In this episode of Lancom TV, I sit down with our General Manager, Waruna Kirimetiyawa to discuss a hot topic for 2017: tips for creating custom software for businesses.
Hi everyone, welcome back. We are here today with Waruna, the general manager of Lancom Technology. And we thought we would do something a little different again this week. The topic of the day is software development apps, applications, middleware. Now, Waruna is well known for making really complicated things very simple. So I thought I would bring him here today to sort of ask some relevant questions that we get asked by a lot of businesses every time we talk to them about app development. Thanks for coming, Waruna.
Thank you for having me.
Topic 1: What are the business benefits in developing an app?
Nice to have you here. So thinking about this whole concept of app development. Now there's a lot of talk in technology about how having an app is giving businesses the edge against competition, etc. Now, if we have a company that's considering writing an app or a middleware application to streamline their businesses. Often business decision makers are always considering, "Why should I write a business app in the first place? What's the benefit to me?" So from your perspective, Waruna, what's the reasons that should be behind a business writing an app these days?
Yeah, sure. So, I mean, we run into two very common scenarios in terms of why businesses would write an app. The first one being that a business in the course of doing their business, figures out that there is a gap in the market, and as a result they want to try and take advantage of that gap in the market. So they would write a business application to be able to get a new business unit up and running...
Unit. Oh yeah, sure.
...or even a new application up and running, or a new product.
So it's nothing to do with about being more efficient or, you know, trying to do something cool just for the sake of doing something cool...
...it's to do with, there's a gap, oh, we should do something about it.
That's right. And sometimes most of the businesses spawn out a whole new business as part of finding their app, what that gap is in the market. Then the second scenario is basically there's a lot of digital transformation that's going on within our clients at the moment. So a lot of clients are looking at getting efficiencies in their workforce at the moment.
So using technology to do something that a human may have done in the past or not done for that matter, right?
That's right. So within a lot of teams and departments within most of our businesses, there is a lot of manual work that's been currently done. So in each of our customers we see quite common things of them having a CRM, some sort of accounting application, and then a whole lot of spreadsheets. So as part of that, what happens is they would get data from various data sources, then research all of this, and then try and get an answer out of it. And sometimes this is very time consuming.
Exactly right. And then these days what people do is to say, "Well how much time are we actually spending in doing this? Is it four hours a week?" If that's the case, then it ends up being quite a lot of hours a month. How many people are involved? How many different versions of these spreadsheets are there out there? And as a result, it's very difficult to keep an accurate result going, or accurate bunch of spreadsheets that they're trying to maintain. So you would write an application in order to shift all this data around and get a result out.
Right. So, if there's a gap, and also if there is a possibility of automating something or trying to sort of get away from this manual work that relies on spreadsheets or people, that's where we usually recommend someone goes and write an app from scratch?
That's right, yes.
Topic 2: What steps we recommend a business takes before they start developing an app
All right. So, I mean, I don't know if there's an answer or formula to this question, but is there any sort of steps that we typically recommend that business take...a business takes before they actually write that application, because I know, you know, costs money, and no one wants to spend more than they should, etc. So do we follow a process?
Yeah. I mean, I think we've spoken about this in a previous video as well, where Warrick introduced the working backwards theory.
That's right, yes.
So if you're looking at writing a whole new application or looking at coming up with a whole new product, working backwards is a great place to start in terms of going through the press release and the frequently asked questions and the user stories. So that will give you a really clear idea of what you're embarking on, because we normally say it's very cheap to iterate on a piece of paper, as opposed to with a developer who will cost you a lot of money in terms of if you don't have your processes and what you're trying to achieve worked out. Secondly, if you are just looking at doing improvements within a business in a business unit, it's much better for you to start with how much time are you actually going to spend...
Save as well.
...and save. And as a result, what sort of efficiencies are you looking to get out of this, and what are the business drivers that are gonna actually correlate to this. So for example, if you're going to automate this particular application, I'm gonna get 25% more sales or I'm gonna get 20 hours back from this particular person from doing this manually sort of thing. So those are some good gauges.
So kinda work backwards, think about the potential savings, and then do your math at the end just to kind of decide if that's worth going down the track of developing your own application.
That's right, yes. Exactly.
Topic 3: How much does it cost to develop an app?
Now we talked a little bit about cost, and I know that's often a question that we get asked by people, and that's the sticky one, really, about how much does it cost to make an app or a middleware application that goes and collects information from all sources and puts them together. Is it too expensive? Is it super cheap? I mean, it kinda probably is a hard question, but can you give us some insight into that?
Yeah. It is a difficult question to answer, but I mean, there is...once again, there are two ways to approach that, number one being if you're looking to create a whole new application, like I said in that first scenario, where you're looking to create a new business unit, we generally run through something called a lean canvas. I know that you're kinda familiar with that, which is basically going through and working out, what are the existing products? What is the advantage that you're trying to create? What are your hard costs and what do you need to do to break even, and as a result, come up with a budget?
That kinda problem solution fit
Exactly right. And also the value proposition of your application, so that, you know, it's trying to solve something. And what sort of investment would you put into that. So that allows you to kinda work out how much money you're looking to spend. If it's more along the lines of the business process improvement side of things, I would say that there is, once again, two ways to start that. One is you can do a lot with a the can product these days, such as Zapier, or Microsoft Flow, or Microsoft PowerApps. Those sorta products are...requires a lot less coding, and you can kinda get quite far without having to call the developer themselves.
Right. Thanks, Microsoft. Thanks, Zapier.
And Zapier. Yes. But then the second part is where you have to actually go and develop something from scratch. And then once again, you have to run through, you know, what is it that you're looking to get the outcome of this, and how much time and money are you saving? And how much of that money that you're saving as a percentage you're looking to put into application development.
So the takeaway is really that working backwards, right, starting from your idea and working backwards, and pretending that my app is here today, what am I getting out of this? What is people actually going to do after the application is released? And then we'll not only give you better understanding about what problems you're trying to solve, but also how much you're prepared to spend in that application, isn't it?
Exactly right. So I think the biggest thing for any business that's looking to write an application is that they need to have some business outcomes that they're looking to achieve from this particular application.
And it's should be measurable. So instead of just creating an application and saying it's there, you should be able to measure, have you got that efficiency? Have you got that cost savings at the end of it?
Otherwise there's no point.
That's right. Otherwise you could spend a lot a money.
Right. So I was hoping there was gonna be a magic number, but it doesn't sound like we can give away any magic number to people. It's case by case basis.
Magic numbers, no.
No. There's no magic. Software development itself is magic apparently, but there's no magic numbers behind it. All right, look, I really appreciate the time for today. Waruna, thank you. I will have Waruna back in another episode to talk to you about an actual app that we have developed and how that solved a problem for a business. I think that will bring a lot of context into this conversation that we just had today. And thanks once again for watching us. We'll see you next time. See you later.
Bye for now.