Bespoke business software development

Database development is not a product, it’s a process over time. A system can be up and working in weeks but can always be improved/adapted as your business grows/changes. It’s an agile process using small steps with continual feedback/improvements. Here are some of the steps that we will go through together:

1. An initial meeting to discuss and explore your situation and your requirements. This normally takes between two and three hours. Where we explore:

  • your company’s existing processes
  • your computer system/s, screen sizes, both in the office and out
  • your personnel – who does what, what they need to do, how they would like to do it
  • your current day-to-day methods of working
  • your bottlenecks and frustrations
  • your needs and vision

2. At this stage a lot of time could be spent drawing up a detailed specification document. My experience is that, once done, it will cost a lot of money, will change, and will never be worth it. I suggest investing the time and resources into a ‘lean’ and ‘agile’ way of working. Together we create a process map of your requirements. Depending on your scope this might be

  • as simple as a form on an iPad to speed up and simplify data entry
  • or an app to optimise the shipping/transport/import costs from China to your warehouse
  • or a task handling, time keeping bit of software
  • or even a whole system to efficiently handle everything from enquiry to invoice; via multiple quote permutations, coordinating many suppliers, and using critical paths

3. A basic (accessible to all) database is created. We use this (rather than the ‘spec’) as something tangible which you can test, discuss, criticise and build upon. We continue to develop it together. We never go too far before feedback influences the process.

This live solution will demonstrate all the intricacies of fundamental database design. For example:

  • an entity relationship diagram
  • file structure
  • field definition tables
  • user list, complete with permission levels for each user
  • access privileges
  • security requirements
  • required scripts, routines and functions
  • user friendly interfaces
  • import and export functions
  • reports, either printed or pdf

4. In practical terms it means a working solution is delivered within a much shorter space of time. More cost effective and fit for purpose. We are in constant communication, which is the key to the success of your project!

This will then act as the springboard for other ideas. We often hear requests like:

  • I could do with a separate field for a description here
  • I want to see more rows of data here
  • I need more space for my description
  • Can I upload a picture against this piece of data?
  • Can I go off and do something else yet come back here to carry on?
  • You couldn’t make it do…?
  • To which the answer is always yes!

Development of your database system goes at your speed and will progress as you test/use it! Initially running in tandem with your current way of working. But very quickly replacing your existing bottlenecks and limited system.

5. We (you, your staff and I) will continue to develop and test your new system as it is rolled out. You won’t need a dedicated project manager or IT department. Or expensive training with new software as it has been designed to automate and speed up the way that you currently work. There is no need for training to do things differently.

6. There is usually 3 main groups of users/stake holders:

  • Users. Those who on a daily basis enter/manipulate/use the data. They know what needs to be done and what could aid their daily workflow. These are the coalface workers, if you will. Satisfying their needs is key to the roll out of your new bespoke software.
  • Supervisors or Heads of Department. These people supervise the daily tasks and typically need overviews, reports and insist on the relevant and easy dissemination of information between departments.
  • Directors or senior management. These are the people who want reports of the bigger picture and have overall responsibility over the organisation.

7. Issues that will be resolved:

  • bottlenecks and inefficiencies
  • replacing current paper, Word or spreadsheet documents and/or off-the-shelf software
  • avoiding the need for work-arounds
  • easier searching and finding of info (especially historical data)
  • making one current copy available to many
  • automating/speeding up everyday tasks and regular reports
  • integration of processes, departments, sites and so on
  • relevant and unique features reflecting the way you work
  • savings on time, mistakes and hassles
  • Increased security
  • ie a big improvement on ‘the system’ you have now

8. We like to become part of your team! In an ideal world, we come and spend as much time as we can with you. Hot-desking. That means we will actually be writing code while in your workspace. This we find, opens channels of communication, builds relationships and creates a more relevant and efficient solution. It also ensures that the bespoke software is rolled out and implemented effectively.

Change management is always an issue. But we find, with staff involved from its very inception, there is a positive expectation and eagerness to improve their workflow – staff ‘buy in’!

9. Your old data can be imported in at any stage and your old ways of working replaced. Delight reigns supreme! One user quoted she was ‘Chuffed as nuts!’.

10. A word about costs/payments. These are based upon time taken. Before we begin, we jointly agree a credit limit (like you do with your customers and suppliers). We invoice you when that limit is reached, you pay us, we continue. Some clients prefer a regular fixed amount, standing order.

The majority of examples on this site cost between £3,000 and £10,000 plus. Perhaps one in three invest as much again over the next year or two. A few invest constantly over the years and continue to save even more time and effort, automating more procedures and adapting as new business procedures are implemented.

11. You end up with a bespoke tailor-made solution that fits perfectly. You will totally own it and have full access/development codes.

12. Those numbers again? 01934 782651 or 07940 514351. Call.

bespoke database development script