Integrated Software – the third software solution
Integrated Software – the third software solution 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

Bespoke, off-the-shelf or integrated software

In a recent blog, ‘What’s the best software solution for your organisation?’, we looked at the different types of software available to businesses and the benefits each option can bring to the table.

It’s not a straight decision between bespoke and package solutions anymore. An additional option which is often overlooked, or not considered by many is integrated or hybrid software. It’s a solution that can add great value and be more cost-effective because, it’s often not as simple as ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to choosing the right software.

No matter the size of your business, companies often need a variety of different software to address the specific business needs of different departments. You may have already considered off-the-shelf solutions and not found the right fit or, found a solution which more or less fits your requirements, but has some areas that need a bit of tweaking to make them just right for you. If you’re not quite ready for bespoke, the ideal solution would be a hybrid of the two, so you might want to consider integrated software.

What is Integrated Software?

Integrated software allows you to pick and mix features from off-the-shelf solutions and either tailor them to your business need or, integrate them centrally, with existing systems.

Integrated software has many positives and can undoubtedly add value where it’s the right fit for a business. Positives include:

  • Less risk and lower costs when compared to a fully bespoke solution, as you already have the developed (and tested) off-the-shelf aspects.
  • Improvements in performance due to the fine tuning of additional and improved customised features that fit your business requirements.
  • A higher quality solution as a result of refining an existing solution to suit your needs, and consequently, an enhanced finalised product is produced.

In addition to the positives of an integrated solution, there are other considerations you need to be aware of. In some cases, integrated systems can be more complex to maintain and it can be difficult to get the variety of systems, which are all talking different languages, to integrate seamlessly. Working with the right partner who understands bespoke development is critical to help avoid any potential pitfalls.

Discover more about the pros and cons of integrated software and whether it is the best solution for your organisation, by downloading our whitepaper, Bespoke, off-the-shelf or integrated software: which is best?or, why not talk to us today about your software requirements.

How to avoid software development project failure
How to avoid software development project failure 1024 747 dan.macduff

Two thirds of IT professionals have been involved in a project which has failed to live up to expectations. Stories of projects over running or exceeding their budgets seem all too common and yet only 1% of IT professionals believe that it is inevitable that a software project will overrun its budget and deadlines.

Why do software projects fail?

For 76% of those who have experienced difficulties, they believe the requirements gathering stage could be to blame, while 67% also hold changes to the brief partly responsible. Whatever the reason for software project failure the consequences can be insurmountable with a potential loss in profits and business reputation.

How to prevent your software project failing

This infographic is a quick and easy guide to ensure your software project doesn’t fail.

Bespoke, off-the-shelf or in between the two?
Bespoke, off-the-shelf or in between the two? 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

With multiple options available to organisations in terms of software solutions it can sometimes feel like you have to navigate through a minefield to get the one that is right for you.

From off-the-shelf, to fully bespoke and a mixture of the two it can sometimes be all to easy to base your decision on the wrong factors such as ‘which is cheapest and gets us close to where we need to be?’

One of the key questions to ask to help make the right decision is ‘What tools do I need to help my business run efficiently?’

Answering this question honestly can have a huge impact as it will undoubtedly influence productivity, profitability, your competitive edge and more which, depending on the solution you choose will be for the better or worse.

The benefits of 3 software solutions at a glance

  • Off the shelf – it’s the quickest and easiest but is also capable of causing headaches down the line if you don’t make the choice initially, not for all by any means but it’s really important to know what functionality will be critical and ensure it provides that
  • Bespoke – there’s no question this will provide you with a system that is tailored to your exact needs and removes the need for paying on-going license fees but with that does come the need for maintenance, support and depending on your exact needs can be expensive, until the TCO is reviewed that is.
  • Hybrid – this option can be overlooked but holds the potential to provide the right solution for organisations. By taking an off the shelf solution that provides the majority of functionality you require and then undertaking some bespoke development for the missing pieces it can provide a really cost effective solution for many.

If you’re ready to discover more about these 3 options and which would best suit your organisation download our whitepaper Bespoke, off-the-shelf or integrated software: which is best? or, talk to us today

Why Business Analysts are crucial for Digital Transformation
Why Business Analysts are crucial for Digital Transformation 150 150 Graham Douglas

These days it isn’t enough to simply be more efficient than your competitors; the most successful companies are those which embrace digital transformation and provide radical new services.

But it can be difficult to know how to go about making the change, and even where to start. That’s where the specialist skills of a Business Analyst (BA) can really help.

Business analysts can play a key role in helping companies to take the necessary steps to identify those innovations and transform their services to become digital organisations.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is much more than simply improving your business through the use of technology.

Transformation means the creation of completely new innovations that were not previously possible. We are not talking about a one or two step improvement in the efficiency of traditional practices, but a profound change to the kind of work being done and services provided. A perfect example is how Amazon has changed the retail industry, or the impact Uber is having on taxi services.

