What to do when your software does too much (or not enough)


Date: 5 March 2014

What to do when your software does too much (or not enough)/Swiss army knife - software does everything{{}}You know your company’s admin process better than anyone. But can you find software that matches it?

No. Of course you can’t.

Why? Because the software companies always come up with generic, one-size-fits-all solutions. Allegedly, that’s the most cost-effective way.

And it works, up to a point. For instance: 

  • If you only sell to companies in the UK, you can still use accounting software that has fields for international business addresses.
  • If you’re not VAT-registered, you can use a VAT invoice template by just leaving the VAT boxes blank.

It’s a little frustrating, especially when you remember how much you paid for your software. But at some point, you’ll run into a problem that requires a workaround.

Perhaps this means you have to do your calculations in a spreadsheet and then copy the result into your accounting software. Or you end up producing quotes for work in Microsoft Word, but then create the invoice in Excel.

Wonderful extras

Sure, off-the-shelf software has wonderful extras, like storing people’s birthdays or converting yen to sterling. But there’ll still be no way of making your phone number print on delivery notes, or placing your logo exactly where you want it.

You can spend months looking for the right software, then more months trying to learn it. And even then you have to spend more time adapting your company’s processes to fit it.

But doesn’t every business have to waste months working with inadequate, inappropriate software?

No, I don’t think they do. Often, the answer is a bespoke relational database.

A database for your business

When you build your own database, an expert looks at how your business works, figures out which bit can be automated, and then makes that happen. The learning curve is shallow, because the new system is designed to fit around how you already do things.

You don’t have any features you won’t use. And as your company grows, you can adapt the database to suit.

You’ll save some time because you won’t have to continue the ongoing search for software. And you’ll save more because everyday processes will be updated and speeded up.

Martin Bridges is an expert in office admin and developing relational databases who works at dataBASED.biz.

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