Business Application Development for Growing Businesses
Every growing business needs the right applications to scale. Without the right apps, you'll struggle to compete. Learn about business application development.
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What Are Business Applications?
A business application is a software solution or a set of programs that provide business functionality. They're also used to enhance and monitor productivity throughout the organization. Business applications can be used externally, internally, or with other business apps.
They can be built in-house or be purchased as off-the-shelf solutions. Which type of software a business chooses depends on their specific needs and budget.
The 3 Types of Business Apps
- B2B applications: Apps used between business partners (e.g. resellers, suppliers, etc.). These can be accessed using dedicated lines, for example, a bulk order submission web service.
- B2C applications: Apps used for general applications. These are mostly web/browser-based such as dynamic content websites, e.g. customer loyalty apps, e-Commerce apps, etc.
- Internal applications: Apps used inside the enterprise. These are core apps for business functionality, such as Internal ERP systems, HR systems, etc.
Business Application Subcategories
- Front-end applications: Users directly interact with these apps, usually through a Graphic User Interface.
- Backend applications: These apps function behind the scenes and manage background processes.
- Services-based applications: These apps serve as an integration point for other apps or systems.
When you start your company, you do things that don’t scale. That's the nature of business. When you're starting out, you're testing the market to see if there's a demand for your service.
The problems happen when your business starts growing...
You're suddenly forced to ensure the efficiency of your operations. Otherwise, you'll end up tripping over your business systems and stalling your success. And that’s where business applications come in handy.
5 Key Reasons Why Your Company Needs Business Apps
Every growing business needs application development. While there's an initial investment upfront for the creation of these critical applications, they can provide a lot of benefits for growing organizations. Here are a few:
- Business apps increase employee productivity by optimizing business processes to improve efficiency.
- Business apps empower field workers, allowing them to stay connected to the office and get real-time insights into the process.
- Business apps increase customer engagement, boosting loyalty and sales.
- Business apps that are powered by intuitive analytics tools provide actionable insights to help you grow your business using more informed decisions.
- With low code, developing custom business apps has never been easier, meaning you can get exactly what you need without the hefty price or time found in custom builds.
Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Business Application Development
Wondering which is better: ready-made business software or a custom business app?
The answer comes down to your business, its specific needs, and budget. You need to analyze a number of factors and understand the benefits of each approach. That's because there is a huge gap between these two approaches in terms of functionality, performance, and usability.
Here's what you need to know about the differences between bespoke software creation and off-the-shelf business solutions.
Custom Business Application Development
Custom-made applications are typically very flexible and can be a good fit for companies with specific requirements. Here's everything you need to know:
- Custom Design: They're built for specific business processes of a specific company. This means you don’t have to adjust your processes to fit the application. You pay for what you need because the functionality and features of custom apps are designed to meet the needs of specific users and the company’s goals.
- Unique Features: Custom business software can be modified and updated as your company grows, giving you a competitive advantage. You can make changes whenever you want and don’t have to wait for new releases to add new features or functionality. You can also get upgrades done by your business application developers at any time.
- Easier Integration: Custom software can be smoothly integrated within the existing IT ecosystem. This is very important for data analytics and developing a data-driven business strategy. You can also perform any integration with other legacy systems or plan the installation of additional systems later on.
- Freedom: With custom applications, you're not tied by the busy support team of the ready-made system providers.
- Better Long-Term Returns: The development costs for a tailor-made solution can be high upfront. However, bespoke software solutions usually pay for themselves in the long run. Without subscription costs, custom software might even turn out to be less expensive than buying ready-made software over time.
- Higher Acceptance: Your company’s staff will be involved in the app development process. As a result, they'll be more willing to accept the new system when it’s launched.
Ready-Made Business Applications
Known by many names (off-the-shelf, bespoke, custom, and out-of-the-box), ready-made apps are programs you can buy, install, and start using immediately. Unlike custom apps, You won't have to wait until your business application is designed, built, tested, and launched.
There are a lot of advanced, scalable, and secure applications on the market that offer a high level of functionality. But off-the-shelf software targets a wide range of consumers.
As a result, these custom apps might not meet your company’s specific needs. Unfortunately, you may be forced to alter some of the business processes in your company. Otherwise, you may miss out on key features of the program. You may also have to reduce some of your offerings to fit your platform.
Off-the-shelf apps have regular updates. And if you purchase quality software from well-known developers, you may also enjoy flawless customer support.
And while the prices for ready-made applications are lower than for the development of custom apps, there might be hidden costs. Employee licenses, maintenance fees, and service fees can have a huge impact on your ROI over time.
