Don’t Do IT Yourself: Why You Should Consider Outsourcing Your Software

Just because a business has the resources to build bespoke software themselves, does that mean it's always a good idea? You may wonder why so many Social Media Managers don't actually manage their own accounts, or web-designers don’t maintain their own websites. In a similar vein, this article aims to explore the ins and outs of DIY tech, and why it can often be a good idea to get someone to build it for you.

Let’s think of it this way: you’re probably more than able to cut your own hair, but chances are, you get someone else to do it for you. (And if you don’t, fair play, but you’ve just ruined our analogy. Tut tut.) Cutting your own hair would be time consuming, probably very messy, and if you’re anything like us, you’re in for a good chance of ending up with some sort of mullet / bowl-cut hybrid. Not the best look.

Similarly, it’s often the case with business. Not mullets and bowl cuts, thankfully, but finding out that designing their own tech is actually far more of a hassle than it’s worth. Not only does it take up valuable time that could be spent on sales, existing work, or your general business processes, but this time translates into money. Or rather, a loss of it.

It’s an easy trap to fall into when it comes to designing your own software, managing your own social media or building your own spaghetti code spreadsheets. Theoretically, you may imagine that if you do it all yourself, you won’t have to spend much, if anything at all. But this isn’t always strictly true. The money you save in service charges and existing software will most likely all be lost through time. Time that you could’ve spent working on your own clientele.

This means that in reality, despite first appearances, building your own software becomes more of a false economy than a money-making shortcut. An expert, for example, might be able to build that exact same software you can, but in a fraction of the time - so, yes you have to pay them for their services, but the time saved will most likely equate to a far bigger ROI.

In fairness though, we’re not saying building your own software is entirely a bad idea - in fact, more often than not, bespoke software is the best way to create efficient, business-first tech that works precisely for your requirements. But the point here is that it’s often not beneficial to build it yourself, even if you do have your own tech-expert.

As such, there’s a multitude of ways you can get this software without having to use your own resources. And that’s the real ticket when it comes to business.

Want some bespoke software building? We bring both the knowledge and know-how, alongside a brilliantly business mind. In short, we can keep your ROI happy whilst bringing you the tech you need.

Business Know-how or Programming Wit? The Tech-Design Tussle

With the rapidly changing landscape of IT and business, having the right line-of-business (LOB) software is becoming more and more important to keep on top. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the ins-and-outs of software design, and aim to answer the question: Do you need to be a genius programmer to build high quality, line-of-business software? 

You may think it’s an obvious answer. Surely, without in-depth programming knowledge and know-how, where would you even begin with designing line-of-business software? But the clue’s in the name. If you don’t know what your business actually needs, how will you decide what exactly you want the software to do? 

The short answer, then, is a resounding no. Designing line-of-business software isn’t about knowing your way around the ins-and-outs of deep C++ script, or being able to jump into the Matrix at will. It’s instead about having an in-depth knowledge of your business requirements, and applying them to the design of a program.

A genius programmer can certainly make headway when it comes to designing software - they are a genius after all - but without knowing exactly what you need the specific software to do, you’ll probably just end up with a catch-all piece of tech that will need constant attention and development as your business requirements take shape. And we all know how that ends up... (the dreaded spaghetti code… *shudder*). 

Therefore, knowing exactly what you need the software to do before it comes to the build will put you in far greater stead than just rushing headlong into the nitty-gritty world of code. In much a similar way to choosing what software to use, it’s ironically more difficult - and arguably more important - to analyse your business and design a system around exactly what you need it to do, rather than actually programming and coding one.

As such, a tightly-scoped, simple program can actually deliver far more of a benefit than a genius-ly complex piece of software that’s able to simulate entire worlds, whilst also washing your dishes. Although - to be fair - that would be quite useful. But it certainly wouldn’t be cheap, and would probably take a good few thousand years to design.

Heading back to reality for a hot second, a little bit of both never did any harm, sure. But the point here is that this is software for business. And that means ROI, UX, UI and everything in between. As such, it’s probably best to let Mr. Business Whizz run wild before you even dip your toes in the type of code you want to use. That way, when your local tech person gets to work, you have a clear plan of exactly what’s needed; leading to a tightly scoped and efficient technological wonder, rather than a wild, untamed beast. 

