Custom App Development – In a World of Millions of Applications

By Ryan Robinson | March 3, 2014

In the age of millions of smartphone apps, industry-specific applications in every sector, ubiquitous office software, and powerful ERP systems, why do many of our clients find the need to use Mainstay’s developers to create fully custom applications? Let us elaborate on our custom app development.

The answer lies in the very nature of business itself.

Many people mistakenly think that a business succeeds to the extent that it captures a “bigger piece of the pie” than anyone else.  That the more one organization makes, the more it takes from others.  The wonderful, surprising reality of business is that organizations succeed based on their ability to create value.  Rather than taking a piece of the pie, a healthy organization is actually… well, baking pies (forgive me as I stretch the metaphor)!

Every organization takes resources, applies process and ingenuity, and seeks a specific outcome. A non-profit seeks change, public service, and helping those who can’t help themselves. A business seeks growth, profits, stability, and (often) the greater good.  A municipality seeks the good of its residents, safety, predictability, and effective government.  A school seeks an educated community, trained graduates, and investment in our future.

What does this have to do with application development?  Simply this: the more effective an organization’s processes, the better the outcomes at the organization.  A company with limited data and time-consuming processes requires significantly more cost (to produce its outcome) than one who manages data well and has efficient processes, and this is precisely what custom applications are designed to do!

Often, our clients come to us already having identified a process, a goal, and with an understanding of ROI (Return on Investment)associated with developing a custom application.  When they don’t, how do we know if we can help our clients better achieve their outcomes, with custom development?

The process for custom app development looks like this:

Understand our client.

What do they do? How? Why? What are their greatest opportunities and challenges?

Identify a process that needs improvement. 

We look for process bottlenecks, places where dual data entry is required, Access database applications in place, extensive reliance on Excel spreadsheets, data that lacks accuracy and transparency, and applications that do not scale to support the goals of the organization.

Evaluate possible solutions.

We determine whether the need is training, an update to current software, new industry software, or custom software.  We have significant experience working with hundreds of software packages and we can often help our clients identify a current, industry solution for their challenge. But many times, our client is unique, their business process is unique, or the efficiencies to be gained are so significant, that custom development is the wise choice.

Create a proposal, with a focus on ROI.

We typically develop on a cutting-edge system called Proteus that allows us to develop with breakthrough levels of efficiencies and costs. Our proposals outline the process, the application, the recommendations, the timeframe, and there is a focus on the benefit – what’s the return on investment?

Develop the application.

With a dedicated project manager, a long track record, and cutting-edge tools, our developers are able to execute projects on budget and on time.

Ensure the application meets the goal.

Is it functioning as outlined and did it meet the ultimate business goal?

Support it long-term. 

We are very particular about how these applications are hosted and perform proactive maintenance, security monitoring,and provide cloud-based hosting to ensure reliability. In addition, the exceptional quality of service that our clients are used to when supporting their networks, extends to their custom applications developed by Mainstay, on an ongoing basis.  An application can’t just be developed and left – it has to be supported year after year to ensure it continues to be available, continues to evolve as necessary, and continues to support the business well.

Custom applications aren’t for everyone, but if your organization is looking to create more value for your customers and the greater community, the cost of development is decreasing every year and making their prodigious power and efficiencies available to more and more organizations.

– Ryan Robinson, Chief Services Officer