The Trick of Using Custom Software That Can Help You Do More With Less

Feb 3, 2020 by Matt Dixon

We have all heard the adage to "Work smarter not harder". Yet, often that is difficult to do. It is difficult to keep up with the current workload, and still have time to think about how to work smarter. Sometimes a little outside help is needed.

Work Smarter

Technology plays a big part in our productivity and also our lack of productivity. Find out how custom software will help you and your team get more done without adding extra team members.

Custom Software Fills an Exact Need

If you have ever seen a professional sporting event, you have seen some custom equipment specific to the athlete. Take cycling for example, in the time trial the top riders have bicycles custom to their proportions and riding style. Each bike fits only one person. Some of the bikes, especially for the time trial, have such limited adjustment options that no other rider would be able to effectively ride the bike. There are no reflectors to ride at night, no kickstands, and no baskets to carry some groceries home. These bikes have one purpose. To help the rider go as fast as possible. Nothing more.

Think of the Office suite. Most people use Outlook for email, Word for documents, and Excel every once in a while. There are several other programs included in the suite. OneDrive for cloud-based file storage, PowerPoint for creating boring presentations, OneNote for keeping track of notes in a single spot, Access for simple database applications, SharePoint for intranet applications, and Microsoft Teams for team collaboration. When most people buy Office for three programs, they are paying for everything in the suite. The only reason it is affordable is due to scale.

Your organization may be doing something similar with business software. Think through all the systems you use, and look at any overlap. Look at what you are paying for that is not being used. Take a moment to find some ways to consolidate those systems.

One way to consolidate is with custom software. It is like the custom time trial bike and only does one thing, which is to help you run your business effectively. Nothing more. Custom software is lean, and if written properly, easy to add new features. It not only does what you need it to do but does that one thing so well that no other system can compete.

Commercial software is more expensive in the long run

Many organizations extend Office applications as a quick win for their business processes. This may sound like a good idea, but there are many drawbacks.

The first drawback is that these applications were not designed for these types of customizations. Yes, there is a mechanism for customizing Office applications through macros and add-ins, but the

The second issue you will run into is scalability. Microsoft Access is notorious for this. The database becomes locked due to too many concurrent users. This is a problem we have run into numerous times. The solution is to move off of Access, and on to a full-fledged database with an application to view and update the data.

Thirdly, troubleshooting these issues takes a considerable amount of time and money. Tracking down why the Excel macro no longer works is difficult. There is no logging, and typically those errors don't show up on every machine.

Custom software is more maintainable

One of the hidden issues with customizing off the shelf software is coordinating updates from the vendor. Sometimes the vendor may introduce breaking changes to your customizations. There are instances where you may end up with something unusable due to the conflicts. Vendors do their best not to introduce breaking changes, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

Working around these types of changes can take considerable time and effort. The development team will put this as their top priority, and new features will be on the back burner. It's all hands on deck until it's working again.

Employees can work on more effective tasks

I once had a job in a small factory that made air compressors. From small under the counter compressors to large factory sized ones. I loved watching the CNC machine as well as the sheet metal workers on the brake press. One task I had was to cut 500 red wires 3 inches long, 1,000 white wires 4 inches long, and 500 black wires 2 1/2 inches long. After all of the wires were cut, there was a pattern that each wire had to be bent, in 90-degree patterns so that it fits in the case and the wiring harness. Then I needed to strip each end of every wire. After that, I connected one end of the white wires and one end of the red wires to a connector. Then the same with the white and black wires. Each end of any wire without a connector needed a connector. After everything had a connector on it, I shipped it off to the next step of the process.

Not a fun job. I learned a lot, but I am grateful I no longer have to perform the same thing over and over again. In a larger factory, this step would be automated. Since robots are expensive, a smaller factory pays a teenager a low wage to do this work. It's more cost-effective that way.

In your business, you or your team members are probably doing a lot of manual tasks just like the example above. However, instead of cutting wires, and adding connectors, they are probably moving between the various systems, copying and pasting from one spreadsheet to another, and manually entering data into a system that doesn't communicate with the other systems.

Your team would be much more effective if these manual tasks were done by a computer, and the results could be verified instead of performed by a human. Then you can have these employees work on providing better service to your customers. Every business lives or dies by excellent customer service.

Your team is free to come up with amazing ideas

We have all heard about Google's 20% free time work. If you haven't it is just as it sounds. Each employee can spend 20% of their time, one day a week, working on a project that is something that would make Google better.

Some of the best Google products came from this program. Gmail, Google Maps, Google News and AdSense were all created in that 20% free time work. Aside from Google search, I believe that Gmail and Google Maps are the top two products used by users.

The beauty of this program is that it allows for creativity. Deadlines are gone. What the employee "has to do" is on the back burner. They can think outside the box and truly create some amazing software.

What will your employees come up with if you implement a program like this?

Summary

With this new information, you now have some ideas on how you can help your team be more effective. You can now go out there and determine the places where some custom software will help.

If you are having difficulty figuring that out, we're here to help.

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