So, in conclusion, the ultimate dream would be some sort of robotic business-whizz-programmer-genius-hybrid, but if you don’t have one of those to hand: know your business before you sow your code, and you’re well on the right track to getting your business running like clockwork. 

That sounded quite profound, didn’t it?

Need any help designing LOB software? We bring all the Business Whizz-dom you’ll need. We have a wealth of management consulting experience - but are also competent programmers. Go with us, and you get the best of both worlds. Check out our website for more information.

Buzzword or Bespoke? Why Picking The Right Tech is Important.

It’s easy to get swept up in the latest technology and gadgets, but when it comes to picking the right technology for your business, it’s not always about following the trend. ‘Buzzword’ software may look great on paper, but is it the right fit for your business? Will it deliver on ROI or break the bank? These are a few of the important questions we aim to answer in this article.

Firstly, when choosing your software, it’s important to consider exactly what you’re setting out to achieve. Whether you’re managing a small amount of data, a bus-load, whether you want a client-side service or server-side, your choice definitely matters. 

If you’re only managing a small amount of data, choosing the latest tech might be like purchasing a brand new hedge trimmer to cut your hair. It’d do the job, sure, but a nice and cheap pair of scissors would most certainly be the more sensible - and appropriate - option. Similarly though, the vice-versa can be true. Trimming your hedge with a pair of scissors is probably not going to cut it, if you excuse the terrible pun. 

That’s all well and good, but how exactly do you know which software to choose? With such a huge range of available tech, the differences aren’t always as simple and obvious as between a pair of scissors and a hedge-trimmer, but that’s why we’re here.

Firstly, let’s summarise.

There are a few important things you need to consider when it comes to choosing the right technology;

  • Firstly, the purpose of the tech. You need to consider carefully whether or not it aligns with your business goals. Remember that terrible hedge-trimmer analogy?

  • Secondly, the ubiquity of the tech, or rather, how widely used the particular software is. A more ubiquitous tech naturally has a wider range of support, and as such, it’ll generally be easier (and thus cheaper) to find competent developers with the necessary experience. Plus, if it’s used by many more businesses, it’s probably set to stand the test of time.

  • And lastly - but definitely not leastly - whether or not your chosen software is open or closed source. This will undoubtedly bring up issues of cost, usability and security. There’s no definitive answer for which is best, but if you’re looking for a cheaper option, open-source is usually the way to go.

But that’s far from an exhaustive list.

There are still many other factors that come into play when choosing the right software for your business. Let’s take a look at some examples.

  • Let’s say you’re building a system where you need to service a huge number of users outside of your organisation. Here, it’d be best to look at client-side frameworks, so you can take advantage of your clients machines instead of offloading too much stress on your own servers.

  • If the users were inside your organisation, for example a large sales team who need to collaborate, consider a desktop application. This would have the advantage of keeping most of the infrastructure of the application local, so once installed, only raw data is transmitted between the client and the server, leading to a snappier experience all round.

  • In the same vein, responsive-design web applications can allow you to use systems across a variety of devices, without requiring any software updates. The only issue here however is that the user experience can be significantly impacted by a lousy internet connection. Responsive applications are best for those with good internet connections, but would rather avoid installing updates.

  • For heavy calculations, MS Excel is still a great way to go, because it’s so familiar to many. Clever use of macros and VBA (these are advanced features of Excel) can turn simple spreadsheets into powerful and robust tools that almost resemble bespoke software packages.

  • Although not used very often any more, MS Access is still a quick and easy way to deal with small databases, too. It can be very cost-effective if already used by the organisation.

So, in short, the most expensive doesn’t always mean the best. More often than not, software specifically chosen for your requirements - rather than a catch-all super-program - will not only help deliver a much better ROI, but you may even find that it does the job a little better. What’s not to like?

Still feel none the wiser? Or just need a little help deciding? We’re here to help. Drop us a call or an email and we’ll help you choose the perfect fit.

