The plethora of new SaaS platforms and integrations mean that is easier than ever to hack together a tech solution without writing a single line of code.
At first glance this is a democratizing tendency that allows anyone to take advantage of modern computing at any budget without needing an engineering background. While, there’s not need to downplay the benefits of SaaS platforms, they’re no substitute for custom software development for serious businesses.
What’s possible with SaaS
There’s no disputing the fact that what was once the exclusive turf of an IT department can now be done by non-tech staff. Even a moderately sized business would probably need the following:
- Business website
- Omnichannel client communication
- Blogging and content marketing
- Automation of customer support service
- Billing system
That’s true of business that don’t offer a technical product, say a specialty shop selling a niche product. Once the core business becomes more technical, dozens more services become necessary.
In the most rudimentary cases, a business handles all of these tasks manually using email, spreadsheets and templates from platforms such as Wordpress or Wix. The problem is that this is horrendously inefficient and requires a lot of time, often from an entrepreneur or highly paid manager. This diverts resources from more productive customer interactions, strategic planning and simply growing a business. It doesn’t make sense to for someone in this position to devote most of their day to coping and pasting email addresses, manually sending out promotion codes or doing data entry.
Integrations: the first wave of automation
Once a business is ready to move past the first wave of technology and doing things by hand, they usually turn to integrations. Services such as Zapier are often a business’ first taste of automation. Complex workflows can be configured to automatically add data to a spreadsheet when a billing email is received, automatically send out promotional emails and many other typical business tasks. There are hundreds of such integrations and platforms that offer these sorts of services.
Contrary to popular opinion, this type of automation creates jobs and adds value to a business. This is something we’re passionate about at eTeam and have blogged about this for both general jobs and more specifically for software engineering. Once highly skilled and creative employees are freed of the burden of time-consuming and repetitive tasks, they can focus their energy on strategic tasks that bring more value to a company than simply copying and pasting email addresses!
These types of solutions aren’t without their downsides, though. The more complex services become, the more potential there is for bugs and serious errors to occur. While someone’s time is theoretically freed from working on repetitive tasks, configuration and debugging can fill that newly won free time right back up. Even at this stage, it’s important to turn to professional tech staff in a consulting and configuration role in order to save precious time and maximize return on investment.
A properly qualified wordpress developer can develop and optimize your homepage and blog in a few days. While this might seem expensive, you’ll be able to maintain your site with ease and rank better in Google. Over the long run, this week of work will pay for itself as you don’t overload your site with conflicting plugins and get more clients through organic search. This example can be applied to nearly anything tech related. It’s better to pay a bit more upfront and have a professional configure your integrations and platforms instead of hacking together a buggy system yourself.
Consulting and configuration pay off
While small and medium businesses are often put off from custom software development due to the initial sticker shock, there’s still a golden mean. Many services look cheap, but the price grows exponentially when you suddenly have to pay ten dollars a month per user. Other platforms can become incredibly expensive if a company’s usage isn’t optimized. So what’s a company that’s too small for a full-time DevOps engineer to do?
It’s worth hiring a consultant to at least get you going. For instance, the right AWS engineer can cut your hosting bill in half. Configuring cloud analytics gives you better information than traditional business analytics at a fifth of the price. We’re happy to take on these sorts of projects at eTeam since we see how just a few weeks or less of work produces great results for our clients. That’s why we’ve put together an entire report with case studies on how businesses can take advantage of technology.
Custom software development, the ultimate enterprise solution
When a company reaches a certain size, looking towards custom software development instead of SaaS integrations and platforms is the only way forward. This doesn’t have to mean that a company hires an in-house development team. Instead, the same principles as hiring consultants to configure a platform equally apply.
The first step in deciding whether custom software development is the right choice for your company is to figure out what processes your employees do that could be automated. Looking at what integrations and platforms you already pay for and use provides the strongest clue of what your needs are. Interviewing employees and noting where they get stuck on projects or observing what tasks are done manually further illuminate your software needs.
In most cases, a development team can put together a custom solution for a company that is a perfect match for their needs. This could include email automation, curated analytics and CRM-like functionality. For a large company that is paying serious money for several platforms, custom software is often the more economical long-term choice. Many software solutions cost less than the salary of a single mid-level employee, which means that if you increase your productivity by just that much, your custom software development has paid for itself.
eTeam has built enterprise-grade software for Taskware and Cience among others. If you’d be interested in a similar solution for your company, we offer a free consultation to explore what technology solutions would work for you.