Finally, off-the-shelf solutions are mass-marketed. So, you'll be buying a version of the same business application as your competitors. And that will make it hard to gain a competitive advantage from your investment.
Overall, your needs and budget will dictate where you should buy off-the-shelf solutions, and when you should build custom business apps.
Creating a Plan for Business Application Development
Ready to consider getting a competitive advantage with custom-built software for your company? Then you need a sound plan for business application development.
The most common issue with the implementation of a business app is that the end-users may find them too difficult to use. They may also encounter problems with integration or reporting.
To avoid such problems, you need to focus on creating a detailed plan before the actual app development. This ensures that your business application is simple but powerful.
Follow these five essential steps to ensure the successful planning of your future project.
1. Gather the Necessary Information
You can conduct surveys or start with interviews of the key decision-makers and employees. This will help you get a better idea of what kind of custom app you actually need to streamline your business process.
2. Suggest Improvements
Use the information you gathered to get a better understanding of your specific business needs. Next, use a mapping technique to identify new opportunities to improve business processes and customer relationships.
3. Define the Scope of Your App Development Project
Brainstorm to identify the potential goals that your future business app should be capable of achieving. For example, are you looking to improve efficiency, increase productivity, or leverage big data?
Use this set of strategic goals to outline the technical requirements necessary for their implementation. Think about the technology stack, specific development environment, and processes that will be used to complete each task.
4. Build a Business Plan
You need a plan to understand the potential return on investment from your business app development.
The average cost to build a custom business app may vary greatly and depends on the complexity, urgency, and customization.
When estimating the final price of your development project, you should take into account the following:
- Software development costs.
- Approximate number of users.
- Ongoing maintenance and support.
- Additional training for your employees.
Your business case should include the following information:
- Details about resources and required costs.
- The duration of the entire project (and the time needed to complete each of the tasks you have outlined).
- Options to perform each part of the app development project by your internal team or by external developers.
5. Develop the Strategy
Develop a cost-effective strategy for the rollout of your app’s key features. Prioritize the tasks and estimate how long each phase of your custom business app development project may last.
Creating a Business Application Development Team
When you have developed a detailed plan and a strategy for your project, you need to create a team responsible for its successful implementation.
Your team should include people from several departments of your company that perform different functions. Such a team will be able to provide valuable insights to define the information that you should take into account.
Your project team should also include representatives from all of your user groups. You'll need managers, field workers, end-users, executives, operations staff, and other important key players in your organization.
The Project Team
The project team is responsible for documenting the business app's requirements. They'll also be responsible for promoting the value of the custom app to all its users, creating an ongoing training program for all employees, gathering feedback about the app, and suggesting new features and improvements.
The system administrator is responsible for setting up your new business application. A good administrator should have a perfect understanding of the business processes in your company in addition to the technology.
They're also responsible for data migration from other systems, integrating the new app with the existing business application systems, creating dashboards and building reports, and rolling out new features and upgrades.
Executives and Managers
Executives and managers will be responsible for planning your business app implementation, determining report and dashboard requirements, establishing workflow rules, etc.
End-users of the new business app should be involved in the implementation process to ensure the successful adoption of the new software. You need to give them an opportunity to provide feedback about the new system and suggest improvements.
You should also take measures to provide proper training for all employees so they'll be able to use the new business app efficiently.
Outsourcing Business Application Development
Growing businesses often lack the resources to build apps in-house. But that doesn't mean they need to build, expand, or overload an existing IT department. Instead, they can outsource their custom application development to a team of tech consultants.
With the right development team by your side, your business will be able to scale business applications efficiently. As a result, they can remain agile, increase ROI, and gain a competitive edge.
How to Outsource a Software Development Team
The quality of your future software depends on the business application development company you hire. Here's how to vet possible tech consultants to find the best partner for your business:
- Don’t choose the cheapest team out there, but try to find the most cost-effective solution for your business.
- Choose the development partner that possesses expertise in the technology that can be used to develop your business app.
- Find developers that are ready to suggest something that suits you vs. pushing for one solution which they know best.
- Focus on developers with a proven track of successful projects and good relations with their customers.
- Make sure that the application development company provides support after the implementation is done.
- Choose a partner who will dig deep into understanding your business problem to help you prioritize the requirements.
- An ideal development partner should be able to understand the business implications of the situation rather than focus on the technology.
- If you are not sure, ask for a free consultation to clear your possible doubts and concerns.
Published at DZone with permission of Kevin Shuler. See the original article here.
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