The Perils of Home-Grown Spreadsheets: When To Contact a Consultant!

Bespoke software can be a fantastic way to save a bit of bank, especially when you don’t require a fully fledged software system that does everything from automating invoices to making you a hot cuppa in the morning. But how far can a home-grown spreadsheet go? In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the common issues that arise, and when it’s probably about time to contact a consultant!

Analysing data, automating tasks, streamlining business processes; a Spreadsheet can be a powerful tool in the right hands. But, like the tender leaves of a Bonsai Tree, they need care, attention and a loving prune once in a while if they are to stand the test of time.

Often a spreadsheet solution arises out of a specific business need - but, then again, what type of solution doesn’t - and it falls to your local tech guy or gal to take it upon themselves to create it. It’s all well and good, and it works just fine; exactly as intended. But the lack of formal training in spreadsheet design may yet reveal itself as a problem further down the line... 

These hand-made solutions often work well. For a while. But over time new requirements are added, staff members (that actually knew what was going on) move on, newbies start adding more and more code, tangling and weaving like a kid’s bowl of spaghetti, and eventually you end up with a bloated, tangled mess of software that no-one quite understands. Not only that, but this poor, bloated piece of software might even become slow, buggy, or just plain broken.

But, just as a weed-ridden flowerbed needs the green fingers of a gardener, the tangled roots of old spreadsheet software often needs the deft hand of an IT consultant. It’s actually a far more common problem than you’d think, stretching across all types of industry, and it’s a problem we’re often asked to deal with. 

In short, bespoke software often takes on a life of its own when multiple people contribute, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be reigned in and returned to its former, succinct glory. It’s not necessarily just a matter of cleaning out some old, nasty code though, but when it comes to rebuilding a solution, we’ve spent years refining and perfecting our spreadsheet know-how like some sort of techie Sherlock. Not to toot our own horn. 

So, terrible analogies aside, is your home-grown spreadsheet:

  • A tangled mess of code?
  • Slow?
  • Buggy?
  • Just plain broken?
  • All of the above?

Then it’s probably about time to call in the big guns. Don’t worry, we’ll have your bespoke pride-and-joy back up and running in no time.

Need help with sorting out old and outdated spreadsheet solutions, or need some new bespoke software creating? Take a glance at our website to see how we can help.

Putting the ‘Tact’ in ‘Tactical Solution’: What Exactly Do We Mean?

You may have heard IT wizards ramble on about tactical solutions, bespoke solutions and every solution under the sun. But what exactly is a tactical solution? And how does it work for businesses? In this article we’ll delve into the Better Technology psyche, and explore exactly what we mean when we say “tactical solution.”

In short, it’s pretty much exactly as it sounds - a plan or software tactically put in place to solve a specific challenge within a business. But there’s a key difference between designing a “tactical” solution and, let’s say, a “strategic” one. It may just sound like a different word for the same old thing, but when it comes to a tactical solution, it’s all about designing a plan or architecturing a piece of software quickly - and generally with a very specific goal in mind.

The buzz-phrase when it comes to tactical solutions is to deliver high on ROI, making sure to invest minimal time and budget from the client, but making as significant an impact as possible. It’s an interim, a quick-fix, and whether or not it’s a stepping stone to a larger plan, it’s a solution generally designed to scratch a very immediate itch.

Not only that, but tactical software and solutions also allow you to quickly see how a fully fledged solution might operate. The benefits of this are vast, allowing for new requirements and issues to be visualised, which can then easily be implemented, as opposed to diving straight into the fully fledged system (eg. ERP, Oracle or SAP). It’d be like bringing a brand-new toolbox full of specialist tools to put up a picture, when in reality your old-reliable hammer and nail would probably do the trick.

As you can probably imagine, a system such as this will take far longer to change, as well as potentially being far more expensive. And that’s not the aim of the game.

Let’s think of it this way.

