Hiring an app agency vs. an app freelancer

What is the more cost effective option; an app development agency, or a freelance app developer? While there’s plenty of pros and cons to assign to either, it is our belief that ultimately, when presented with the entirety of an app’s lifecycle, hiring an app development agency is the better choice.

Why? Because apps are never truly finished products – they exist in a medium that necessitates constant and continuous improvement. When your product exists in a space that sees users demanding the best features, the fastest loading times, and the most up-to-date UI, you need to ensure your app’s code is accessible, modifiable, and organized.

Below, you’ll find the pros of cons of hiring an app development agency versus a freelance app developer, via a comparison of both options throughout each step in the development process:

Finding an agency vs. finding a freelancer

Whether you’re searching for a freelancer or a development agency, you’ll want to begin online – however, do your best to stay away from Google or other search engines.

For freelance app developers, sites like UpWork or Clutch or The Manifest. All of these sites function very similarly; you can search for developers based on certain criteria, and find contact information (whether through the aggregate site or their own) in order to begin the vetting process.

While it’s (usually) easier to find a freelance developer, you’ll find development agencies are (again, usually) more responsive.

Hiring an agency vs. hiring a freelancer

The difference in vetting a freelance app developer versus an app development agency marks where the process starts to noticeably deviate depending on which route you take. You’ll find freelancers’ CVs and portfolios to be very skillset driven – this is because freelance developers tend to specialize in developing one type of app.

App development agencies, on the other hand, will usually focus on presenting potential clients with examples of past projects and experience – this is because agencies employ a team of developers who each specialize in different aspects of app development – this diversity of knowledge allows agencies to work on a wider array of apps.

Agencies rely on steady clients, and therefore tend to take NDAs (and business partnerships in general) more seriously than freelancers – freelancers are, however, more likely to adjust to client demands.

Agency capability vs. freelancer capability

The complexity, scale, and scope of your app will largely determine if freelance development is even a viable option. As previously mentioned, freelancers tend to specialize in developing one type of app: such as eCommerce, productivity, or event apps, for example. Not only does this specialization narrow freelancers’ capabilities to the development of a single type of app, it often means freelancers are only capable of deploying in one environment, and developing for one platform.

Development agencies, however, will make use of the multiple skill sets available to them. These full-stack agencies can create any app, large or small, for any system, and for either platform: Android, or iOS (because Android and iOS utilize different code bases, it is exceedingly rare to find a freelancer capable of developing both Android and iOS apps).

Even when coding for a single platform, programming an app requires two different skillsets – frontend and backend development. For this reason, app agencies will employ programmers for both; frontend developers build out the UI and connect the functionality of the app’s features to the UI. Backend developers program the app’s logic architecture, set-up and implement servers, and connect APIs to their respective endpoints.

Agencies also utilize other tangential skillsets in order to improve the quality of the product that is developed; UI/UX designers create the visual design and flow of the app, providing a roadmap for the frontend developers – QA engineers create test environments in order to throughly analyze the robustness of an app before its initial launch, and project managers ensure every task is completed on time and in order, therefore maintaining a consistent and efficient development schedule.

When you hire a freelance developer, you are relegating all of these tasks onto either the freelancer, yourself, or your company. As an example – while a freelance developer might be efficient at developing the systems necessary for the entire feature set of an eCommerce app, they might not be the best UI/UX designer.

A freelance developer, in this situation, would most likely make use of an app design template (meaning your app will look cookie-cutter) – or run the risk of designing the app themselves – or, if their client was willing to pay for it, bring on a supplemental freelance designer.

Agency app management vs. freelance app management

Due to the nature of their work, freelancers tend to move from client to client very quickly – small projects have quick turn around times. Your app’s lifecycle is neither short or hands-off, however. All apps require updates for aesthetic purposes, improved security, and new feature implementation. Continual analysis of your app’s status via analytics and crash reporting is a necessary task as well – and with every update released by Google Play or the App Store, your app will need to follow suit. Even updates for changes as simple as new screen resolutions require time spent in development.

Agencies have this app lifecycle management structure built in to both their build teams and business model – freelancers generally don’t.

The cost of an agency vs. the cost of a freelancer

For all of the reasons stated above, the lower hourly rate freelancers are known for doesn’t equate to more cost effective development. For a freelancer to successfully develop the entirety of an app, they must have a mastery of a wide array of skills – and when they are lacking in an area of development, must spend time learning said skill, adding to the overall time your app spends in development, and bloating your budget.

Agencies specialize in producing complex apps efficiently; freelancers specialize in client acquisition, not app lifecycle management.

eCommerce and ERP integration: Improving your B2B operations

Speed, efficiency, and long term goals – successful businesses in 2019 live by the pivot, and live for the future.

Integrating your ERP (enterprise resource planning) with your eCommerce is both a quick pivot, and a good investment for the longterm – and if your B2B operations lack this integration, now is the perfect time to do so.

Choosing the wrong ERP software, however, can spell doom for your company – many ERP platforms are insecure and pose a risk of data breaches. ERP software is meant to bring extra value to your customers, and increase efficiency in your daily inventory and account management – security breaches will have the direct opposite result.

Let’s get into why ERP is important, and what you need to know in order to effectively implement your own ERP integration with your eCommerce.

What it does, and why it matters

When you integrate your ERP with your eCommerce, you create a system that automatically coordinates your customer-facing storefronts with your backend inventory and accounting management systems.

This is important because it drastically increases the efficiency of your B2B operations – when an item is purchased by a customer through your eCommerce site or app, or even a physical store if you have one, your backend inventory will automatically update itself to reflect the change. At the same time, your accounting system will also update to show the transaction.

Integrating your ERP with your eCommerce creates a bi-directional flow of data – when your backend inventory management system is updated, your customer-facing digital stores will automatically in realtime update as well.

This bi-directional realtime exchange can keep track and manage your main types of data, including order, inventory, item, customer, and shipping and tracking data. For example, if you were to add a new item into the backend of your inventory, all of the information would automatically populate on your eCommerce site and/or app.

If you were to edit the description of an item in your backend to include a sale discount, the frontend would reflect that change automatically as well. As soon as a customer puts that item in their cart, your inventory management system will be made aware. As soon as that item is purchased by that customer, your accounting system will automatically note the transaction.

This saves you time that would be spent manually entering multiple sets of duplicate data – meaning you don’t have to spend as much money on menial tasks.

Integrating your ERP with your eCommerce also increases customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, which ultimately leads to larger or more frequent orders.

A great example of the value add integrating your ERP with your eCommerce brings to your customers is their ability to access their live account info 24/7 – data such as order history, invoices, realtime pricing, and realtime stock can easily be made available to them.

When your customers feel like they’re included in the inner-workings of your business, they’ll feel more in control – which increases their loyalty, satisfaction, and spending.

Even slight increases to efficiency can have lasting impact. Consider the 20 million gallons of fuel that were saved by UPS trucks not taking left turns on their delivery routes. Simple changes can have profound and lasting impact.

The investment required to integrate your ERP with your eCommerce will always be worth it in the long run – and according to Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vaynermedia and Chairman of VaynerX, if your business isn’t thinking about the future, you’ve already lost.

With great efficiency comes great responsibility

When you integrate your ERP with your eCommerce, you’re essentially collecting your business’s most important data in one place – it’s accessible by individual systems, but the data is shared amongst them, and the transfer of data between them can be breached.

