Why Write Custom Software?

Why should a business create custom software?

Automation of key business processes tailored to your business allow precise recording of critical data, reduction in labor, the ability to apply business rules to match your work flow and exact data reporting. The tailoring of applications to match the business process allows a company to achieve a high level of standardization yet make the process exactly as it needs to be – no wasted efforts. A few examples:

1. A business broker can allow the maximum exposure of key selling points for a business to the largest network of buyers, yet maintain confidential information that is available only to those with an executed NDA.

2. A manufacturing company can customize a QA system to collect exactly the information that is needed and summarizing results to a live production monitoring dashboard.

3. A consulting firm may create a software package that enables their clients to implement the recommended business practices thus increasing compliance to best practices and leveraging the consulting results with a simple-to-use system.

4. A professional organization will eliminate repetitive steps of extracting, sorting and calculating values with a spreadsheet. A custom system can eliminate manual work and provide enhanced reporting and notifications. Marketing, finance and engineering professionals often have standard reports they build for managers that can be automated to save many hours each week.

The justification usually requires the absence of a commercial solution that fits the requirements – missing functionality, limited work flow customization, high costs or inability to redistribute as needed. If there is justification, then there are a few ways to increase the speed to solution, manage costs and reduce the risk of delayed or inadequate solution. Many businesses that use custom software have limited experience or capabilities with the technical aspects of writing code.

When selecting a developer or firm to create custom software it is important to find a good fit. This requires the ability to communicate well, comprehend your business processes, have technical skills to build a solution and business experience to know what options are available as existing solutions.

Next week – Finding a fit with a software development partner.

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7 Success Factors for Retail Analytics

BandyWorks work with dozens of retail chains and growing businesses. We have found the following 7 critical success factors for driving continuous improvement through retail analytics.

1. Key Performance Indicators – executives and managers should focus intently on their very most important performance metrics. For example, an Executive Dashboard should provide a quick view of the top 3 to 5 most important KPI’s, with the ability to drill down into details.

2. Fast Page Loads – Slow page loads cause users to lose interest. Research by Google has shown that a page load delay even as small as 400 milliseconds is enough to cause people to search less. Affordable new database technologies allow for unprecedentedly fast page load times from analytics queries.

3. Custom Views – Different users have different responsibilities and focus. The dashboard should report on the metrics most relevant to each user’s primary responsibility within the company.

4. Trend Lines – It’s not terribly hard to commit to memory your performance analytics, but it’s really hard to detect intricate patterns of causality. For full context, it is enlightening to see data trends over different timeframes with a report that shows, perhaps, trailing 2 months data, or same week last year comparisons, in order to truly understand the trend of a key metric.

5. Drill Downs – In order to drive continuous improvements, it’s important to be able to drill down to the root cause of a metric, and take action. With one click, a drill down can show a specific data trend over the given timeframe. This makes it incredibly easy to identify your performance outliers, and conduct root cause analysis.

6. Flexibility – Make it easy to change the information or add something new as your company evolves. Resist the urge to put everything on one screen.

7. Accuracy – Inaccurate data will clearly undermine the benefit of your analytics, and lead to false assumptions. Don’t let it happen by hiring a less experienced developer to conduct intricate ETL work.

When considering your business analytics remember that performance data without insights is worthless. And insights need to be actionable, with teams and individuals who are empowered to drive continuous improvements.

To see examples of effective software analytics dashboards register here for a free online demo.

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Ten Things You Find in a Great Dashboard

Dashboards come in many different forms. Regardless of the form, great ones include:

Key Data – A dashboard is a quick view to show the status of Key Performance Indicators. Drill-down and trending can provide additional information, but keep the non-critical off the main view so users can quickly assess the situation.

Trending – Current static numbers such as sales this month, production this hour generally beg the question – are we getting better or worse? Having the ability change the time-frame for numbers to show, say, the last three months of data creates a context that enables the current number to have more value.

Drill Downs – When the key numbers are well understood, having the details to see why performance is getting better or worse, helps managers understand the situation and take action. Being able to click a button and see the specific data that is relevant in a particular time-frame saves time by providing the necessary details with virtually no effort.

Intuitive Navigation – No one wants to learn how to navigate a dashboard – just make it simple.

Tailored views – Different roles have different responsibilities. While many goals and KPI’s are shared there is typically different data for different roles. The dashboard should provide the quick information that is critical to a user’s responsibilities and key areas of work.

Fast response – Who wants to wait? If there is too much data, then a periodic update to a holding area may be required. The value and quantity of the data will determine how much pre-processing must be done. It is easier to understand waiting for drilldown data than for the key indicators, but keep your responses fast to keep your users engaged.

Easy access – If the dashboard is critical to your users, then it’s critical to deliver it to them where they are and when they want it. A little design work up front makes it possible to share data in different formats such as PC, tablet or smart phone.

Accurate data – Inaccurate data will kill dashboard usage quickly. Don’t let it happen.

Timely information – Bring the data when it is needed. Often daily is sufficient, but some data needs to be more current. If you are responsible for operations, then waiting until the next day may be too late. The users will let you know how fast they need to see the data.

Flexibility – Great insights spark the desire to learn more. Make it easy to change the information or add something new. Resist the urge to put everything on one screen. Make sure all main screen data is the most key information and use drilldowns and alternate views for additions.

Related topics

Creating dashboards that work for you
What I Learned as a Child Makes a Culture of Accountability Easy
Accountability – Six Things to Get Right – 6. Tracking
Convenience Store Accountability Rules – Oh Yeah!
Convenience Store Performance Dashboards – KPIs with Drilldowns

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