You’re finally moving out of mum’s place, but you’re relying on a bicycle to move all of your stuff. Unsurprisingly, It’s a time-consuming venture, not to mention unreliable and generally more of a hassle than it’s worth. You’d like to start using a lorry, but unfortunately, that requires training and a significant monetary investment well above your budget and time constraints.

Do you:

  • Keep using the bicycle, despite taking forever to move all of your things?

  • Find a car within your budget and start using that in the interim until you have the required money and training for the truck?
  • Take out a huge loan so you can afford an intense HGV training course and shiny new Globetrotter?

Realistically, option two is probably the way to go. In this scenario, you may even discover that a Lorry was never actually necessary, as your trusty Ford Focus provides adequate space for all of your dusty vinyls and records. Although you’d be done in one trip, the ROI just isn’t there; huge debt, possibly months of driving lessons and good luck parking your new lorry outside your city-centre flat.

As you probably guessed, the car represents a bespoke, tactical solution. Even if you’ve got your eyes set on a brand-spanking-new HGV, the car will certainly tide you over until you’ve got the time and money.

So, why choose a tactical solution?

Whether or not a tactical solution is the right fit really boils down to what makes a tactical solution, tactical. More often than not, there’s going to be multiple possible solutions for every problem. There will be cheaper or more dear solutions, limited or more flexible options, quick-fixes and more long term solutions, but the tact comes from designing an interim solution which is the perfect fit for your business’ specific requirements.

And that’s where we come in. At Better Technology Consulting we understand that there’s never a one-size-fits-all fix, and every single business or problem is unique. Bringing a juicy combination of business know-how and technical ability, we design bespoke plans and software that put the business first, not the tech. This means that each bespoke piece of software will be precisely what you need, so you can cash in on high ROI without breaking the proverbial bank.

If you’re looking to scope up a project and need a helping hand, get in touch with us today.

5 Things to Consider When Driving Adoption for New Software

Nobody likes change, and nowhere is that more true than the world of software.  Consider the public reaction when popular sites like YouTube or Facebook change their layout. But just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s something to avoid – and in many cases, it would actively help the user.

Low adoption rates can be the bane of any software company, but there are plenty of tactics you can employ to drive greater adoption without too much added stress. Here are some easy ways to boost your software adoption.  

1. Position your software as a ‘push’ or a ‘pull’

Broadly speaking, there are two different ways that new software will be adopted by staff: either it’s ‘pushed’ on them by company policy, or they’re ‘pulled’ towards it by virtue of the fact that it genuinely helps them do their job. When trying to maximise new software adoption, it’s always a good idea to focus on the benefits to the user – both in the short and long term.

2.  Ensure your users actually need it

Before you even consider a change in software solutions, be sure that your users really need it. Generally speaking, you should avoid making changes for the sake of making changes. One idea is to run a survey prior to development to identify the level of need for the new software. If workflows are working just fine as they are, you’ll have your answer – and vice versa. 

3.  Find your champions

It is inevitable that some users will be more engaged than others; leverage this by convincing them to become your ‘champions’ who are willing to promote the benefits of it, train other users and provide comprehensive feedback.  Be prepared to offer 'sweeteners' such as specific features that they will benefit from in order to get these users on board.  Front-line champions are vital to successful adoption.

4.  Keep your roadmap open

It’s never fun to fumble around in the dark, and the same can be said for software. To get users both using and engaging with new software, it’s a good idea to be open and honest about the product’s roadmap. By signposting key features that will be available down the line, you can encourage users to make the most of software now, so that they can hit the ground running when the ‘killer feature’ they really want is introduced.

5.  Focus on a smooth user experience from day one

Software is always easier to adapt to when it just works. There are few better ways to guarantee low adoption than to provide software which is buggy, crashes often, or just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Smooth adoption happens when you create that magic balance of software that improves workflows, and does it in a way that’s fast, smooth, and easy. 

These are just a handful of ways you can improve user adoption of your software. For more ways to make software even easier to use, get in touch with us today. 

What Makes BTC Different?

Building a business from the ground up is no small task. But with a little technical know-how, a pinch of luck, and a lot of hard work, Better Technology Consulting is truly here to stay. In today’s blog post, we’d like to explain a little about where we came from – and exactly how our past helps us stay focused on our future.  