If this happens, it can dramatically decrease your customer loyalty – which is the direct opposite of what integrating your ERP with your eCommerce is supposed to achieve.

Due to the tempting nature of this proverbial digital honeypot of business and customer data, it’s less a question of if a cyberattack will happen, and more a question of when. A recent report by Symantec found that this is a problem for companies large and small – 43% of cyber attacks are now against small businesses.

Not only do these integrated hub systems present a tempting target for data thieves, they usually tend to be implemented through third-party software. These integration systems can leave your company open to many vulnerabilities, for a few reasons:

1 – Lack of updates

When you don’t own the software, you’re unable to change the codebase to keep up with new security risks. If your company uses third-party ERP integration software, your data is at the mercy of when your provider updates their security. Lack of updates can leave your systems wide open to data breaches.

2 – Poor configuration

If your ERP system isn’t set up correctly, you’ll run the risk of leaving cracks for hackers to exploit. These vulnerabilities can include open ports, access parameter credentials that are unlocked, or issues that come from vulnerabilities left in the system.

3 – Lack of access controls

If too many people have access to your system, or have the ability to access too much data in your system, you can run the risk of an account being compromised, which would then grant access to your entire system. Use the principle of least privilege wherever applicable.

4 – DOS attacks

If hackers find a vulnerability and gain access to your system, the can use DOS (denial-of-service) attacks to shut down your operations. When all of your operations run off one system, this can bring your business to a standstill.

Due to all of these risks, you’ll want to ensure the highest level of security possible. Custom software development will always be your best option for security because it is tailor-made to your system and specifications. Also, the code is your own, so whenever you need to update your system to defend against a new security risk, you can do so without waiting for another company.

If you’d like to learn more about integrating your ERP with your eCommerce and custom inventory solutions, visit our blog on the topic.

Efficiency and speed are the keys to success

By integrating your ERP with your eCommerce, you can reduce your time spent manually entering data, streamline your systems synchronization, enable auto-notifications for customers, manage price and product changes, and integrate multiple online and offline sales channels. All of this integration is scalable as well – giving your business the ability to not only increase its demand, but handle that increased demand as well.

Improving your business development process with an internal business app

If you work in business development, sales, outreach – or any facet of business that deals with the exchange of goods or services for economic gain – you know the struggles of dealing with client expectations, leads going cold, client acquisition, and all the other challenges that come with the territory of selling – either emotional or job-wise.

We’re living in the age of user experience – clients expect your engagements to be even more personalized and targeted to their needs than the native ads they see on social media. In fact, 79% of your communication efforts will go ignored by clients if the messages don’t meet your clients’ standards of desired personalization.

We’re also living in the age of speed – not only do your communications need to be personalized, you need the ability to react to changing demands and needs, new challenges, and new opportunities – and sometimes, even quick reactions aren’t enough – predicting your clients’ needs is the only true way to stay on top of your game and reduce client churn, dead ends, and increase your numbers.

The most effective way to accomplish this is by integrating your business development process with an internal business app.

For more examples of how you can improve your company’s efficiency, culture, and processes, check out these blogs:

In this blog, we’re going to go over the different features and capabilities an internal business app can add to your business development practices.

Lead management

Introducing yourself is easy – it’s keeping track of who’s who after the fact that’s the difficult part. It’s already hard enough when meeting prospective clients in face-to-face networking events, let alone when dealing faceless customer profiles aggregated through your website’s analytics.

Keeping track of leads, both at scale and speed, is crucial to your company’s success in today’s market. With the mobile revolution and the burgeoning IoT, large corporations aren’t the only businesses with global reach – the interconnectedness of markets and systems means your client can be halfway around the world, or right down the street – your methods for selling to them will largely remain the same, but their expectations will vary.

Measuring data is key to predicting your clients’ needs. By utilizing an internal business app that can keep track of customer relationship analytics like how often you speak with your most billed client, pending orders, or previous support inquires made, you can more accurately predict their requests or questions.

With an internal business app, you can automate both your relationship analytics, and your mid funnel marketing processes; such as marketing and re-marketing campaigns that utilize email or text to keep your prospective clients engaged with your business.

Even for businesses with smaller budgets, who lack the ability to implement complex backend systems necessary for such automation, a small backend system that auto-imports client data to your business developers is achievable – when a client fills out their info on your website, the backend system can then add it to their customer profile in your database. Small increases in efficiency can provide a huge boost to your employee’s productivity.

When your sales team adds contact information to a customer profile from a lead they just created, the data all ends up in the same place. Not only does this make it impossible to lose or create duplicate pieces of client data, it means that if a sales representative is no longer with your company, the lead’s info stays within your database – not on your employee’s personal phone.

Client communications

A small business in Virginia is expected to communicate with a client in London in the same manner as a large corporation with a London-based office would.

Customer service means a lot more than being polite and knowing your client’s first name – it means being able to answer their questions before they ask them – using the same phrases and language someone from their corner of the world would. Before you can achieve this capability, however, you first need to develop and maintain a personal connection with your clients.

The easiest way to create a personal relationship with a client is to know their personal needs – this means past interactions, as well as possibilities for potential business they have expressed to you.

Every business knows customer satisfaction is the number one key to success, and failure to meet customers’ expectations will spell the doom of any company. Knowledge is power – and in this case, knowledgable employees means happy clients.

Customer service and a personalized experience are important – in 2016, out of customers that switched services, 64% reported their reason was because of lack of a good experience with the company that was serving them – not due to the cost of services provided.

With the help of an internal business app, you can make sure every interaction with every client is measured, strategic, personal, and under control – meaning there’s no surprises for either you or your client, and everyone is sure to be happy.

Referral mangagement

Everyone knows the power of a good referral. Other than reengaging with an existing customer, it’s the most cost effective method for driving sales.

It’s truly a small world – but without a data management system made possible by an internal business app, networking and business development can look like a vast, disconnected landscape.

Through the backend client data management system made possible by an internal business app, you can connect the dots to figure out who knows who. Maybe one of your best clients knows that lead your business developer just added into your system? As soon as the data points connect (which, with the implementation of real-time updating, can be near-instantaneous), your entire business development team will know.

Your employee out in the field can start a conversation with the new potential client about your company’s work with the existing client, or, you can get a head start on communicating the request for a referral from your best client.

Having the power to connect referrals with new leads both at speed and in the field is a great tool to increase your lead generation: customers acquired through referrals have a 37% higher retention rate.

With an internal business app, you can, of course, add these referrals to your lead’s contact information that is stored on their personal profile – so all the data you would ever need to know about a client is stored in the same place, and is accessible from anywhere.

Account Management

When was the meeting with David? No, the other David. You know – the one with the on-demand dog walking app?

An internal business app mitigates these wasted minutes. If an account representative schedules a call with David-the-dog-walker, your account manager will know as well, because all the information David and his business can be found in the same place – his client profile in your internal business app.

Assigning tasks, scheduling meetings, making sure follow-up emails are sent, and phone calls are placed is simple when it’s automated. You can even set up automatic notifications to make sure no task is left by the wayside, as a double layer of redundancy to ensure your clients’ satisfaction.

Strengthen your customer relationships

There’s no better system than an internal business app for keeping the ever-changing world of business development in check. By managing and analyzing client data, you can increase lead generation, and solidify existing customer relationships through your internal business app.

We hope you’ve found this blog informative! If you’re interested in learning about the cost of implementing the capabilities we discussed, check out our How much does it cost to implement backend CRM software? blog.

