Application development

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In the charity sector we are all complicated! And we’re all different. We’ve found around 20 common business processes, but they’re expressed differently in each organisation. No two record exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. No two have the same workflows & procedures.

We’re all different, but there are common business processes...

Common business processess

Every organisation shares some the core processes shown here. And most organisations will feature at least one of these four. Plus we'd expect a smattering of these rarer ones too.

The majority of our applications are web based solutions using ASP.Net (Web Forms or MVC) built using C# or VB.Net with MS SQL Server databases as the backend. However, more and more we're implementing API's to link different systems together or services performing a specialised task.

There are some wonderful packages targeting this sector. They have a wealth of functionality AND they're highly tailorable. So, why would anyone in their right mind (especially in this sector!) want a bespoke information system? And is it not actually a bad thing even to try to convince people they should have a bespoke system?

Well, you may find a package that does exactly what you want, or close enough that it doesn't matter. And if you do, our advice is: buy it.

That said, we do look at and we try out a lot of market leading systems. We've probably looked closely at the packages you're using or considering.

And our experience is this: if you try using any package, you find you (consciously or not) have to shift your perspective to fit the way they view the world. You have to accept how they represent things, what they call them. You can adapt - you can shoe-horn yourself into their world view, but it's not how you would naturally see things.

And there is so much baggage to take on board. So much data you don't / wouldn't record if you had the choice. So much functionality you don't need, it's just a distraction - the 80:20 rule applies.

If your underlying requirement is close to what the package does out of the box, then fine, but the further away you are, the more pain you'll suffer for being different.

Many seasoned observers will have you believe you're not different. You have the same business processes as many others, just the combination, permutation and orchestration are slightly different. Sure, and people are the same in most objective respects too.

The thing is, it's the differences that make organisations (and people!) special. If you can play to your strengths, if your key line of business system emphasises your differences, there lies competitive advantage.

Actually, how you see the world, how you want to relate to your data. In these respects you are different.

And it's true that at a data level - the tables and fields you need - you are different from other organisations.

If you weren't different, why would so many packages offer so much in terms of customization and bespoke extension?

But try making a package fit your needs exactly. With packages it's easy to get something rough up and running. But it's hard work.

If your real requirement is complicated or further away from what the package does out of the box, it's really, really hard to get exactly what you want. And even if you get close, can your organisation really outshine the crowd by being a text book installation of a mass market CRM system? Is that where step-change competitive advantage lies?

Our view is that the best way to get an information system that fits your organisation perfectly is to have no constraints on

  • your data structure - to have the freedom to start with a blank sheet and to have nothing except what you want.
  • your functionality - nothing you didn't ask for.

That's true if you're thinking of a single business process, eg membership or case management. But if you're looking to support a string of integrated business processes, it's even more so.

The information system is the single most powerful lever for organisational advance. If you agree then doesn't your organisation deserve the best information system it can get?

To us the best information system is one that is

  • exactly what you want
  • exactly how you want it
  • everything you do want
  • nothing you don't want

If your information system, your main line of business system, fits like a hand to a glove then your organisation can really achieve; it can zoom.

For sure this approach doesn't suit everyone but when it does, when we work in partnership with your organisation to create a business-requirement-hugging information system, then you see an organisation firing on all cylinders and, man, there is nothing quite like that.

Now all that said, we're not purists - we don't favour bespoke for bespoke's sake.

In fact the core of all our systems is actually the same; it is made from and by the same software, you could almost call it a package (we don't - we call it our software framework). The key difference though is that the data structure underneath is completely bespoke and the functionality we put on top (the stuff which turns a house into a home) of it is ALL your choice.

It's what gives us the freedom to promise....

We will build exactly what you want.

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