Better Technology Consulting (BTC) is the brainchild of a technology geek who spent years as both a City trader and management consultant.  After getting bored of the "intangible" solutions that many consultancies were selling with little measurable impact, he soon realised that he could leverage his experience and channel it into developing real solutions for a huge range of companies, particularly by streamlining and automating processes through smart use of technology.

Smart. Simple. Focused.

So how exactly does BTC set itself apart from the pack? Well, we like to think there are multiple answers to that question, but there’s one that’s at the heart of every project – and that’s client-focus.

We don’t mean simply looking at what a business needs strategically in the long-term, but also looking at a more granular level by engaging with the users themselves. It’s amazing how quickly core issues can be identified when we see them first-hand.

Here’s a good example of this: one of our national clients had a few problems with a shared MS Excel spreadsheet that its sales teams were using. Put simply, there were too many people trying to use it at once, which made it slow, unstable and a pain to use.   The client suggested that we upgrade it to an MS Access-based database, however we knew that meant that each salesperson (who could be based anywhere) would need to be using a computer with MS Access installed in order to update their sales.  

After we spoke to the end-users themselves, it became apparent that the ideal solution would be something that could be updated from anywhere, and not require any new software.  Alongside that, a few extra requests cropped up, such as in-built reporting. 

Our solution? To develop a bespoke web-based application that could be accessed from anywhere with a connection to the client’s VPN (for security) and would grow with the team. A separate section on the website would host the in-built reporting and breakdowns and that was updated in real-time, every time a user entered information.  It didn’t take long for our client to accept our proposal and hop on board.

“Start small, and work with agility”

There’s an inherent risk with any software project that what you plan for might not be what you really need. Rather than waiting until the testing phase to discover potential pitfalls, here at BTC we do things a little differently. (And, dare we say it, better).

As part of our standard practice, we get involved in the design process as early as possible. This allows us to crystallise the essence of the project up-front. We start with a small team to keep initial costs down, then quickly create a working prototype of our proposed solution. This part is essential, because if everything goes right, the bulk of the budget can then be dedicated to something we already know will work.

Smart stuff, eh? At BTC, we use the well-known Agile methodology, meaning we develop in bite-sized chunks with time set aside for testing and feedback. This gives clients directional control of development, and keeps everyone on-target every step of the way.

Laying the groundwork for the road ahead

At BTC, we’re not satisfied until we’re sure our software is being used to its full potential. The best app in the world won’t do anyone any good if nobody uses it, which is why we focus on user adoption from an early stage.   We have a number of tools in our toolkit that we use to drive adoption early on, including a focus on the direct benefit to the user, documentation, training videos, and live demos.

We lay the groundwork from the start to ensure that the road ahead is smooth for both the software and the people who are actually using it every day. Even better, our unique design philosophy means that the software we deliver can be expanded and upgraded should the need arise.

It’s all part and parcel of the BTC philosophy, and it’s just one of the reasons that we’re the perfect choice for business software solutions.

The BTC team is always interested in what the community has to say, so please feel free to share, like, or let us know what you think in the comments below. Want to know even more about BTC? Don’t hesitate to check out the rest of our website or get in touch for a quick chat about your project.

 

Welcome to the BTC blog!

We’ve had a very busy few months since our incorporation, but it's about time for us to get involved with the business and software development community by sharing our views on industry topics that we feel are important to us and our clients.

Our goal is to kick-off a discussion around current issues in the business technology world, discuss our experiences, talk about lessons learnt and share our company philosophies with the wider community.

Our hope is that you’ll find our content interesting, get involved with the discussion to make us all more knowledgeable and improve the services we offer.

We are very interested in connecting with all types of readers, from fellow developers to IT project managers, end-users or even just BTC friends who have an interest in business software or technology consulting - we’d like to invite you to join in with the community by sharing, liking or commenting on any of our blog posts.

And if any of our content ever strikes a chord with you, please don’t hesitate to check out the rest of our website or get in contact with us for a quick chat about your project.