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Choosing software (or getting it developed) for your business

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For small and medium sized businesses, having the optimum software solutions for the various roles within the business is absolutely key to maximising productivity and efficiency.

Many managers and business owners don’t know what level of expectation they should have for software and computers in order to maximise the efficiency of a role, because they don’t know what is possible.  In general terms, everything that can be automated should be.  However, there will be a cost benefit analysis of the software purchase or development cost versus the gains to be had, once the finer level of possible efficiencies are analysed.  So in very simplistic terms then, you should take a look at each role and see what would make that role easier.  It could be additional functionality, reviewing which redundant actions occur, the level of repetition, or what could speed things up.  With this information, the challenge is then to select or develop software to facilitate their improvement.

We are now in an age where there is a vast amount of off-the-shelf software available, from one-man band developers, up to the Microsoft’s of this world.   The software is either in the form of downloadable applications or software as a service (in the Cloud).  It is becoming increasingly common for various applications, both downloadable and Cloud based, to link up and be able to pass information between them.  Therefore, it is more and more rare for a company to need to commission their own software development of a bespoke application.  Finding what’s out there, selecting the best application(s) for the job, and configuring/customising them to work for your business, however, is no mean feat.  The point is though, in all likelihood, it will be a fraction of the cost and risk of a bespoke software solution.

Let’s take an example of an organisation with several customer facing employees, for example from sales, marketing, customer services and accounts functions, looking to have a central CRM system built.  They need CTI (computer telephony integration) to enable telephony control and interaction from the computer, a very high level of security, and they have some very specific requirements specific to their business, where they need to control a piece of machinery at the customers site initiated directly from the CRM.

To start with a choice must be made on the CRM system, of which there are a plethora available, both paid for, such as MS CRM (onsite or Cloud) and Salesforce, or alternatively open source (free), such as Vtiger.  There are many things to consider when making this choice, ease of use, ease of configuration/customisation, standard of support, cost, reliability, interactivity with other applications etc.

The CRM can be customised for the needs of each department.  On top of the CRM, an add-in application can be purchased for CTI connectivity to link up the telephony – almost certainly someone will have written an application that works with your particular telephone system.  To enable the very highest security a Cloud service such as Duo can facilitate two-factor authentication as a means of logging into the CRM. Therefore, when logging in to the CRM a user must type in a password, and following that an application on the user’s smartphone will ask whether the user wants to accept or deny the login.  In order to control something at a user’s site a Cloud service called IFTTT (If This Then That) could be used.  This can link up different systems, without having an application written specifically for it, which is something that previously wasn’t possible.

This is just one example, but there are many more options I could have listed to achieve the same goal.  Going back even just a few years, a requirement such as this would have undoubtedly been a very expensive bespoke software development.  The skill these days is to research what’s out there, and establish what works well and what works together.  It’s one of the activities that as a support company we find ourselves doing more and more of in order to give our customers informed recommendations.  Making the right choices makes a huge difference to the speed and cost of implementation, and the suitability and usability of the resultant system.   We see it as our duty to know what’s out there.

Priority One – London IT Support

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Steve Thomson

With a degree in Computers and Business and an IT background in Market Research, Media Monitoring and Publishing, Steve brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Priority One.

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