Developing IT in an existing company – sometimes it’s like creating a new business
IT development – a new web application or integration with external systems – is often a milestone in the development of the company. It opens door to do many things that previously were impossible. Everyone can benefit from it – the management staff (because the company is moving to a higher level), as well as regular employees (because a large part of the tedious, repetitive duties is eliminated).
However, there may be some challenges. It is not enough to simply tell yourself and your colleagues that you are creating or developing a new IT system. First, you should analyze various aspects of your company and sometimes also external partners. The goal is basically always the same: to improve one or more areas in the company.
A new technical solution cannot be a separate, autonomous entity. A new program or integration with an external supplier must be a natural element of the entire ecosystem of your company. Otherwise, it may turn out to be a failed project after a few years – as, for example, it only caused chaos in the company, and did not bring any significant benefits.
If you create something new in IT, you have to remember that this solution will most likely have connections with many existing departments in the company. This often causes a chain effect. One action affects several areas. Every boss knows well that individual departments in the company should, as a rule, cooperate with each other and understand each other. The new web application may work well with the existing sales, logistics and accounting, etc.
A large part of the work on building IT systems in a company includes the integration of various sources of information – employee activities, customer inquiries, marketing data, etc. So it is about creating a wise company strategy with particular emphasis on all IT solutions – those that already exist and those that will be built in the future. It should focus on the overall long-term increase in efficiency or effectiveness of the company, not just a sudden shift of resources and potential from one place to another.
How to sync it all? First, you should do an analysis, then create or refresh the structure of the company, taking into account all technological and human processes. During reflection and discussion on the new way of organizing, it may turn out that you will come up with even better solutions than initially assumed.
These new structures and plans may turn out to be a rather sketchy concept at first. Don’t worry – many new creative ideas, improvements or small errors in the initial assumptions are often revealed only in the heat of work or even at the end of the project. Do you want to have a complete plan before you start programming, which you have to stick to later? This would be unjustified in terms of procedure or effectiveness. Remember – creating plans and analyzes before starting a project does not always have to be a long and tedious process. However, it is necessary to do some preliminary research and sketches before starting any programming.
Most of the projects in which a web solution or other IT system is added to an existing company are complex. You have to fit into the current structure, while taking into account several dozen or even several hundred aspects with various impact on online sales. For example, a customer pricing policy that works well in the offline world may not work as well online.
To make a plan, you first need to do an internal analysis. You need to find out, for example:
For more technical and procedural issues:
- How are the traditional processes going so far?
- How the daily work of people in the various departments is carried out?
- How many areas of the company are to be digitized? The first answer here is often “I want to bring everything online”. However, it may quickly turn out that it will have no business or procedural justification and will only become a generator of unnecessary turmoil. One of the most important principles of digitization? Think about what is better not to digitize.
- What human resources and competences within the company you already have or will attain in the near future? Who will operate the new application? Maybe you should think about a small reorganization (it may be related to, for example, some staff shifts in the company or additional recruitment)?
- Will it be better if the new solution faithfully reproduces the current processes or to create a completely new order of things.
Many more questions like these need to be asked and answered.
What, for example, if there is a non-standard problem that cannot be solved by IT systems? Even the best programs are not able to replace people in all areas. E-commerce can be a good example here. If you want to sell large and heavy goods online, you have to ship them on pallets. However, you are not able to predict how many and which products will be ordered by the customer – whether there will be need for one, two or five pallets. It may just turn out that someone has ordered one heavy item and shipping it by courier means only a financial loss. On the other hand, setting a logistic limit does not encourage shopping. In such cases, the role of the customer support is usually taken over by people who contact the customer by phone or e-mail.
The mere launch of a new IT platform as a separate entity is generally not a big challenge. However, building an efficient system adjusted to an already operating company turns out to be not so easy. It is important to remember that the complete study of the internal situation of a given organization is successful if you talk to the heads of individual departments in the company – with a logistician, a customer service man or even a production manager. The company creating the new system should also take a look at, among others, currently used programs.
It is also worth paying attention to another important element here – lower-level employees: customer service or warehouse workers must also have well-organized work. These people are, after all, important links in the entire chain. The flow of information and the execution of processes must be as coordinated and smooth as possible. Otherwise, there may be delays or mistakes in everyday tasks. This, in turn, may bring a negative impact on the final results of the company, e.g. impatient or disappointed customer. Not to mention the frustration of employees. You have to remember that the best employee is the satisfied one.
Therefore, in the huge number of sketches created when designing a store, it is worth clearly defining the entire path of process implementation using new IT solutions – from the moment a given information enters the system, through its processing and implementation. Certainly, short and transparent procedures or training in the use of the program would also be extremely useful.
A smoothly running program without cheeky features is always better than a beautiful work of art in chaos. Yes, you must strive to make the system as functional and helpful as possible. Nevertheless, the employees or customers will forgive some minor imperfections (they may not even notice them) and will do their job or place orders.
Of course, it’s best for a new web application or other program to have as many functions as possible. After all, you never know when one of them might come in handy, right? But you usually find that your budget or time is limited. Creating many, many functions sometimes causes chaos, because people may not be able to master this whole complex machine. It should also be noted that, as a rule, the more functions, the greater the project budget must be.
Therefore, you should remember this – IT systems are like living organisms – they transform over time. Many things are added or changed after a longer period of operation, e.g. based on customer feedback or the emergence of new marketing solutions on the market. Do you want to have the perfect web application right from the start? Get ready for a very long implementation time and really high costs. Trust me, it is better to start with the basic version and keep improving it.
Is your concept ready? Have specific IT solutions been selected? It’s time to start development and officially enter the new program into the company’s strategy.
Creating the concept of a web application or other solution is sometimes a complex process and can take quite a long time, but it is necessary. In return, you will get a solid machine ready to receive and handle a huge number of processes. Remember: first, modify the strategy, taking into account new IT solutions, and only then start working on the solution.