MVP development: Market research and pain points

Most companies and entrepreneurs conduct some form of market research before beginning the development of their app. The reasoning behind the methodology of this research is often flawed, however – and not geared toward seeking out the kernel of truth that promotes powerful product ideation.

If the answers you’re searching for don’t lead to the proper insights, your app’s user retention will suffer. Knowing which questions to ask comes from understanding the purpose of your market research – and that’s exactly what we’re about to cover.

Speed doesn’t mean rushed

Chances are, if you’re researching strategies on how to optimize the development of your app through the creation of a MVP, you value your time – MVPs are the quickest and most efficient way to market, after all.

Despite their reputation for speed to market, however, MVP apps require ample planning, careful thought, and plenty of foresight. The app marketplace is constantly evolving, growing, and competing against ever-increasing user expectations – it’s up to you and your app to keep up with these rising standards.

Tomorrow, the next Lyft could arise. The next Google could shake things up. The market, and the technology that coexists with it, rests for no one – and neither will your users.

That’s why we wrote this blog – to give you a detailed roadmap to the strategic and creative headspace that you need to occupy in order to ensure your MVPs development is smooth, and your launch successful.

If you want to read more about MVP app development, check out our other blogs on the topic:

Market research means understanding the problem, not a consumer profile

First things first – the beginning of every app comes from the discovery of a consumer pain point – whether that discovery is made through your own ideation, from being confronted with the pain point in your own life, or through explorative market research – a pain point is the foundation of your app. It’s the first step in the conception of virtually every tool, product, or invention throughout all of history, in fact.

Even the most basic of tools solve a pain point. Horses helped people get to their destination faster. Wheels helped them carry more. Written language helped them keep track of the goods they traded with each other.

Pain points are the reason people bothered to tame horses and engineer the wheel. If the world was only a few miles in diameter, the wheel probably never would have seen its day in the sun. Pain points are also the reason why products phase in and out, markets evolve, and consumer expectations grow – there’s always a better solution. It’s why we all know the name Henry Ford.

Sometimes, through solving a pain point, a tangential, unexpected discovery is made – Ford might have set out to make cars, but his true legacy was the assembly line.

What do these ancient-to-early-twentieth century inventions have to do with MVP app development? They were based around solving a pain point – not tempting a specific target audience. Ford’s cars were successful because they were affordable – and they were affordable because they were made at a speed that had never been seen.

In order to be successful in terms of development, budget, and marketability, your MVP app must have the singular focus of the wheel, and the status-quo shake-up-ing of Ford’s assembly line. Inventiveness of this sort doesn’t come from understanding the buyer profile of a target market – it comes from having a true understanding of the problem they face.

Now, the wheel and the assembly line are great examples because they were so groundbreaking in the change that they brought to the world. The digital landscape (and the app marketplace especially) exist in a much more subtle ecosystem, however.

This is due to the power that is afforded to app users over any other type of consumer – a dissatisfied user is perfectly capable of finding an alternate product through Google Play or the App Store in a matter of seconds, and downloading that new app within minutes.

User ratings and reviews give consumers even more power; not only do they give potential users the ability to form an opinion of your app before downloading it, they also play a role in determining your app’s ranking on the App Store or Google Play (along with other user-based metrics such as user retention and engagement).

This problem affects a full quarter of apps – 25% of users abandon apps after one session.

This is how Lyft was able to capitalize on Uber’s success; like Ford’s assembly line, Lyft sped up the process of finding a ride by removing a single step from Uber’s process – and in doing so, won over a significant chunk of Uber’s users.

In the early days of Uber, and before Lyft forced the app to change, users were given a list of available drivers to choose from – on a surface level, this makes sense, and even seems like another way to bring added value to the user experience.

No one really cares enough, however, to compare and contrast the qualities of potential drivers, – and to Uber’s users, this was an unnecessary step in the process of getting from point A to point B.

Uber understood that people didn’t want to have to wave down taxis. Lyft understood users didn’t care who drove them – they just wanted a ride, and they wanted it now.

Your MVP app doesn’t need to invent a wheel of its own, nor does it need to reinvent it – it just needs to do one thing better than everyone else. Lyft took out the driver selection step in their app’s process, and because of this, their users were able to find a ride faster. So, users abandoned Uber in favor of Lyft.

The only way to have both the knowledge and confidence to take away previously-perceived value from a product, and then compete based upon the lack of that missing feature, is through careful analysis and understanding of the problem consumers face – not their buying behaviors.

How do you gain such intimate insight into the pain point consumers are presented with? Don’t seek out the market – seek the problem.

Put yourself in the user’s shoes

In order to understand the problem, you need to first experience the problem. How you go about this largely depends on what the problem is; if the problem is a real life situation – let’s say finding craft beer enthusiasts to trade brews with – you need to try out all of the beer trading avenues available to you.

This would entail going through the process of finding and trading beer through facebook groups, subreddits, or other social media channels, as well as going to any local beer festivals, tasting events, and brewery events – if it has to do with beer, you need to be there. Immerse yourself in the culture of craft beer.

Don’t just search for what it’s like to not have a good beer trading system – become so invested in craft beer culture that you need a better beer trading system to satiate your hobby.

Once you’ve truly experienced the pain point you’re trying to solve with your MVP app, you can begin to figure out the best solution to the problem. This is how we came up with the idea for Brew Trader.

If there’s an app that you believe has the potential to be streamlined, or could be improved by the implementation of a different feature set or business model, do the same thing – but tweak it to the digital landscape of mobile app use.

Use the app you’re going to compete against in every situation imaginable – be it location, time or day, the mood you’re in, or the people you’re with. Analyze every step in the app’s process, and make a list or scatter plot of the flow of the app.

After you have identified the parts of the competing app’s UX that work, and those that don’t, create your own flowchart using your firsthand knowledge of the users’ experience.

If you’d like more info on competitor analysis when developing a MVP, don’t fret – our MVP development: Competitive analysis and feature sets blog will be coming out soon.

Find the pain point

The solution will follow.

Knowing the crux of the problem is key to understanding what will constitute a good user experience. A strategically implemented ASO campaign, strong social media presence, and good user reviews and ratings will serve to drive your app’s growth – not your market research. When it comes to app development, the true power of market research comes from understanding the pain point of your users – not their buyer’s profile.

If you’d like more information about creating your own ASO campaign, check out our How to build a mobile app: ASO 101 blog. In the future, we’ll cover all you need to know about building a user base with your MVP app, so stay on the look out!

How much does payroll software implementation cost?

There are certain expenses every business has to accept – and one of the largest contributors to those reoccurring, inescapable costs is payroll. The time it takes to manage your payroll process will always need to be accounted for in your budget, but the time (and the resulting costs of the time and resources) spent can be diminished through the help of payroll software.

When it comes to choosing a payroll software, there are a multitude of options to compare – but first, we’re going to cover the reasoning behind paying for payroll software.

It’s about time

The goal of payroll is to be done in as little time as possible – there’s no profit to be made from it. Any process that cannot lead to income generation should be practiced in the most efficient manner possible – unfortunately, HR administrators tasked with payroll can spend up to ten hours a week on payroll alone.

So, when weighing the two options of either paying for payroll software or continuing to do it yourself, there’s an easy question to ask that will provide the answer as to which is more cost effective:

Which costs more – a quarter of my employee’s salary, or the payment model of a payroll SaaS?

