Quality Reads

Monday, October 02, 2006

Developing Data Systems for the Small Business

Its an interesting situation being in a small company transitioning to medium/large volume of business. In general, employees are still performing a wide range of jobs (you wear many hats) and being stretched increasingly thin.
An up and coming small business rarely has a business application that meets their needs (if they are indeed up and coming). So, they need an app that encapsulates or replaces their existing technology and has the ability to scale with future percieved or unpercieved growth. I have a few suggestions for anyone starting a project to complete such an enterprise app:

1. Stay away from straight data entry applications. Yes, they're quick to create and effective for record keeping but they don't command a high usage rate. If your application produces something used in the day to day business operations, then the average employee will be compelled to use your application correctly and often (plus, they'll help you debug it).

2. Look for opportunistic data entry. There are many times when you can't get all the information you need in one format. Rather than default to a standard data entry app, get as much information as you can with every possible opportunity (w/in reason). For example, if you have to gather the colors for all the vehicles owned in a fleet, allow people to email vehicle information from within the application and just a add a color field.

3. Distribute the load of data entry to your suppliers and clients. Seems so simple but it gets overlooked time and time again. Allow your clients a standardize way to submit their orders to you, it will allow you to provide better turn around on their services while freeing up company man hours. Most of all, get your suppliers to provide you with all your invoices, supply information, etc. the way you need it. Most company still follow "the customer's always right" motto.

Above all else, cut out any monotonious/repeatitive tasks whenever possible.

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