There’s an art to software development. The best programs are an exercise in finding elegant answers to the market’s messy questions. When the tools get out of the way of the work, that’s when you know you’re on to something special. The easier and more unobtrusive, the better.
This all starts with identifying a specific need. It isn’t just a matter of nice things to have, or what looks cool (although a factor) on screen. It’s knowing what gets focused, sustainable results for your varied business goals. After all, the mark of an effective tool is an exponential increase in productivity relative to your labor.
Custom software development can do all this and more, but only if your needs are made clear. The ideation process for this is simple. All you have to do is identify three key points before proceeding:
- Contingency Plans
Simple enough, right? Every brand worth its salt knows that singular focus on an overarching goal (and set of subgoals) is likely to do better than a brand that tries everything and hopes something sticks. Well, admittedly, that would be cool, but we can’t all be Google. Yet.
Say for example, you want to be the region’s best hi-fi and pro audio retailer. Stick to that, and learn to always ask what it would take to make these things happen. Do you have a proper supply chain? How are your engineers? Do you have a clientele? Do you manage inventory for parts like tubes or NOS capacitors? These things all affect the way you do business in the end.
For the sake of this example, you’re looking for an inventory monitoring system that allows you to monitor stock between branches, and possibly source part orders from procurement as needed. That’s a clear enough point to want to work on.
Now that you’ve zeroed in on a goal, you’re going to have to work out the things you need to succeed. We’ve identified the supply chain and inventory system as a major thing we’ll need to work with. In there, we’re going to need to monitor the status of both inter-branch and supplier deliveries and which products and parts we have available.
By those demands, you’re looking at a software solution that needs to address two main vectors:
For deliveries, you’re going to need the following things to work:
- The external process needed to interface between the software solution and the people tasked with taking stock to and from your stores or warehouses
- The external process needed to process part and supply orders from established partners
- The internal process needed to get parts, supply, and stock from one branch (or warehouse) to another
Do also note that if things can go wrong, they likely will. Try to build your processes around what you think would be a worst-case scenario. In this case, it would be on whether or not people actually make the deliveries happen, or if there are any communicative gaps anywhere within the chain. Identifying these implications will prove valuable to your software development team.
For inventory, you’re going to need these:
- A stock monitoring function, cross referenced with the delivery system for transparency
- A way to integrate the stock monitoring function with a POS system, allowing for automatic stock deduction
- A means to determine the origin point/movement history of stock from one branch to another
Things like shrinkage (the loss of items in inventory) need to be accounted for. Since it wouldn’t be so much of a problem if they knew where the items were going in the first place, this might be a concern. Stock passes through a lot of hands, and each of these are potential points for shrinkage or errors in data entry.
Building on Your Contingency Plans
Once you’ve sorted out every link in your supply chain, you will soon find that many of the fixes you applied come with a degree of compromise. If you’re the adventurous type, you could take on a more flexible version of your Stock Management System, kinks and all. When your solution has that many working parts, someone’s bound to get something wrong. You could try to mitigate this externally by holding in-depth training for the new platform, establishing best practices as you go.
On the same note, you could opt for something a lot simpler, but relatively airtight in terms of OVERALL process flow (not just the app). You might have to sacrifice a little flexibility, but at this point, it might work or your situation particularly well.
Software Development is really about choosing which battles to fight, and the best way to manage them without digging yourself into a bad situation.
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