For fun, let’s say the employee in question makes $35,000 a year – divide that number by four, and you’re left with $8750 – if your payroll is processed in house, that’s your yearly expense – for an administrative task that can never lead to income generation.

Let’s take that number and compare it to the cost of some of the more popular payroll software, apps, and APIs.

Freeware

There’s plenty of payroll software out there for free – and for small businesses, these are a good option. While not as comprehensive as proprietary software, free payroll software can help you accomplish simple payroll administrative tasks like payroll and tax computation and submission, direct deposit, new hire reporting, and year-end tax information.

There is one area that freeware can’t compete, however – scalability. There’s also a lack of options for customizing the software to your company’s needs – in the case of free payroll software, what you see is what you get.

If you’d like to try out your options before settling on a software for your payroll needs, there are many freemium versions of software that allow you to try out their service before purchasing payroll software.

One such is Gusto, which also has a proprietary software version that is purchased through a subscription. Let’s go over the cost of a subscription model payroll software:

Monthly subscription

While there are much more well-known payroll softwares out there (like ADP Workforce and Quickbooks) we think it’s important to showcase an up-and-comer like Gusto for two reasons: small businesses understand the needs of other small businesses in a more intimate way than large corporations, and there’s plenty of information already other there about both ADP and Quickbooks.

Despite a less well-known reputation than payroll software household names like Quickbooks or ADP Workforce, Gusto can do a lot: manage payroll administration, HR, and benefits administration and compliance, as well as automatically computing your business’ local, state, and federal payroll taxes (including payment and submittal of payroll taxes), and the option of paying your employees through either direct deposit or check.

Its inviting look, and simple UI make it the perfect option for someone in a small to medium business who either doesn’t have formal training in HR operations, or needs to make more efficient use of their time in the office.

Gusto offers two subscription options – their Core Plan and Complete Plan.

So, with a company of 10 employees, the Core Plan comes out to $1,118 per year, and the Complete Plan totals $3,228 per year. While still fairly priced given the automation and services Gusto provides, its costs can quickly increase as the scale of your company grows. On the Core Plan, a company with 100 employees would be charged $7,688 per year, and $16,188 on the Complete Plan.

Let’s continue looking at our options.

Per-user pricing

While this form of payroll software obviously suffers from the same issue as Gusto’s plan, they are definitely worth mentioning – for small businesses, per-user pricing payment models can be extremely cost effective.

PayrollHero offers employee attendance tracking, as well as scheduling, and time tracking and analytics – all available through a master platform that can be customized with product add-ons such as secure communication channels, data recovery, and unlimited storage. These add-ons do, of course, come with an additional price tag.

PayrollHero, like Gusto, has two payment options:

With 10 employees, the Small Business Plan comes to just $420 per year, and the Enterprise Plan comes to $540 per year. While these are extremely affordable options, PayrollHero doesn’t offer too much in the way of customizability or payroll tasks that aren’t directly related to employee attendance. For a small company that only needs a lean payroll system, however, PayrollHero is a good option.

Let’s look at a more customizable payroll platform and payment model:

Quote-based pricing

You can think of this option of payroll software as a pick-and-choose model. The perfect example of a quote-based payroll system (and one of the most widely-used payroll platforms out there) is Paychex.

Through the PayChex Flex platform, you can build your own payroll system out of pre-made sections of software – each option runs completely on its own, and they all seamlessly integrate with each other. These selectable options are as follows:

  • Payroll
  • Time & attendance
  • Retirement services
  • Recruiting and application tracking
  • HR records
  • Benefits administration
  • Hiring and on boarding
  • Reporting and analytics

Due to its customizable nature, it’s difficult to give a set price range for Paychex’s software – and prices can vary depending on the scale of your payroll operations.

Paychex is continuously improving their software through the Paychex API Developer Center.

Now that we’ve covered the different payment models of payroll software, let’s look into the costs behind the actual coding of the feature sets that make up a payroll system:

Custom payroll software development

If there are all of these great options, what’s the point in developing your own payroll software?

Lifetime value – yearly expenses add up after awhile. For example, let’s look back to our first payroll software example, Gusto. After 10 years, their Complete Plan will total $30,288 – and that’s if your company experiences zero growth over ten years.

Let’s pretend a company that started with 10 employees now has 100; at a rate of 100 employees, Gusto’s Complete Plan comes out to $16,188 per year. In just two years, that’s almost a much money as the yearly salary of a single employee.

A custom-made payroll platform has a much more cost effective lifetime value – there is only the upfront cost of development, and after your initial expense, the only extra associated costs come from maintenance or further additions to your custom platform.

Essentially a very complex backend system hooked up to different UIs, custom payroll software can cater to any business need – every feature listed in this blog can be implemented (and more): including commission management, and split payment management.

You can also integrate a custom-made payroll platform into your already existing internal business app.

Custom-made payroll software is undoubtably the most affordable option at scale – since the code is owned by your company, and not loaned by a third party, you can scale your custom-made payroll platform to any size of workforce and company infrastructure – and with mobile integration as well.

We’ve stated it many times throughout our blog – but it remains just as true; the cost of software development comes down to time, not type of software being developed. For a fairly complex custom-made payroll platform, designing and building the backend will take up the most time – this includes building out the logic, creating the backend architecture (how collections of data will communicate), and building out servers to store your payroll data.

Other costs include UI design, as well as the coding of the front end of your platform. All in all, an average estimate could range from $50,000 to $250,000 depending on your desired complexity. Those are big numbers – but keep in mind, they are truly one-time costs, and the product developed is fully scalable, at no extra cost (other than server maintenance).

Let’s compare those numbers to the expenses of a company with 1,000 employees using Gusto’s Complete Plan. After 10 years with 1,000 employees, Gusto’s costs come out to $121,490. If you’re planning ahead for your company’s future and growth, a custom-made payroll platform will end up being the most cost effective option.

Empower your HR team

When your company makes use of payroll software, your HR department has more time to do what they’re supposed to do – build and disseminate your company’s employee culture. Internal culture and employee happiness are directly related to productivity, speed of business, and employee longevity and loyalty.

When your HR team is working for your people, and not your money, your business can grow into a more efficient, productive, and happy workplace.

How to: Build a MVP startup

Sometimes, the only thing stopping a great idea from seeing the light of day (and consumer’s eyes) is a little know-how. If you’ve had a great idea for a MVP app for a while now, and want to start your own business based around it – but have no idea where to begin – we have the answers for you!

Below, you’ll find your roadmap detailing how to build a MVP startup app.

A strong MVP

The stronger the idea behind your MVP, the better your chances are at achieving success. While there’s no strict formula for coming up with a good idea, there are qualities most good ideas have: stickiness, simplicity, and legs.

If none of those words made sense in context, don’t worry. Their explanations (as well as the definition of a MVP, in case you don’t know) are coming right up:

First of all, a MVP, in regards to an app, is an app that focuses on providing an experience through a set of features that play a direct role in solving a user’s pain point. A MVP app has enough design elements to provide a good UI/UX for the user, and is a viable product unto itself. It is, however, a minimal version of said product, and offers little functionality other than that which helps to solve the main pain point.

Good ideas tell a story

So, what about those qualities mentioned earlier? Urban legends, ghost stories, and memes are all perfect examples of ideas with all three of those qualities: stickiness, simplicity, and legs. Let’s look at the idea behind everyone’s favorite supernatural-bathroom-mirror-murderer: the Candyman.

