Over the past few years there has been an explosion of business apps that are focused on specific industries. These business-specific apps are built to meet the common needs of most companies in their particular space. It has never been easier for your business to adopt mobile software, and yet these apps often fall-short of offering an integrated solution for existing systems and workflows.
We at Beloved Robot recognize the value of mobile apps for business, and more importantly we recognize the value of deeply integrating them within your company. We believe that the right custom integrated app for your business will have a greater impact than if you adopted the top business and productivity apps for your space. Read on to discover the three reasons why a custom app makes sense for your company.
You Are Unique
We have had the pleasure of working with a variety of companies. One day we might be working with a general contractor, the next day a steel manufacturer, and the next day a heavy equipment company. It is always interesting to see how differently every company is run. Even the general contractors that we have met work so different from each other. There may be similarities at a high level but when you get into the details, the workflows, every company is unique. In many situations it is your uniqueness that gives you an edge over your competitors.
Given that your company is unique, why would you make significant changes within your company just to conform to a generic app? In some cases a drastic change is necessary in order to produce drastic results. Yet we have found with a custom-built app that we can bring drastic results with minimal company change.
Unlock Your Data
A problem with many business apps in the market is that they create what we call "Data Silos". Surely you know what a silo is, a giant cylinder that holds grain. A Data Silo is where an app collects critical information about your business or process, and yet the only access to that data is through the app’s interface. Here's an example of how Data Silos can become a problem.
Jim's HVAC Service and Repair
Jim's HVAC has five technicians that are spread out over the metro area every day. All of the technicians have an iPhone but they are still required to do paperwork. They have started to adopt some business apps to move away from writing everything down on paper. The have implemented new processes with a variety of apps that track everything from mileage, time, paper scanning, expense tracking, and mapping technology for navigation.
The use of mobile apps has been an efficiency gain for the technicians, but it is becoming a huge headache for the office staff. When it’s time to invoice a customer they have to look in four or five different locations to collect all of the data they need. Instead of all of this data living in one place that is easily accessible, it is all locked into the app’s Data Silo. A solution could be found by building a custom app that provides the interfaces the technicians need and yet delivers the data to the office staff in a single format, or better yet delivers it to the systems already in place that can create the invoices for the customer.
The first thing that someone thinks of when they consider building an app is the cost. At Beloved Robot we have been building custom apps since 2012, and we know that building a custom app is as cost effective as ever. The technology might not be as cheap as you would like, but with recent advancements it is taking less effort to build custom solutions. The goal that we try to set with our customers is to focus on the return, rather than the investment. Let’s go back to Jim’s HVAC for an example:
Jim's HVAC Builds a Custom App
After a short prototyping phase with Jim’s team we approach him with a proposal. Jim needs an app that provides everything his technicians and office staff need to run the company and replace paperwork for good. Of course the proposal also includes the price. The app costs $60k up-front and an option for an on-going maintenance retainer for $1,000/month to keep the app running through software/hardware upgrades etc. Essentially we are proposing a $120k investment over the next five years. Bam! That’s the sound of Jim’s jaw hitting the desk. The sticker-shock alone is enough for Jim to write us off completely, but we follow-up with the expected return.
Even though the technicians saw some efficiency gained with the off-the-shelf business apps, our custom solution is tailored specifically to their needs. No longer do they need to jump between apps to log data, they can do it all in one place. Our custom solution is also integrated with their systems at the office so the technicians don’t have to fill out common data such as Job Names, Addresses, and Phone Numbers over and over again. Through our beta testing we have proven that we will save each technician 45 minutes a day from their existing process. That means we are saving the company more than 18 cumulative hours a week, or $360 a week.
The office staff is getting a giant efficiency gain as well. They aren’t having to track data and technicians down to invoice customers, all of that is now an automated process that is done for them. Again through our beta testing we proved we can save the office staff up to 16 hours a week, or roughly $320 a week.
The time saved by technicians means that they can move onto other customers faster. The time saved by the office staff is used to focus on collecting payments and tracking down new business leads. In addition the custom application provides valuable analytics such as customer lifetime value and average time spent per job, and that data can be used to improve workflows and make better sales and marketing decisions. The custom app will also make the business more scalable, so as Jim’s HVAC grows they have the app that guides the business and each new hire.
Our pitch to Jim is it will cost $120k over five years, yet he would save at least $176k and also be given the tools to increase sales and scale his company. If Jim is serious about growing his business this is a no brainer.
The Best Choice
If you go looking for an app to solve a problem you are going to find one, but I challenge you to see the whole picture. There are many apps that we support and love, but we also want our clients to fully investigate the possibilities of a custom solution. Your company is unique, and an integrated solution that is scalable, and tailored to your existing business is often the best choice.