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Five Mistakes Businesses Make While Building Internal Applications and How To Solve Them
Do you remember the days when people ordered pizza over the telephone? Or raised their hand and hailed a taxi? Or signed in a register outside the workplace to mark attendance? Yes. Because it wasn’t so long ago.
Much of the pervasiveness of technology happened only in the last decade, and it has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives. As of 2018, Tsuen Tea, a tea house established in 1125 CE and often regarded as the oldest tea house in the world started selling its product online for customers across the globe.
Often, this is for the better. Technology has enabled us to do things faster, better and with less effort. Businesses haven’t stayed far behind. Everyone from Walmart to Walt Disney is rapidly adopting technology to compete in this new world.
And this typically happens in two ways:
- Using technology as a channel to offer services to the customer. Say, online banking or mobile-based food delivery.
- Using technology as an enabler to improve internal operations. Like your ERP or project management software.
While technology as a channel gets coverage and therefore visibility, internal-facing applications see much less debate. As a B2B technology company, we audit, build and maintain a lot of internal-facing applications for our customers. From the timesheet management app we built for Cherry Coatings to the inspection management tool we built for an Indian airport, we’ve seen a wide range of real-world business problems that are easily and efficiently solved by technology. In our journey, we’ve also seen customers make the same set of mistakes again and again.
So, today, we’re discussing: Five mistakes businesses make while building applications for internal use and how to solve them.
#1 Restricting Accessibility
Whether you’re building an app for employees, partners or vendors, you need to make sure that it is accessible to all of them easily and readily. Gone are the days of saying “This application will only work on Windows XP and Internet Explorer”. Today’s customers expect access across platforms, on the go! Which is why, one of our customers, QTrak, refreshed their iOS-only application to include Android devices as well.
Restricting accessibility of your application to a single platform, device type or tech ecosystem significantly limits your reach. As Micheal C. Mankin, a partner at Bain and Company, says “If your goal is a high adoption rate within the organization, make sure you’re choosing the most approachable, most intuitive system possible.”
While building any application, survey your potential users. Identify the technology, tools and platforms they have access to. And build your app to make sure every last one of them can access it.
#2 Ignoring User-Friendliness
There used to be a time when people read instruction manuals, watched videos and even went to training programs to learn how to use technology. But in today’s world, good user experience (UX) is one where the user needs no climb, no learning curve. We see several businesses build complex internal applications in the hope that they can train their employees to use it. Sadly, that will not work.
Before designing/architecting your application, identify user personas. Do you have blue-collar workers, non-English speakers, older people unacquainted with technology? Then, build an application that works for them all.
#3 Not Optimizing for Scale
Business owners often make the mistake of thinking about short-term savings instead of long-term benefits. In doing so, you might implement a new application on your existing on-prem infrastructure, simply because it already exists. Now, imagine something like an employee appraisal software. April through February, this model works perfectly fine. Come appraisal time in March, every one of your employees is on the software that isn’t implemented for scalability. It will end up being slow, perform inadequately, or worst case, keep crashing.
While building and implementing an app, think of the future. You might not need scale today, doesn’t mean you won’t ever need it. Find the best way to optimize costs, without compromising on the scale.
#4 Not Focusing on Performance
Once an application is built and deployed, there is no competition for it. In that, your users — often employees, vendors or partners — won’t be looking for better alternatives. However slow or frustrating your timesheet application is, your employees would fill it — albeit grudgingly. As a result, businesses have a tendency not to worry about its performance. And this is a grave mistake.
Any time an employee spends on your application that isn’t necessary is a waste of productive man-hours for you. Let’s say your app takes 10 seconds to load a page. Not only is that a waste, it is also likely that your employee will open up Twitter on the side while waiting. They might not return in 10 seconds, they might take 30, which only increases the overall time wasted in the process.
Prioritize application performance right from the start. Build your architecture, database design etc. keeping performance in mind. After implementation, keep optimizing performance as you go along.
#5 Not Building for Purpose
The temptation to build a single application that could do it all can be unsurmountable. Especially, if you come from a generation where monolithic organization-wide applications from SAP or Oracle were the norm. But the world is moving away from generalist software to specific solutions today. By accommodating too many requests or features, you might cause the application to do nothing well.
Instead of building one large all-purpose app, build multiple small applications that integrate seamlessly with one another. This will make sure your small apps perform well, are light on the device and fit well into the larger picture.
While these are by no means the only mistakes that businesses make, these are the most common ones that we’ve seen. If you’re struggling with any of these problems or are looking for help for developing your internal application, speak to our experts at contact us