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Keep it simple: Why we believe in modular business software

Apr 29, 2016 2:47:55 PM

Keep it simple: Why we believe in modular business software

As you know, SRXP focusses individually on expense reporting, this has worked out quite well for us. Specialising in some sort of business software has worked out for several other companies, for example by solely developing hour-registering software or invoicing. Often we are asked whether we can also do invoicing. We could quite easily expand our product with an invoicing tool, but we won't. We choose to specialise in expense reporting, so we have full focus on innovating this particular business process.

Big solve-it-all business software systems
At the same time, especially corporate organisations choose to implement big ERP systems that can automate all business processes at once: There’s one system, one contract and one server. This all sounds utterly promising until implementation starts.

The time between establishing the requirements and going live is so long (often one or two years!) that the online environment has changed too much to be up to date. In the FinTech world, where everyone is constantly developing and automating, you can't afford an implementation of a year. Your requirements will be old before the implementation is done.

The risks accompanying the implementation are big. One example in which it all went terribly wrong was at HP when it wanted to centralise its North American ERP systems onto one SAP system. HP lost an estimated 160 million dollars (more than five times the estimated project costs) thanks to cancelled deals and packages that were delivered too late. 

"We had a series of small problems, none of which individually would have been too much to handle. But together they created the perfect storm." - Gilles Bouchard, former-CIO of HP's global operations

Keep it simple, stupid
But what would be the solution? Our advice: KISS. The Japanese automotive industry invented 'Lean Manufacturing'. Based on Lean Manufacturing, the software engineering industry, in its turn, invented Agile working in Scrum or Kanban. This is exactly what we should do for the rest of the business processes as well. It is important to keep it simple and small, you should see improvement as a continuous process.

Keeping it simple ensures that you keep it manageable, measurable and that you decrease unnecessary risks. This is how we improved our development process at SRXP as well. We implemented continuous improvements and made sure we improved ourselves week by week. We introduced Kanban and cut big features up into smaller releases. We started working on brown paper, narrowing everything down into small pieces.

Cut big features into small features

All together we have realised major improvements. We measure the results of every improvement in order to evaluate whether it actually was an improvement. This approach has left us with various agile tools:

Modulair business software network

Every single tool complies with our workflow-needs. For example, we believe that Intercom is the best tool for interacting with our customers. We use WordPress for our website because of the easy maintenance and numerous add-ons, and we use Slack to communicate within our team. Instead of building our own invoices tool, we use Chargebee to send invoices to our customers.

How would that work for corporates?
You might still think: ‘sure, that might work for a small company like SRXP, but I work at an organisation with hundreds or even thousands of employees.’ That should not make a difference, at SRXP we believe that you can do exactly the same for your business software. The only obstacle would be the management of all implemented the tools. This might be the only reason to purchase one big ERP system. Demand creates supply, so the solution to this problem is already here. There are lots of tools that help share users among different instruments and help manage their login credentials. Therefore it’s accessible to manage the tools and exchange data between them.

One example of such a tool is Okta. Okta manages your employees’ access to third party tools in one environment. Since Okta offers user provisioning as well, we are working on enabling SRXP to directly synchronise not only the login credentials but all user data between SRXP and Okta. This reduces manual efforts and the risk of manual mistakes tremendously and creates a network of tools that communicate with each other. It enables you to choose the best solutions for every part of the system. Not satisfied with a tool or seen a better option? Just replace that one tool in your network. That is how you ensure that you stay agile.

According to us, this is the best way for organisations to go around automating business processes and buying business software. The dependency on one big system is risky and undermines the flexibility of the entire organisation especially during the current hacking epidemic.

In conclusion, think again about purchasing a big, solve-it-all business software solution. There are specialised tools that keep innovating themselves and integrate perfectly with other expert tools, each in their own niche. Just like SRXP.

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Pieter Verbruggen

Pieter Verbruggen

CEO & Founder
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