Let’s take a break from talking about web applications, mobile apps, and data integrations for a minute. Those conversations are valuable, but sometimes they obscure what’s at the heart of good technology and good business. All companies use information, even if you’re not technically a data-based company. Even restaurants and service-based businesses have information that needs to be gathered, used, and distributed. For this conversation, don’t get caught up in the difference between information and data. We’re thinking high level here. Instead, let’s talk about the flow of information/data in your company. How does data flow into your company, how do you use it, and how does it leave? As we talk to potential clients, we like to begin by identifying how data moves within the company. When we identify this flow pattern, it’s much easier to see ways that technology (like web or mobile apps) could help. The right technology can smooth processes and save you valuable time and energy.
How Does Data Flow Into Your Company?
Consider for a minute how you receive the information you need for your business to function. Do you gather it personally, through in-person conversations, or through your sales team, or through field techs? Or does it come from a more automated source, like through forms that people fill out online? How long does it take to collect the data? Do you receive it in a standardized format, or do you have to manually scrub and format data?
Technology can help smooth out the receiving process in a few different ways. For information that is collected in person, a mobile app with a standardized form for field techs or sales persons can standardize data collection and quickly update even outside the office. Or data that comes in from one software tool and needs to be manually entered in another software tool can benefit from a custom API integration. Automating these processes can free up your team to focus on better serving your customers and increasing your profits.
How Does Data Flow Within Your Company?
Once you’ve collected data, how do you use it? Which teams use it and for what purposes? How is the data changed or modified before being passed on to another team or person? Does the data need to be sorted or analyzed? What is your current system for sorting and analyzing? (If you say Excel, you almost certainly need new technology. Check out our free ebook to learn more about that.)
Data that needs to be used by multiple people or teams at the same time often benefits from web applications. Web applications handle data in ways that keep your data integrity intact (no versioning issues that occur with Excel sheets getting passed around and uploaded). Web applications make it easy to collaborate with your teams, and they can analyze and sort data effortlessly. Using software to manage your data will set your mind at ease because you can be confident that you’re working with the most current and accurate information.
How Does Data Flow Out of Your Company?
Once you’ve collected data and used it in your processes, how does it leave your company? Not every business has a model that distributes data to customers and partners, but most have some kind of information that needs to go to someone outside the company. That could mean orders that go to manufacturers, shipping that goes to warehouses, emails that go to customers, or reports that go to partners. No matter how information leaves your company there is probably a way to simplify or automate it. This end of the data flow pattern always seems to be the messiest with the most manual effort required, so it’s ripe with automation potential.
Web applications can be custom built to automate this step. API integrations can also be useful especially with pushing shipping orders and emailing customers. And of course, mobile apps can be a great way to distribute real-time information. The solution really does depend on the situation, and the options are varied and flexible. You can stress less about getting orders out on time and feel confident that your customers are getting what you promised.
Hopefully this process helps you get down to the bones of what you want technology to solve for your business. If you like to talk things out in person, or you’d like to hear some options for solutions, give us a call at (970) 482-5790. We’d love to chat about what could work for you.