The idea of a man filled with bees, crawling out of your mirror and attempting to grab you with a hooked hand is a pretty difficult image to get out of your head. It’s a simple idea – tempt fate by saying his name three times in a bathroom mirror, and he’ll come to get you.

It’s got legs as well – the story of the Candyman is highly replicable. This is because it uses a well known setting – the bathroom – and uses concrete, reliable, and common features as details to ground the story in reality. All a story teller needs is a little imagination to truly paint their audience a picture; and because audiences are so familiar with the territory of the bathroom, they can fill in details themselves, and tweak the story to their own tastes.

That audience will then go out and spread the idea again – it’s memorable, simple, and replicable.

Now, you’re not here to sell ghost stories – but good brands share these same qualities. For example, let’s look at Nike’s “Just Do It.”

It sticks in your head – it’s a powerful statement, with no room for interpretation; if you’ve got an obstacle in your path, your determination is all you need to surpass it. Their slogan is simple as well – it’s three words, all single syllable, all easy to understand.

Finally, it has legs; “it” is an incredibly diverse word, and because of this, “it” works for any product Nike sells – whether they’re selling shoes or hats – and whether their customers are skateboarding or playing soccer, “it” is getting done.

Sticky apps

Now, let’s take that urban legend example, and do the same thing with a well known app… let’s go with Uber.

First, Uber is a sticky name – it’s fun to say, fast, and carries the wonderful connotation of “great” with it. The idea behind the app is sticky as well; all a user has to do is hail a cab with their phone, and soon enough, a car will be there for them. Most of the time, they don’t even have to talk to anyone – the task is simply completed with a few button presses.

To put it simply, it’s a simple idea: press a button, get a cab.

Due to the idea behind Uber being so simple, the app itself (in regards to UX) is simple as well – over the course of interacting with only a few different screens, a user can get a ride from one side of town to the other.

The simple experience Uber offers is the reason it (and other services like it) are handily beating out traditional taxi services – pressing a button is much easier than searching for, and then hailing a traditional cab.

Finally, Uber most definitely has legs. The app serves two different user groups in a highly replicable way – one user group gives rides, while the other takes rides – and both user groups are likely to return as Uber customers, as drivers’ economic pain point is solved by riders, and riders’ transportation pain point is solved by drivers.

Perhaps the reason for Uber’s market-shattering effects was due to its market viability – because it was the first app to shake up the taxi industry, it was able to gain users with zero competition until other companies could eventually catch up.

This feature set would create a system for raccoons to share advice with each other, as well as a community based around the app.

An untapped market is the perfect opportunity for a MVP app; and because of this, Uber is the perfect example of how to build a startup around a MVP.

It’s essential, however, to make it clear that being the first doesn’t ensure that you will remain in first place – someone can (and often will) come along and do what you do, but better. App users are fickle, and are more likely to abandon an app than they are to continue using it.

Because of this, if a new app does come along and implement even just a single feature better than your app, users will migrate to the new one – in order to combat this, you must always continuously update your app. This means everything from security updates, UI changes, and sweeping, innovative changes to your app’s UX.

Product Validation

There are two different audiences that must deem your app as viable: the marketplace, and your intended users. The purpose behind receiving validation from these audiences is to ensure your app has a place to live, and value to bring.

Let’s get into what being a viable product really means:

Marketability

There are a few factors that come into play here, but the most important (when it comes to a MVP app’s market viability) is competition.

There’s three reasons to go with MVP app development: lack of budget, proof-of-concept, or speed to market. Sometimes, it’s a mixture of these factors, and other times, it’s all three. But while MVP apps do significantly reduce your development costs, and do serve extremely well as a proof-of-concept for potential investors, a MVP app’s real strength, as stated previously, is due to its speed to market.

If there’s an audience of users deeming a product as viable, and no competition for a share of that audience, you can use a MVP model of app development to ensure you beat anyone else to the punch. When you’re the first brand to provide a solution to an audience’s pain point, you’re more likely to build customer loyalty than the third or fourth contender.

If you are the third or fourth contender, however, you’re also in a perfect position to strike – conduct your own competitor analysis of apps that do what you plan to do with yours. Then, come up with better ways to implement the solution to your pain point. When you’re entering an already tapped market, competitor research isn’t just necessary – it’s your ultimate weapon.

Consumer viability

In order to determine who your niche is, you must first determine where your niche is. This is important to keep in mind, as sometimes, a specific audience might invalidate your product – but this doesn’t mean every group will. If your idea is rejected, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad product. You might just be talking to the wrong people.

To better identify your target audience, you need to know your app’s user journey.

The user journey

If Uber had marketed the driver side of their app to professional taxi drivers, and the user side to suburban, middle-age, middle-income mothers, it probably would have flopped. Taxi drivers have no use for the app, as their customer base flags them down visually. Suburban moms usually have their own transportation, and rather than needing rides to places, they are usually giving rides themselves.

Uber made the splash it did because it understood its user’s journey. While there are multiple Uber customer types, their main base is urban, younger, on-the-move, and lacks one crucial thing: private transportation. They have enough money to be able to afford something more expensive than the subway or bus, but don’t have the funds (or lack the space) for their own car.

That’s a very different audience than suburban moms. The timing of the 2008 recession, and Uber’s 2009 launch were extremely beneficial to its success as well – and the gig economy owes a significant debt of gratitude to Uber.

Uber took advantage of a market overflowing with available labor – if you had a car, you could work. You could set your own hours, and work around another part time job. With so many young people in 2009 either un-or-under-employed, Uber was able to grab hold of a significant amount of users for the driver side of their app.

They were able to make all of these smart decisions because they understood the user journey of their app. The best way to determine your user journey is to ask yourself; “What would I want this app to achieve?”

Then, go out and ask people what they think. Let your intuition guide you to the right audience – and then, let your audience guide you to the true pain point.

Understand your success criteria

This might seem pretty obvious, but knowing what makes your app successful is important – knowing your goals will give you the data you need to measure your success.

You define what a successful MVP app looks like – whether it’s number of downloads, user retention, or a workable proof-of-concept for investors.

Keep it simple

If a MVP app were to be compared to a football play, it’d be a Hail Mary. There’s really only one point to all the plays, picks, and blocks that happen in a game of football – to get the ball to the endzone. A Hail Mary, just like a MVP app, achieves that purpose using the simplest method with the least amount of steps possible.

If you’re building a startup around a MVP app, think of it as a Hail Mary – the faster you release your app, the faster it gets to your audience, and the farther it spreads among them.

Improving your employee training process with an internal business app

An enterprise level, internal business app is the perfect solution for innovating your company’s employee training. More accessible and less resource intensive than traditional employee training programs, internal business apps are, most importantly, much more cost and time efficient than their traditional predecessors.

Internal business apps provide a platform that empowers the growth of your employees – as individuals, professionals, and team members – all scalable, and all within an affordable budget.

Before we get into the how of this topic, I want to cover the why:

The psychology of self-fulfillment apps

Just what is a self-fulfillment app? It’s any app that helps an individual better themselves – while they exist in different spaces, fitness trackers and internal business apps would both fall into this classification.

In fact, when implemented correctly, the structure and UX of the training portion of an internal business app should closely resemble that of a fitness app.

They’re very similar to each other, especially when the internal business app is used to provide or enhance your employees’ training – and just like a fitness app, your internal business app’s training program should focus on rewarding your employees for reaching action or comprehension milestones while on their path of growth.

