What is Your App Stack

by Paula Byers | 

“My What?!” I hear you ask, let me explain . . .
Technology, it seems, comes up with an ever-increasing list of jargon that seems to be set to confuse or intimidate, but this, at least is exactly what is says on the tin!  An App Stack is a group (or Stack) of bits of software (Apps) that link together (integrated) to perform tasks (like managing your business).

Ok, so that’s it . . . end of blog.  That was a short one, right?  Well no, not really, because understanding why you need an App Stack and what it can do for you is key to the efficient management of your business. 

Spreadsheet hell

Understanding what functions are needed to manage your business both on a day to day level and a strategic level will go some way to helping you identify what Apps you might need.  Sometimes though, this takes time to unpick and lateral thinking may be required.  I was speaking the other day to a business owner who said, “We have Sage, but we are still drowning in spreadsheets and it is killing our business where we are now, let alone allowing us to grow more”.  

When looking at the processes to manage your business, it is not necessarily about what you are currently using – doing it the way it has always been done – but looking at what you should be doing.  If you can figure out your end game and work backwards, often that will help identify why things are not running as smoothly as they should now.

I love those businesses who are still mired in spreadsheets – they are often the easiest to convert as there is nothing that will stifle growth quicker than outgrowing your spreadsheet!  The time savings are enormous too: spreadsheets often require duplicate data entry and the frustration of searching for that one last error that you know is in there someplace but just can’t find . . . they’re the things that make people ready to ditch the spreadsheets and move to the cloud.

Why not click on the image below to take Xero’s quick quiz to see how ready you are to move from spreadsheets to their accounting software?

It's all about the data . . .

As early as 2007 Gartner research predicted that over the next 2 years more than 25% of critical data in Fortune 1000 companies would continue to be flawed and that three quarters of large enterprises would make little to no progress towards improving data quality until 2010.  Fast forward to 2013 and a further Gartner survey states that organisations who estimated that poor quality data was costing them an average $14.2 million per annum.  An IBM estimate puts this figure at $1.6 trillion for the US alone in 2016.  

Whilst these figures seem huge and not very relevant to your business, can you, hand on heart, say that bad data isn’t harming your business?  An Experian Data Quality survey shows that inaccurate data has a direct impact on the bottom line of 88% of companies, with the average company losing 12% of its revenue.

When you have the right App Stack, the data should flow between them, using a single point data entry principle; enter once so that the system uses it wherever needed.  This should be the standard that you aim for when setting up a cloud management system.  Repeat data entry is, well, repetitive (pardon the pun) so it is costly and allows opportunity for error and is, quite frankly, boring!  That said, with single point data entry if you put rubbish in, well you get . . . yes, you guessed it; rubbish out!

Cloud Power

Cloud tools are becoming more sophisticated and developed by the week it seems.  Their ability to fulfil functions in business management that you haven’t even thought of needing yet is what makes this development so exciting for me as a cloud integrator.  I really believe that it gives small businesses the ability to compete with their much larger counterparts often on expensive enterprise level software.  Because it is subscription based (often paid monthly) it does this by staying agile and growing with you. 

Whilst not fool-proof, Apps can help you with data entry errors, with smart entry fields that accept pre-determined data, which benefits you over the free-text entry of a spreadsheet.  Add in the automation and machine learning features and with the reconciliation functions, the data starts to build to ensure accurate, real-time data that you can rely on.

Stand-alone Apps are all very well, but integration is where the power lies. Once your Apps are connected together, sharing data, then it develops into an effective and efficient business management system.  Balancing stones are such a good metaphor for this; they each rely on each other in a considered approach to achieve the end goal.

Where to start?

Take a look at your businesses processes, often outside help can be invaluable as they can be far more objective and ask the difficult questions with no vested interest.  We make it part of our Appraisal process for that very reason and some Clients just want this service and our recommendations for a set up that they then implement themselves.  Some Clients like the full service of Appraisal through to ongoing Support for the peace of mind that the process is managed end to end.

Whoever is running your cloud migration project, make sure they establish the priorities and be realistic about what can be achieved in the timescale, the project may be large enough to warrant phasing and it certainly should not be rushed.

Your business management systems evolve with your business – no-one sets out to end up with an overloaded system with overworked staff, but you can choose to improve it.  

Contact us for help.


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