Guy Milsom (pictured), MD of Pebble UK explains how manufacturers should be considering bespoke software systems to reflect their customers needs, processes and brand values.
A decade ago a company-wide bespoke system was not to be tackled by the faint hearted. It took stamina and dogged determination to get it completed on time and on budget.
Nowadays, implementing or creating a new system for your company is easier. Bespoke developers should be able to answer hard questions - What is it going to do to our bottom line? How is it going to help us plan for the future? Will our staff understand it? What processes can it monitor? How is it going to integrate with our operations abroad?
These questions are all necessary, but, now I.T managers need to think about what they want a system to do, what the critical processes of their business are, how can we help increase efficiency and what do our customers need to remain loyal?
In the past these questions were asked and products or vendors were paraded in to see who best fits the needs as opposed to actually fitting. This mindset needs to move on, as ultimately organisations are squeezing a square peg in a round hole with a solution that, even before implementation, does not meet all of their requirements.
You will hear the world over that customers matter and a bespoke system can help you communicate with customers, make your brand values tangible and help you out-perform your competitors. We build systems that achieve this by linking your brand values, processes and customers.
Bespoke development has moved on and now it is a realistic option, cost effective and can help you strengthen your brand. A system can meet your needs now, as well as providing the flexibility to adapt to your customers, processes, employees, brand and business needs in the future.
Your company will currently have its own way of working, its own culture and its own brand values and your software should support this. Speak to your Marketing department or the person in charge of your brand and discuss how you could help them build a reputation in key areas such as innovation or customer services.
There is a need for joined up thinking at management or board level to establish the breadth of a bespoke software system and how it should support the business strategy. In general it can help to align your business processes to focus on customer loyalty and manage the customers journey throughout the company.
This can integrate departments around your customers, products and processes equating to a 360 degree view of the customer.
At Pebble we are currently developing systems that help our customers create a competitive advantage and we believe that business systems should reflect the business, its customers and its employees. Organisations are now in a position to ask software vendors and developers, how is your system going to benefit our processes? or how is your system going to strengthen my brand all too often it has been the organisation changing to fit with the software. The wrong way around when you are looking to differentiate yourself from your competition.
Off the shelf CRM and ERP systems can deliver some great affects, but, they dont always take into consideration your businesses situation, your employees needs, expected growth, management reporting, the need for customer personalisation, your business strategy or your need for cultural change. Every system needs to be well formed and structured, but at the same time a business needs flexibility so that it can adapt. Many software vendors do not allow for this - apart from on their next software update which could be in a year or two.
A system should become an intrinsic element of management information where inefficiencies can be overcome and performance managed. Metrics on your key processes help managers to monitor their departmental performance, but with a system that can collate and disseminate these simply you can really help to increase efficiency.
Nobody likes other people looking over their shoulder so make sure that there is real value to the individuals concerned- time saving through live reporting and intuitive search, ease of use through a considered interface and only accessing relevant information to their role. This can really help you to achieve buy in and smooth out any resistance to change or technophobia.
Managing a development
Keeping things simple, for you and for your employees, is the secret to success, taking on too much at one time can cause confusion and a lack of clarity. Working closely with a development team helps them really understand what you are looking to achieve, without this knowledge it is hard to propose systems that will meet all of your needs.
At Pebble we are developing systems for innovative companies that are confident in their processes and need bespoke software that can offer insight and usability. Our understanding of brand values, processes and technology and the impact that this will have on your customers experience is why they choose us to develop a system for them.
A bespoke development can now support the processes that make your brand values tangible to your customers and can offer real value to the management of your organisation by helping align your processes to your business strategy. We believe that this approach will be in greater demand throughout 2008 as there will be more pressure on I.T. Directors to deliver a system that supports their business strategy and their individual customers needs.