Thursday, 16 July 2015

Benefiting from Mobile Business Apps

An app doesn't always have to be a piece of software developed for Android, iPhone or other smartphones which you can only download from various app stores. Many businesses could  benefit from a more efficient workflow by getting a bespoke app developed without breaking the bank.

We have all seen it from courier companies: Drivers come to collect a parcel and scan a barcode and make you sign on the screen. Same thing again upon delivery. At the same time this information is being used to update a central database, do some magic in the backend and you receive an email that your order has been delivered.

Just because you own a small business does not mean that you cannot benefit from apps as well. Especially small businesses which have regular occurring tasks, have travelling salespeople or are self-employed trades people should have a closer look into the possibilities of turning your smartphone into an office.

Example from Invoice Simple
Android app
For the trade - your office in your pocket

Tradespeople, often working by themselves could get the boring office work done while on site with the customer.

  • take card payments through your mobile
  • write an invoice through an app
  • send invoices by email
  • even print invoices on paper with a mobile bluetooth printer

Apps and services for all of these tasks already exist. Several invoice apps can be found on Google Play and a quick search on Amazon UK reveals several portable printers under £200. Several payment service providers already offer mobile payment acceptance such as iZettle, PayPal, Payleven and many others.

Bespoke web apps - the affordable alternative

What makes standard app development expensive is the fact that they are often developed for multiple platforms like Android and iPhone. Also, often they don't work on every device and need testing on various models and software versions to ensure all users have the same experience.

With an app for your business used by your staff only you are in control of all these factors. You can decide to use only one specific operating system and phone model. This often cuts development cost more than half.

If you can also ensure that your app always has an internet connection and does not need to access any specific sensors, you can even think of a 'web app' developed in HTML5 and run in the browser. This can drive the cost even further down and comes with additional benefits of low maintenance cost and multi platform compatibility like Android, iPhone, Windows Phone.

What are business apps good for?

Business apps can come in handy when you have staff recording the same sort of data on a regular basis. Also, when you want to supply travelling staff with up to date details on their job. Connected to the right backend you have the data available as soon as it has been input.

Often apps make use of specific device features such as a camera to upload photos or scan barcodes. But you can also buy affordable Android devices with specific input such as laser barcode reader, NFC or RFID readers.

Examples use cases are:

  • stock counting with barcodes
  • list of customers to visit
  • surveys with photo upload
  • delivery confirmations
  • popup shop checkout
  • generate photo badges
  • confirm validity of eTickets
  • .... and many more

Barcode scan screen using
Chrome browser on Android

Two case studies

Recently I have helped two businesses with app development, both involving barcode scanning.

One is for stock counting, creating a PDF report and feeding the data back into their bespoke system. Before deployment a manual stock count took a whole day and was very error prone. This monthly process has been reduced to a couple of hours each time. The development cost paid off after the second stock count.

The other business had to manually compare order numbers with a delivery list and compare if they are physically present. This process took 1 to 2 hours daily and has been reduced to a few minutes using barcode scanning with an Android phone. Again, the development paid off within a few days.

If you are unsure if your business could benefit from a bespoke app contact me for a no-obligation chat about your requirements.