Will 2015 be the year of the custom business solution?

business technology strategy planning

People do love their apps. “People” includes your employees, contractors, business partners and senior managers. They love the convenience, the simplicity and the focus – and never being away from “their” data. 

Smart businesses are beginning to realise the value of mobile business solutions – situational, lightweight applications that simplify and mobilise functions – for saving paper, boosting productivity, and extending data and workflows beyond the confines of the traditional office. As of July 2014, mobile device users could choose from more than 2.5 million downloadable third-party apps. Business apps were the third-most popular category on the Apple App Store in September 2014, after games and education.

But what if none of those apps is your app; exactly the right form, fit and functionality for your business?

No matter. With the availability of easy no-coding development tools and the inexpensive infrastructure to connect and run solutions, even smaller businesses are finding it easy to get the exact B2E (business-to-employee) solutions they want – instead of putting up with one-size-fits-all apps, feature-overloaded software packages or inflexible cloud services.

Beyond ease of use and simplicity, custom solutions help your business exploit what makes it unique: your data. Custom apps turn business data into information by providing:

  • Data consolidation: You can consolidate fragmented bits of business data (such as paper forms or multiple spreadsheets, or even data from back-office software applications) into a central data source that’s continually updated and can be shared with anyone, anywhere.
  • Data portability: You can share your data easily across office computers, mobile devices and web browsers, letting your business data go wherever your business goes in the form factor best suited to each user.
  • Data integrity: You can capture data once, at the point of generation – whether on an iPhone or a laptop or a desktop PC. This eliminates data errors that can result from delayed data entry or duplicate data entry, and the data disconnect that results from having multiple copies of the same data scattered around.
  • Data innovation: Once you have your data digitised and in one central, sharable place, you’ll  find new ways of using data to save money, improve productivity, and out-maneuver your competitors.

Organisations of all kinds are already using custom business apps to propel their businesses.

For example:

  • Iconic Australian hat maker, Akubra, made the move to a custom solution, after operating on a DOS-based system. After spending up to eight hours a week tracking stock, Akubra can now locate stock immediately and provide customers with instant answers. Since using the solution, Akubra has experienced its best six months in a row since the 80s, achieved same day shipping for the first time, and has been able to significantly improve customer service.
  • Way To Go Heliservices, a New Zealand-based helicopter tour agency offering a range of commercial, agricultural and aerial transportation services, uses a custom solution to streamline their business processes across several locations, including in the air. The solution allows all job details for agriculture and transport helicopter operations to be tracked, and the details are sent back to the office database for immediate billing and reporting. The solution has allowed the business to bypass manual and paper-based processes, along with time consuming spreadsheets to manage data.
  • Environmental organisation Planet Ark sought out a custom mobility solution that would allow staff to access and share information from any given location. With two offices in the Sydney CBD, along with remote offices in the Blue Mountains, the organisation specifically wanted a mobile solution that would free staff from physical offices, and also better engage the team. The custom solution has been hugely successful in allowing staff to access data and work remotely, which has given them the ability to work more productively. It has also lowered infrastructure costs through shared office areas and hosted services.
  • Melbourne football club, Carlton FC, started using a custom solution to escape the difficulties and burden of using handwritten notes and spreadsheets to manage data. Looking after more than 44 players, Carlton FC’s strength and conditioning coach introduced a custom solution to bring the club’s training into the 21st century. The club can now deal with injuries and changes on the go, as the solution involves instant data entry on iPad, which has digitised and revolutionised the Carlton training regimes.

With the tools available and early success stories like those above, could 2015 be the year that custom apps take off for business? The data points to “yes.”

Author the Author:

Ryan Rosenberg heads marketing and services for FileMaker, Inc., which delivers innovative software to easily create custom business solutions for iPad, iPhone, Windows, Mac and the web.  He leads the teams responsible for product management, marketing programs, developer relations and customer support.