Why is this? Just as fitness apps use this milestone method to increase user engagement and retention, so too can your internal business app. While employee training might be a virtually mandatory step in the hiring process, this doesn’t mean employees are highly – or sometimes, even moderately – engaged with the process.

With many new positions, employees going through training can find themselves inundated with excess amounts of new information – this can lead to overload, or even to your new employees tuning out for the rest of their training.

By implementing a rewarding, individually-trackable training experience for new employees, you can rid your company of these systemic issues. The best part is, this process doesn’t have to come to a close – internal business apps can empower your employees’ growth throughout their entire career at your company.

Let’s get into some concrete examples:

On-boarding

Imagine being able to start new employee orientation as soon as they’ve signed their offer letter. Along with the email you’ve sent, you can also include a link to your enterprise app. From here, the new employee can complete paperwork that usually takes up a significant portion of their first day.

During this first touch your new employee has with your business’ internal culture and processes, you can adjust the amount of guidance to whatever fits your needs – from live chat features to video calls. Or, you can go the fully automated route, if this portion of your on-boarding needs to be streamlined.

As your new employees progress through orientation, your app can act as their own guide, keeping them appraised of what’s coming next in the training process. This helps them prepare before hand, lessening the time spent introducing the topic that is about to be taught, or from scrambling for necessary resources at the last minute.

Your internal app can also act as a reference point during any step in the new employee training process, allowing new employees to find answers without interrupting training sessions.

When new employees have the power to look back and see the entirety of what they’ve learned (as well as the ability to reference the details of your business’ processes), they’re less likely to feel overwhelmed, and more likely to feel in control – and therefore, are more likely to fully engage with their training.

New employee on-the-job training

While nothing beats human interaction when being taught a new subject or process, an internal app can enhance the efficiency of your new employees’ on-the-job training. Very rarely does a co-worker or manager have carte blanche access to their schedule for a day; so when that new employee is inevitably faced with a situation where they don’t know how to proceed, and the employee training them isn’t around, they can reference the provided guides to handle the problem themselves.

This improves efficiency twofold; your veteran employees can spend more time doing what they do best – producing product, and bringing in new customers – and your new employees can solidify their knowledge retention by having the ability to answer their own questions.

This is very similar to an already tried-and-true method of information dissemination tech companies have used for over a decade – Stack Overflow. Tech companies are extremely process oriented – both when it comes to budgeting for labor, and the structure of code. In order to improve efficiency, developers will upload coding solutions to Stack Overflow for other developers on their team to utilize and learn from. This helps ensure stronger code, as well as increases efficiency for new employees and their team alike.

When new employees have the power to find the solution to a problem they face on their own, they’re much more likely to ask the question in the first place, rather than ignore the issue until it becomes an endemic problem.

Even better, you can cater these reference materials to different learning styles and situations – everything from pre-recorded video to simple presentations, or even tech documents and spreadsheets – these are all viable forms of information dissemination through an internal business app.

New employee on-site, real-time training

While it might not be realistic for every businesses’ budget to implement AR headsets for every on-site worker (like BMW and their mechanics), it is within the realm of possibility for a company to implement a few for new employee training purposes.

In a blog we wrote earlier this year about MxR and its implications for labor-based jobs, we touched on the experience Cnet’s Ian Sherr and Scott Stein had with Microsoft’s HoloLens2, which they reported to feel like “practical magic.”

Why did it feel like magic, and what does an AR headset have to do with new employee training?

MxR headsets now have the ability to interact – in real time – with the environment around the wearer. Both Sherr and Stein – neither of whom claim to be auto mechanics – were able to complete a set of repairs on an ATV engine with live guidance from a HoloLens2.

What this means for your business is a more efficient use of labor hours when bringing a new employee into the field. Your veteran employees can, again, spend their time doing their jobs while the new employee is guided by a real-time, accurate system that provides step-by-step, visual directions.

Continuous learning and growth

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of an internal business app’s training capacity is its ability to be included with the other processes your enterprise level app provides – like inventory management or culture and communication.

When something new is added to your business processes that everyone needs to know, you can send out a push notification with a link that brings all of your employees to the new information – or, you can segment targeted information to the team that needs to be in the know, in order to maximize the efficiency of your other employees.

Employees, at any moment necessary, can reference all of your training materials at any point in their careers – which keeps bad habits from forming, and helps re-align inefficiency.

As your employees foster a culture of continuous learning, new employees will be more readily brought up to speed, as information given to them is guaranteed to be uniform, and standards are always expressly laid out, in plain view for everyone in your company to view at any time.

Scalability

Most impressive is an internal business app’s scalability and reach – when all of your employees have access to everything they’d ever need (no matter where they are or what they’re doing), you can ensure every employee receives the same standard of training.

This is especially beneficial for offices that work remotely from each other, as it can save countless hours of deciphering one another’s work. Process uniformity can have a positive impact in localized offices as well – but when working remotely, this issue is more profound – and therefore, the solution is more noticeable.

An internal business app’s training capabilities are also scalable on a sense of time – it’s incredibly easy to enhance your training methods, as well as the information provided to new and old employees alike.

A personalized, yet uniform employee training experience

That’s what your new employees get when your business uses an internal business app to enhance or provide new employee training. Not only does this benefit employees at the beginning of their tenure at your company, it helps to ensure a uniform continued growth path for new and old employees alike – whether or not their orientation was through your enterprise level app or via a more traditional route.

Internal business apps give your company the ability to cater to different learning styles, without holding separate training sessions – new employees can watch a video explaining your data management system all while reading along with the provided tech doc, or reference slides instead – whatever works best for them.

With an internal business app’s gamification of the usually (let’s face it) less-than-exciting process of learning a company’s operations – as well as the ability to track and reference past accomplishments and knowledge, and easy scalability for any business model – improving your business’ new employee training with an internal business app is achievable for any company’s budget.

Why D&D is the perfect team building exercise for your company

“You feel the rotting plank give way beneath your boot, and watch as the shattered splinters fall the hundred-or-so feet that separate you from the roaring rapids of the river below.

You hear the snap of a rope from the cliffside ahead of you, and then feel the bridge jolt.

What do you do?”

This is the kind of situation Dungeons and Dragons players find themselves in all the time. And it makes D&D the perfect exercise for improving your employees’ collaborative, interpersonal, and problem solving skills. No, seriously.

Why? Because unlike other team building exercises, D&D necessitates that everyone involved pretends to be someone else – making it much easier to self-reflect and be open to new ideas. It’s not them in the situation, it’s the character they’re pretending to be. It’s a game about working with what you have, rather than what you want – and how you can use what’s available to you in the moment, in order to solve the problem at hand.

In other words, it fosters the growth – and eventual mastery – of personal qualities and traits that make a great team player. There’s also the added benefit of having a lot of fun while playing it.

So, how do these pretend skills transfer over to the professional world? Let’s get into it:

Confidence

“I cast grasping vine, originating from the cliff-wall.”

“What’s your target?”

“The rope that snapped.”

Confidence is key to any successful career, but it’s absolutely necessary for a team to remain cohesive and productive – take, for example, a development team in the middle of code review during the end of an agile sprint. The programmers need to be confident in the code they made, so they are able to clearly explain their work – the person reviewing the code needs to be confident in the decisions they make as well – without clear and concise goals, productivity suffers.

