamline your operations before moving forward with custom software. 

 

3. Hire the Right Developers

 

When hiring a developer like Gravit-e for your custom software, it’s important to think long term. Building software is one thing, but maintaining and updating that software is another. You need to ensure that your custom software is constructed with flexibility so it can easily be extended or updated, preferably by the same developer.    

 

An indicator of a promising development team is a good record with its previous clients. What level of support is being providing to their clients? Are their current applications up to date? Ask for case studies and check references. 

 

4. Be Proactive

 

Don’t wait until your software is inefficient before updating or replacing it. By then it may already be a burden that compromises your service and requires additional staff and effort to maintain.

 

Performing smaller, regular enhancements rather than one major update every few years has the advantage of:

- Minimal disruption to business practices

- No staff retraining costs

- Allowing you to consistently provide services at an optimal level

- Increasing the likelihood your technology strategy succeeds

 

Map out your business goals and potential growth areas to anticipate technology roadblocks that may appear.

By embracing technology, hiring the right team and keeping your eyes on the horizon, you will position your business to leave the competition behind.

 

Content in this article regarding Polaris Transportation Group is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada.  To read more please visit the BDC website. 

August 05, 2014

Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Software

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In our fast-paced business world, time is of the essence, and it shouldn’t be wasted manually performing menial tasks that software can accomplish. Businesses and entrepreneurs need to focus on what they do best and use time efficiently. Utilizing software to enhance and optimize your business performance is a no-brainer, but deciding whether to use commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) or build custom software requires careful consideration.

Custom software is designed specifically to suit your business needs, whereas COTS is more generic so it can accommodate the needs of many businesses. There are advantages and disadvantages to both:

 

Custom Software 

Advantages 

  • You own the rights to the software, adding value to your company and giving you a competitive advantage
  • Able to grow and change with your company’s needs
  • You don’t have to pay additional fees to add users
  • No redundant or unnecessary features
  • Higher quality of support as developers work directly with you
  • Can be customized to integrate with current systems
  • Easier to use, as it has been designed to reflect and build upon your business processes
  • The long-term cost may be equal to that of COTS due to improved efficiency, with the added bonus of flexibility
  • In some circumstances the software may be resalable and result in profits

 

Disadvantages

  • Higher initial cost
  • Changes and new features can incur additional costs
  • Ongoing maintenance/hosting fees

 

Off-the-Shelf Software 

Advantages 

  • Lower initial cost
  • Free trial periods and money-back guarantees
  • Immediate deployment
  • Free or reduced cost upgrades
  • Often includes support and there is sometimes a user community

 

Disadvantages

  • Could have high customization fees
  • May become outdated and unable to meet your industry needs
  • There is a risk of the software being discontinued. 
  • May require multiple COTS products to accommodate business needs
  • Staff may need training in order to use software
  • You may have to adapt business operations to the software

 

Questions to ask when weighing custom vs. off-the-shelf software: 

Is there currently any commercial software that meets all or most of your business needs?

How much additional work does off-the-shelf software create and at what cost?

What long-term business goals will the software need to accommodate? 

What technology needs will increase as your company grows?

What level of technical support will you require following software implementation?

 

Many small to mid-sized businesses find custom software is better able to meet their needs as many COTS products are designed for enterprises, have too many unnecessary features and lack adequate customization options.

Finding a Balance 

If COTS forces your company to modify its way of doing business, you're better off with a custom solution. However, you may not have an in-house developer nor the budget to hire one, and your technology demands don’t require a full-time development team. This is when hiring a custom software development team like Gravit-e makes sense as a cost-effective solution to your custom software needs. There is a middle ground between building software from scratch and commercial software.  At Gravit-e we leverage a series of our own customizable products to allow for quicker, more affordable development while maintaining high quality.  In some cases it is even possible to integrate COTS into a custom software solution.

Rest assured you can find the right fit for your business whether it's building from the ground up, customizing, integrating, or adapting to commercial software.

Thanks for reading!

 

August 01, 2014

Gravit-e Introduces New Blogger

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Hi there! My name is Klara Jahrig and I am the latest addition to the Gravit-e team.  I will be assisting with business development and marketing and have authored on many technology, entrepreneurship, and lifestyle blogs.  I am excited to be taking over the Gravit-e blog and sharing my insights with you.

Born and raised in Edmonton, I moved to Vancouver in 2012 seeking milder winters, high mountains, and sweeping tides. In addition to enjoying Vancouver's natural beauty,  I was happy to find myself amidst Vancouver's blossoming tech ecosystem.  

I have an appreciation for small businesses and their niches, making working with a custom software developer like Gravit-e a natural fit.  

My passion for writing stems from a love of learning.  I find there's no better way to absorb and retain information than researching and writing about a subject.  Over the next few months you can expect to see more posts being published on a regular basis.  Topics will range from the latest industry news to tips and tricks on running your business more efficiently.  We will also be giving the blog (and the Gravit-e website) a design refresh.  Feel free to jump in on the dialog and let us know if there is anything you'd like to see changed or covered.

Happy Reading!

You can follow me on Twitter @KJahrig

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