What makes digital transformation different is not just the emphasis on customer experience, but that the example of companies like Google and Amazon has raised customer expectations so high that speed, simplicity, convenience, and personalisation are the new norms for all organisations think about a charity taking contactless donations or customers managing insurance claims from mobile apps.

How Business Analysts can help with your digital transformation

Business analysts are specialists in change and the process of change. This means they have a toolkit of knowledge and techniques which are specifically relevant for transformational thinking.

A good BA offers many advantages. Here are some of them:

  • Critical analysis. The ability to think in the abstract without being constrained by existing systems or the current ways of doing things.
  • Planning and facilitation of ideas and requirements workshops.
  • Has an external view of the organisation and its practices; they are able to bring a fresh pair of eyes.
  • Takes nothing for granted and asks the obvious questions that otherwise may be taken for granted.
  • Has a breadth of experience from working across different industry sectors; can introduce ideas from other industries and suggest what they have seen work in other companies.
  • Provides the bridge between the business and developers by translating complicated user requirements into technical specifications.
  • Politically neutral without baggage or vested interests, which removes any barriers which may exist to stakeholders and participants voicing their ideas and contributions.
  • Gravitas; working with an independent BA can add to the status and credibility of a project.

Customer expectations are higher than ever, which means the pressure is on for companies to have a better understanding of their customers’ needs and to translate those needs into innovative technology solutions. A business analyst can play a key role to help companies reach that goal.

To start your digital transformation with one of our Business Analysts get in touch today.

Why use rapid prototyping for software development?
Why use rapid prototyping for software development? 150 150 Graham Douglas

In many cases system requirements are produced in lengthy specification documents. In some cases, having this detail is desirable but for others it provides a document that is un-engaging and tedious to read.

If you sit in the latter category, then using a ‘rapid prototype’ can be far better and provides a way to create an interactive visual model of the system that users can engage with.

What is rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is a process whereby wireframes or simple mocks-ups of the system are used as the base layer and interactive elements can be added that allow the user to mimic how they may use the real system. Interactive elements would typically include being able to click on drop down lists and view the options it holds or, navigating between pages.

Why consider rapid prototyping?

By using a prototype model users are able to try and test the functionality before it is built into the live system. This provides a way of identifying any potential errors in the requirements and even establishing new requirements that hadn’t been previously considered. Creating a version of the system in this way is also quick to produce and easy to change if something isn’t correct and requires re-testing – making it a very cost effective way of both capturing and validating requirements.

In additional rapid prototyping provides an opportunity to get system users engaged and on board at an early stage of the development project. There are many tools that can help to produce rapid prototypes, the best of which allow users to attach feedback directly to the prototype, so there’s no need to send emails backwards and forwards.

This agile approach can leave many nervous of spiralling costs and a process that will leave them still trying to firm up requirements at the end but, managed right this process should actually result in quite the opposite and save expenditure in the long term.

What are the Pros & Cons of rapid prototyping?

There are some potential downsides of rapid prototyping and it won’t be the right choice for everyone. Ultimately it provides a simple representation of the actual system and therefore is unlikely to include every aspect of the finished software. It is however a great way to engage users and capture requirements and start the building blocks for your final system. Here are a few Pros and Cons:


  • Visual and interactive
  • They are a great way to engage users and gain feedback
  • Quick to produce
  • Provides a solid foundation to build on
  • Great way to refine and prioritise requirements


  • Won’t look like the finished screens – it’s a representation, not the real thing
  • May need additional documentation for more complicated requirements
  • Risk that the prototype becomes an end in itself rather than a means to having working software
Do you need a data whisperer (data analyst)?
Do you need a data whisperer (data analyst)? 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

In recent blogs we have provided some practical steps to help you both identify your data and undertake an audit.

But once you’ve finished your data audit and have a clearer understanding of where your data sources are saved, in what format, who they are used by and for what you then have the next challenge of taking this information and creating a plan to help you start realising and releasing the potential it holds.

If this leaves you dreading getting stuck in it becoming a task that is continually moved to the bottom of the to do list maybe it’s time to find a data whisperer (data analyst)?

What can an experienced data analyst bring to the party?

As with any task it can be really handy to have someone on hand with speciliast skills and experience to either undertake the task or, provide advice on how best to approach it.

This is where a data analyst or ‘data whisperer’ can add real value and provide intepretations of your data that will allow you to make more informed business decisions.

3 ways a data analyst can help your business

  • Extract and combine – a data analyst has the experience, skills and ability to take data of all varieties such as sales figures, time management stats, invoicing and combine them to create one central set of data to work from.
  • Manipulate and identify – once the data is combined and they have an understanding of what you would like to achieve they will work to manipulate the data source(s) to identify key pieces of information that will allow you to make better and more informed deciisons.
  • Data visualisation – once the value has been identified it’s important for data to be presented in a visual way. It’s well known that visuals are far easier to process than vast amounts of numbers, they also help make it easier to identify patterns. A data analyst will help prepare a series of dashboards that will see your data visualised and allow you to continue viewing and making data driven decisions.

If you’re unsure if a data analyst is right for you, why not discover how it resulted in QBE being able to access accurate insurance trends.