Knowing how to set goals – and how stick to them – requires a certain level of confidence. There are moments that (quite) often pop up throughout the work day that could end up throwing a wrench in your plans – having the confidence to tackle those issues on the fly is something D&D teaches extremely well. If you don’t make a decision fast enough, your character, or other party members, can die.

D&D teaches you how to pivot quickly – and not just by yourself, based on your own skill set – for every decision a player makes (and the confidence that decision requires), they must also balance that decision against the needs of the team as a whole. They need to have the confidence to be able to say: “No, Sam has a spell better suited to this situation. I’ll save my spell slot for later.”

You’d be surprised what happens to someone’s confidence levels when they’re pretending to be someone else. It’s a freeing feeling – you can be whoever you want to be – the dashing rogue, the devout paladin, the quick-witted wizard. When you’re playing the role of someone else in a fantasy world, it’s easy to gain the confidence necessary to say “I got this,” or, on the other side of the confidence coin, “I’ve got your back.”

Someone who isn’t comfortable making snap-decisions in real life might find themselves more willing, or even ready to go with their gut. The employee who is insecure about their role in their team has the freedom to make mistakes without worry – as well as the freedom to let go of controlling every aspect of a project – which gives everyone more room to grow, and at a quicker pace to boot.

These are all very transferable character traits to working in an office setting as part of a team.

Humility

“I cast feather fall.”

There’s two ways D&D promotes humility – everyone will die if they don’t work together, and in order to pretend to be a different person, you have to get over yourself.

Yes, you can do whatever you want, but that also means anything can happen. The plan you cooked up might fall apart due to one unlucky roll, the GM might surprise your party, a locked door might halt your progress.

A rope bridge might snap as you cross a chasm.

Players learn the humility to accept that bad things happen – as well as the humility of when to bow out and let someone who is more suited to a task handle it.

This goes both ways – a character with high athletics might be able to scale a wall without a hitch – but other members of their party might see it as an unsurmountable obstacle. Players need to learn how to not only pass the torch, but how to reach back down and lift each other up.

This teaches an important team building mindset – taking the time to help each other out. Often, projects miss deadlines because of a hiccup somewhere down the line – not because everyone failed at the task at hand. When your team members are willing to put their work aside for a few minutes, or even a few hours, project derailment becomes a thing of the past.

A rising tide floats all boats – but in order for this type of teamwork to consistently happen, your team members need to be humble enough to pay attention to their teammates – and be willing to “run to the roar” when something happens.

The other aspect of humility that D&D teaches is that it’s okay to be open. From an outsiders’ perspective, a session of D&D can look extremely silly – even a little crazy, depending on what’s currently happening in the land of make believe.

Pretending to be someone else in front of a bunch of professional adults is a very humbling and personal experience. But the game will implicitly teach your team that the more they are open with themselves and the other players, the deeper the story, the better the experience, and the more fun everyone has.

This is a great way to instill an inherent value for diversity amongst your team – it’s the differences in skillsets that make each character invaluable, just like without creatives and strategic thinkers, business can’t happen.

Problem Solving

“How far are we from the cliff?”

In D&D, there’s no limit to the options a player can take to solve the problem they’re presented with. This means the players are using real skills to solve pretend problems – it’s all the skill-building with none of the pressure that comes with real world issues.

There’s one caveat though – no single player can solve every problem on their own. “Don’t split the party,” isn’t just sage advice for D&D players – it’s just as poignant for businesses as well. I can’t believe I’m about to write this sentence, but synergistic collaboration is key to a successful project.

Just like in real life, in D&D, when presented with a problem, you use the tools available to you to solve said problem. The difference is, in D&D, you can be presented with problems that wouldn’t be physically possible in the real world.

When people are given the option to practice skills, such as problem-solving, in a fantastical setting, it’s not as disheartening if you make a mistake – it’s these moments of temporary failure that bring humor and flavor into the game as well.

The comfort D&D brings to a skill-building experience is essential to its ability to teach these skills. The best part is that it teaches these personal skills in a highly interpersonal setting, solidifying your team’s ability to simultaneously solve problems through…

Collaboration

“I give Sarah my rope.”

“I take John’s rope and tie it around one of my arrows.”

If something happens in a session of D&D, it happens to everyone. Because of this, a game of D&D can be broken down into a pretty simple formula:

ALM

Again, the medium that a session of D&D exists in plays a key role in the power of the game’s skill building. The problems the party faces aren’t mundane or tedious – they’re exciting. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes desperate, sometimes hilarious. When your (pretend) life, and the (again, pretend) lives of your teammates are on the line, it makes the lessons you learn stick that much more than a typical team-building exercise.

Players have the freedom to figure out how to solve these often (pretend) life-threatening situations, without the consequence of actual death. You get to slay dragons together. Have each other’s backs in the deepest, darkest caves. Save kingdoms, and topple evil empires.

You’d be surprised at the bond a party will build with each other – and not just in-game. You’ll find your party to be much more in-tune in real life as well.

Seriously

Try out a session of D&D with your team. Downloading character sheets is free, and a set of dice is less than $5. A session of D&D can be as short as two hours. Give it a roll.

NS804 – What we’re all about

We were recently named a top boutique app developer of 2019 by Clutch. It’s kind of awkward, if we’re going to be honest. Not because we think we don’t deserve it, or aren’t honored to be included next to developers like Dogtown Media and Red Foundry – it’s just we don’t usually talk about ourselves.

If you’re a reoccurring reader, you’ll know we pitch the services of our good friend Kumulos more than we do our own. We’d much rather talk about the awesome platforms clients of our’s have invented, like Lauren Bell’s product and safety recall app, Whystle.

This leaves this blog in a sort of grey area for us, stuck in the classic PR branding kerfuffle – write about how humble you are. Awesome.

So, let’s start with the important things:

What did you do over the weekend?

Well, while everyone was enjoying the three day weekend (if you’re in the U.S. at least), we were making the most out of the time we had – with our four day weekend. Our CEO has a family he enjoys spending time with, and we all have families, hobbies, and lives in general outside of work; so we work ten hour days (none of that lunchtime not counting stuff, either), and make every weekend a three day weekend.

Our senior UX/UI designer went to a music festival in Illinois, our business developer spent the weekend soaking up sun by the pool with his family, our senior Swift developer got a new apartment, and our project manager went to Miami, Florida. I spent the weekend hanging out in my favorite city…

Richmond

A few of us have been here our whole lives. Others hail from Indonesia, Boston, Colorado, California, NoVA, and Atlanta. We all found our way here by forging different paths, but NS804 brought us together. And I’m glad, because…

The people I get to work with are awesome

What do a sommelier, a wildlife rescue volunteer, a soccer coach, two dogs, and a cosplayer all have in common? They all work at NS804. We’ve got degrees from top-10-in-the-nation schools, self-taught programmers (the best kind of developer), and a CEO that’s built more successful businesses than you can count on one hand.

This is the business he always wanted to make, and when you’re here, you can tell. There’s passion present in every project we work on – not only because of the awesome ideas our clients bring to the table, but the fact that working with our CEO, and the team in general, is pretty darn fun.

We speak six different languages here at NS804, and that’s not including Swift, Java, and all the other programming languages our dev teams know. Our senior Swift developer taught herself Italian before she taught herself Swift.

And speaking of women in the workplace – our office is majority women, and in high places too. The following teams are led by women: project management, UX/UI, Swift development, accounting, HR, and content management (your’s truly).

