Gravit-e Blog

May 2011

May 30, 2011

Alaska, Automation, and iPads

iPad StandImage via Wikipedia

What do these three have in common? Well, having previously written about the the benefits the iPad can bring to a business, an article about how Alaska Airlines is moving their flight manuals onto iPads caught my eye. Previous posts have dealt with the many creative ways the iPad can automate business, so I read this article as a chance to explain one important issue, one that many might have with regard to moving towards automated solutions, such as the iPad; just how does one justify the cost?  

In the case of Alaska Airlines, it appears to be quite a good investment. The iPad will allow pilots access to pertinent information faster, which when flying around sounds like a good idea. Even if the cost of moving a flight manual from paper to a ~$700 device seems a bit excessive. 

However, what about small businesses? Who do not need to worry about time sensitive problems, such as being able to automate a flight manual? Why should such a business invest in expensive automated solutions just to become more paperless like Alaska Air? The basic point behind this line of questioning is quite compelling, why bother change systems currently in place? This logic while compelling, might also prevent some businesses from adopting automated solutions. However, it falls down quite quickly when one realizes that all businesses need to grow.

If the goal of your business is to stay stagnant, then the old paper or other methods are better, they cost no money to implement, unlike automation, and you are already accustomed to them. However, if you are a business that desires growth, automated solutions are exactly the type of thing that will give you that necessary push in order to encourage growth. 

For example, in keeping with the iPad and paperless theme, moving an exercise usually done on paper, say, checking a proposal for a client by printing it out, and then revising it by hand, to a tablet will save both time and money. However, unless the rate of checking increases so rapidly, it is unlikely automating this lonely exercise will pay off any investment quickly. The real benefit of automation is, one, the free time to perform other activities, and secondly there is an exponential benefit an automated device, such as the iPad, can bring. As you continue to grow you will find more and more uses for the device, whether it be digitizing more of your paper files, or by giving it to your sales force who can use it when on-site. 

Basically, one method for continual growth is to invest in automated methods of operating. The iPad is just one of these investments that can grow your business for the better, and while the cost of buying one might not seem worth it to digitize a few manuals or restaurant menus, automated solutions have a tendency to grow along side your business. So, as in the case with Alaska Air, try use the iPad to digitize certain items, exercises, or even try other automated solutions.

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May 24, 2011

What Really Matters From A Software Developer

IStock_000001232163XSmall To continue with the unofficial series of postings in the recent weeks regarding custom software and custom software development. In both of these posting there were a few hints on what makes a good developer, and what a business should look for in a developer. This important piece of information was never really expand upon, and just left to sit there without much attention being brought to it.

The Key To Finding The Right Developer

A good software developer can be easily spotted by looking at their development methods. One popular procedure is to take a personalized approach. This practice is when a developer takes the time to understand your business needs, and create a product designed to work for business and yours alone. 

The main alternative to the personalized development method, is to outsource the job. Many countries with strong IT backgrounds and cheap wages, offer amongst a variety of services, custom software development. The major benefit to outsourcing is it is cheap, which means you get a product with a low initial investment. 

However, cheap does not necessarily mean better. A custom development project that has been outsourced suffers from the major downfall that the developers have to program something without actually seeing the business. Instead a business must have a great understanding of what custom software they need in order eloquently tell an outsourced group what to make. While this could be the case, most businesses don’t have a finalized product already designed. Instead, they tell a company half way around the world to design something, and since either of the two can’t foresee every unique need, they return with a product that only partially fits with your business needs.

This brings up another point. A software developer who sits down with you, is going to be professional and knowledgeable enough to point out areas that could benefit from custom software; areas you might never have even through about. Outsourcing custom software work can’t never really provide a business with this advantage; meaning that an outsourced development job might provide you with what you asked for, but could completely miss  the mark on what your business needed. 

Basically it boils down to quite a simple litmus test when deciding to find a good developer. Look at their custom software development methods. A company that takes the time to get to know your business, anticipate your needs, and provide you with a product designed for business, are good signs that you have found a great software designer. 

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May 16, 2011

What Skype and Custom Software Have in Common

Skype As An Example of What Makes a Custom Software Useful

With Microsoft's recent purchase of Skype, it provides us with a great example on how good software development can lead to great results; especially considering that Skype convinced the tech giant to fork over $8.5bn (US), the most they ever have had to for another company.  

One cause of Skype’s increasing popularity in the business arena was it greatly improve efficiency. A good custom software should do the same for your business. If there is a inefficient process that could be eliminated or automatized, a custom software could easily fill the gap. A good custom software will also eliminate unnecessary manual tasks. Much in the same way that Skype has eliminated the need for face-to-face meetings by substituting in video chat and other similar services. In addition, custom software should provide you with the most benefit with the least amount of work. Skype achieved this perfectly, by allowing businesses cheap international rates, and free user to user calling.

Another benefit to Skype’s calling feature is it has build upon currently implemented systems. All Skype really did with the calling feature was to move the telephone on-line. Therefore, for users it was easy to adapt, as they already knew how to operate a phone. The same logic should be applied when automating a current process or looking at a custom software solution. Building a custom software upon a current system can help users adapt to it faster; improving efficiency with fewer growing pains. 

Skype also evolved, grew, and changed with the times. In its beginning, Skype was basically an alternative to MSN, but now it is a program in its own right, with its own completely independent functions. Like wise your custom software should be able to adapt to changes, both external and internal, with minimal effort. This could be as simple as getting the developer to build in a large amount of customizable options, or keeping a good relationship with a developer. Who could easily come in an tweak a few aspects to make sure your custom software never gets too old. 

May 09, 2011

The Importance of Custom Software for A Specialized Business

IStock_000010669867XSmallFor many specialized/niche businesses generic softwares can become a hinderance to how they conduct business. This could be due to the fact that generic software does not provide a niche business with the range of functions that they might require. Therefore, a specialized business must adopt a less efficient program in order to function. Simply put, a niche organization might have to adapt around the limited functions of generic software. 

This is were custom software becomes important. Since traditional tech solutions can’t keep up, a custom software can be designed to fit the needs of a specialized business. By fulfilling the specific needs of a niche business a custom software can prove to be quite beneficial. These benefits can range from intangibles like, reliving the headaches associated with the less efficient software to a physical reduction in costs. Below are three of the many potential benefits out there:

  1. Automating Superfluous Tasks: The range of automated process that a generic software can provide are limited. This is due to the fact that they are designed to function for a mass market which makes it difficult to provide specific automatic functions. A custom software can be developed to automate tasks that are unique to niche business’.
  2. Improves efficiency: A custom software designed for a specific business will work with it faster, as the software will be designed to minimize the amount of necessary tasks performed.  
  3. Frees up time: Since a business no longer has to spend time working with a softwares that are inefficient, it allows employees to spend their time on more important tasks. Say, talking to clients, researching markets, generally focusing their attention towards something that could help growth. 

Since a custom software job is something that needs to be done right, and be right for your business, it raises the question of how to tell a quality designer out of the crowd. A custom software developer should be an organization that really gets to know your business. This is of vital importance as a software wont work with you if the people designing it don’t know you. 

The basic message here is quite simple, don’t settle for generic software if it does not meet the needs of your business, so even if you need a program to help with data entry, an application to move towards a paperless office, or a mobile app to allow people outside of the office constant contact a custom software solution could prove to be exactly what your business needs. Making this happen can be quite tricky, but with a good custom software developer, who knows and understands your business, you can get a tech solution that works with your business to help it grow.     

 

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