Too many of us have been there – you find yourself facing the reality that the software and data being used to operate and make decisions in your business just aren’t cutting it. For better or for worse, business leaders are the ones finding themselves tasked with solving these issues directly (not to mention having to demonstrate a solid return on the investment), instead of IT. The challenge is often finding the right approach: buy a tool? Subscribe to a service? Live with a workaround? The solution may be found in building and deploying a custom low-code app for your business. But to get buy-in from other leaders within your organization, you will need to demonstrate a quantitative business value.
Sometimes just doing the obvious — fixing the problem — is fine, but at Codence, we’re learning to take a step further with our clients and make sure we all know the why behind their requests. One thing we know for sure, through years of experience with clients, is that demonstrating and quantifying value to the business is key.
Setting Expectations About ROI
Building a custom app to run your key business functions can, at times, seem daunting or expensive. When you compare it with off-the-shelf software offerings, most business owners find that they can vary wildly in price and are rarely a perfect, or even good, fit straight out of the box. While cheaper, they may require significant compromises. It may end up that you need multiple platforms strung together to get all of the functionality and data you need. Or perhaps you’ll have to live with awkward workarounds. Over time, the costs to maintain these platforms and keep them integrated will grow. Meanwhile, the upfront costs of a custom app may be higher, but as we look at the return on investment over the short and long term, we see the scales begin to tip.
When you go custom, your app is built-for-purpose for your business and when built on a flexible, low-code platform, can be relatively easy to expand and adapt as your lines of business grow and change. For example, Brooklyn Navy Yard was able to work with us to streamline multiple systems into one to achieve greater flexibility and streamlined workflows.You can realize savings in both increased business efficiency and improved customer experience, leading to stronger sales and long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty. IT overhead is also relieved by not struggling to maintain multiple, potentially brittle, integrations and data sources. Most importantly, you can put tools into the hands of your team that really address their problems. Long story short, you need to take a longer term, multifaceted view when assessing the quantitative business value of implementing a custom app.
Before You Begin
Before beginning the mapping and building of your new app, there are necessary steps you must take. First, you need to be clear about what you are trying to solve. You should look past simple pain points and define the exact goals and business objectives you wish to achieve. WHY do you want to build the app you have in mind? When you have these crystal clear goals, think of them as your North star objectives – keep them in sight at all times and use them to guide your planning and decision-making as you proceed.
These goals and objectives should be data driven – this will help define the structure of your custom app and what it must do. The app itself should inherently deliver its own performance metrics. This allows you to more effectively set and measure key business KPIs and give you deeper insights into your customers, markets, and internal performance. You can see here how we helped our client break free from spreadsheets and develop a unified app that brought all of their data together seamlessly.
Many organizations struggle with this aspect and you should look for a vendor who can not only build the app, but act as a consulting partner. Through this partnership, you will be able to define your North star objectives that will drive your business forward and help you create the maximum value for your customers and your business.
What do these North star objectives look like? Here are a few examples:
- Client objective: unify the front and back office operations and get away from manual paper-based processes. Solution: develop an efficient, mobile-friendly platform that creates smooth automated workflows throughout their operation. They have increased productivity upwards of 30% after deploying their custom app.
- Client Objective: spend fewer hours each month on specific business processes. Solution: build a custom app that seamlessly integrates with their existing front ends. They have been able to save 20 hours per month with these new streamlined processes.
- Client Objective: replace manual steps with automations to improve efficiency and allow more people to work in the system simultaneously. Solution: a custom accounting app that automates processing and allows multi-user access. They have saved hundreds of man hours and increased output by 300%.
The Key to Staying on Track
We’ve all seen or heard nightmare stories about software projects gone wrong. What was supposed to be a straightforward endeavor keeps getting changed midway, added to, subtracted from, and rescoped until the final product is unrecognizable from what was originally designed. In order to derive maximum value from your custom app, you must avoid the perils of scope creep and its ilk.
The key to preventing disaster is to keep your North star objectives clear at all times. Every decision point needs to assess whether it furthers your key business goals. You must keep asking whether a feature makes sense and how it furthers those goals. New features can always be added later, but to achieve the most value from your initial development, you need to remain focused. A great example is our work with W.W. Reynolds, where we were able to deliver them the solutions they needed, on time and within budget, with a clear path forward when new features are required.
Ready to Launch
Assuming you have followed the above advice, how will you know when it’s time to launch? Again, refer back to your defined goals – are the necessary data structures in place to monitor key KPIs? Are the features built to support your business processes that achieve those goals? Your custom app is ready if and when those goals-based objectives are met. You can then create a roadmap for additional features and functions that further your goals, but “North Star Objectives” should be how you define “ready” while preventing scope creep and getting off-track.
Measuring and Monitoring Value
Once your custom app is launched, you can begin to measure and monitor the quantitative business value. Using the KPIs that you identified when defining your goals and objectives, you can monitor those key aspects of your business.
Keep in mind, it’s often useful to establish a baseline: what were your performance metrics prior to deploying your custom solution?
The value of your custom app will continue to come into clearer focus as you track your progress throughout the business, from increased back office efficiencies all the way through to improved customer relationships and experiences. With a tool that makes tracking all of its relevant KPIs easy, you will be able to monitor that increased value and ROI over time.
In fact, we recommend placing those measures front and center: put them on the first screen of your app, in a header, or readily available to your users. The more you can get your team to embrace this way of thinking, the more you can unlock future innovation and results.
Deciding to develop a custom app for your business is admittedly not a trivial endeavor, but the value to your business both internally in terms of increased efficiency and performance, and externally with improved customer outcomes can be unmatched. By keeping direct sight on your “North Star Objectives” and working with a vendor who can help translate those objectives into functional data and processes, you find your organization meeting and beating expectations and able to fully quantify your success against meaningful KPI metrics.
To learn more about how Codence can help you create quantitative business value with a custom app, schedule a complimentary consultation here.
Scott is an expert in FileMaker and other technologies, with decades of software development and a lifelong love for inventing new apps. Deeply passionate about both project management and design. His family has deep roots in Colorado, he loves spending time in the mountains, and is an enthusiastic cook.