So, thank you Clutch, for ranking us as a top boutique app developer for 2019! It means a lot – but what matters the most is that we get to do work we love, for great clients, with the people that inspire us to work harder – not to compete, but because we bring out the best in each other.

Improving inventory and supply chain management with an internal business app

Inventory management and supply chain management aren’t the flashiest of a company’s operations, nor do they seem like their efficiency could be improved by an app. But just as inventory and supply chain management are crucial to the success of a small, medium, or large business, so to are these core operations the perfect area for innovation – facilitated by an internal business app.

Ever had to search for a barcode scanner? Ever had to run off the floor to check inventory levels on a desktop computer? Is your team constantly playing catch-up at the end of the week to figure out just exactly how much of a product is left in your inventory?

An internal business app can solve these supply problems, and much more. Let’s go over how.

Common inventory management problems

What are the most common challenges inventory managers face in today’s market?

  1. Low product turnover
  2. Excess inventory
  3. Failure to keep track of stock
  4. Poor service levels
  5. Difficult identifying demand patterns
  6. Lack of visibility

Many of these challenges are amplified by the multi-channel marketplace, and the disruption of buying patterns and behaviors fueled by mobile shoppers. While these changes of scale and expected turn-around times can potentially dramatically increase a business’ profits, the rapid changes of today’s market can be difficult to keep up with, or even keep track of. It’s somewhat ironic that the mobile devices that brought about these changes are also the answer to the problems they created.

Shoppers are more efficient now than ever before – it’s time for the companies that supply the products to catch up. If a customer can see how many of a certain product remain in Amazon’s inventory, why can’t you?

You really don’t have to be Amazon to achieve that level of efficiency and inter-connectedness.

Low product turnover

Let’s face it – not everyone has the access to the amount of warehouse space that Amazon can brag about – which means warehouse space is a precious commodity, especially in a fast-paced, on-demand economy. If you’re not properly keeping track of demand, you run the risk of either running out of stock, or wasting space housing a product with little demand that could be used to hold a more popular product.

An internal business app can help here – by integrating your mobile app with your customer facing website and POS system, as well as your own internal database, every transaction is immediately tracked and reported on all of your systems. This gives multiple departments the ability to analyze customer purchasing trends more effectively and in real time – and when enhanced with analytical tracking capabilities, your system can warn you about poorly performing (or over-performing) products before they cause a speed bump in your operations.

Excess inventory

Ever order too much product? We don’t even have a warehouse, and we’re constantly dealing with the problem of finding space for all the extra water cooler refill jugs. It seems like we’re constantly bouncing between two extremes – either at the verge of an inter-office drought, or it’s monsoon season (albeit in the form of large bottle of water).

An internal app helps mitigate the risk of ordering too much product – analytics are very good at recognizing trends that wouldn’t normally be noticed. They can also even help warehouse managers find extra or unused space that could be used to store excess product.

Failure to keep track of stock

It may be a meme by this point, but modern problems do require modern solutions. With the growth of the on-demand economy, keeping track of stock with manual checks isn’t time efficient, nor as reliable as it needs to be to stay on top of fluctuating product demand.

This is a problem that’s compounded by the fact that many sales happen out in the field. Just because it’s called an internal business app doesn’t mean it’s limited to the four walls of your warehouse, showroom, or sales floor. Your sales people out connecting with and selling to clients can update your operations and inventory manager with sales they’ve made in real time.

Accounting errors add to costs – an internal app can cross-reference and compare numbers from all of your departments in real time, so when your crews are counting, you can be sure the numbers they come up with are correct.

Poor service levels

Every business knows customer satisfaction is the number one key to success, and failure to meet customers’ expectations will spell the doom of any company. Knowledge is power – and in this case, knowledgable employees means happy customers.

Internal business apps means everyone is on the same page – from your head of operations to your warehouse associates. Delivery and lead times vary depending on the product in question, and delays can lead to dissatisfied customers. An app helps optimize your inventory management operations so you don’t have to worry about a product showing up a day after it was scheduled to arrive.

Difficulty identifying demand patterns

Keeping track of demand can be made extremely difficult by continuously growing and morphing product portfolios. Product uncertainty is a very real problem these days, especially when some products have short lifecycles.

In order to stay on top of these ever-changing product portfolios, you need to use analytics tools. With an app, you can keep these tools in the warehouse rather than an office, therefore bringing more efficiency to your operations.

Lack of visibility

With a global market, accurate supply chain management is crucial to your success. An internal business app can help with that facet of your business’s operations as well. Let’s look into how.

Common supply chain management problems

Getting the right product to the right place at the right time is – to put it mildly – complicated.

Cost control

The most successful method for reducing operating costs is to make those operations more efficient. Shaving a second here or there can have a huge and lasting impact on your overall expenses.

We’ve used it as an example before, but it’s a well-used example for a reason: consider the decision of UPS to not make left turns; they invested in a software that mapped the United States (as well as most of the world), in order to nearly eradicate left turns from their parcel delivery truck routes. This decision ended up saving the company over 20 million gallons of fuel every year – those seconds it takes to make a left turn add up – and in the same manner as UPS, shaving off seconds from your warehouse operations can save your business a significant amount of capital.

When your entire team are receiving real time updates to incoming and outgoing product deliveries, and collectively can work together to achieve the same goal faster – they are no longer forced to carry a clipboard around to manually keep track of products.

With rising fuel, energy, and freight costs, compounded by a much larger International customer base, having a system that can plan efficient routes is essential to cutting expenditures.

Labor rates are also on the rise (which is a good thing!) – but that means every second spent keeping track of inventory is precious – and those seconds could be better utilized in other areas of the warehouse. With an internal business app, your employees have more time to do what they were hired to do, rather than keep track of shipments and product numbers.

Supplier and partner relationship management

Miscommunication can be a major roadblock to efficient operations. In order for your supply chain to effectively get a product from point A to point B to point C, everyone in every step of the process needs to adhere to mutually agreed standards of operations. This is especially important when assessing your operations in order to understand current performance levels, as well as finding room for improvement in your operations.

When every employee is in the know, and literally on the same page, this standard is simple to stick to. While this can be achieved through a mixture of communication methods, such as web portals, cloud storage, and email, having more than one form of communication results in wasted time and effort on everyone’s parts.

An internal app keeps all communication and analysis in the same place.

Finding talent

Like we stated at the beginning of this blog, inventory and supply chain management aren’t the flashiest of business operations. This is a big reason many employers find it hard to find and identify interested and qualified talent.

An internal app helps solve this issue via two different fronts: making the job more attractive, and lowering the acceptable knowledge threshold.

Any supply chain manager worth their salt needs an extensive understanding of every facet of your supply chain. With an internal inventory and supply chain management app, the burden of knowledge is reduced because it’s so much simpler to keep track of data – analytics can identify demand patterns before even seasoned supply chain managers would, and products are automatically tracked and updated throughout every system simultaneously.

This also helps to make positions more attractive. 70% of the workforce in the U.S. is disengaged – and one of the major reasons for this is lack of direction. An internal business app gives new employees the direction and knowledge they want, therefore increasing your employee retention and acquisition.

Apps aren’t just for consumers

We hope this blog gave you some ideas as to how an internal business app can improve your inventory and supply chain management. If so, keep an eye out for more ideas on how your business can improve its efficiency and bottom line with an internal business app!