Line Of Business Applications
How Line-Of-Business Systems Evolve
A line of business (LoB) application is one that a business unit relies on to provide critical functionality; without it, they would have difficulty doing their jobs. Why are new line of business apps constantly being built, and why do some companies make big investments in custom LoB apps?
As their environment changes, clever business groups find new and better ways to operate. Alone in green pastures, these innovative business units find that their business models have changed enough that they are no longer well served by standard line of business apps. To satisfy their unusual needs, they seek custom software solutions tailored to them.
As other groups follow suit in changing the way they do business, it becomes profitable for software companies to offer a standard product that generally fulfills the needs of the innovators. As more software products enter the market, variations are filled in until an “off-the-shelf” solution is a more sensible choice than creating a custom application. It is therefore critical prior to undertaking a software development project to understand where on this continuum the line of business lies.
When to Go Custom
Is the group doing things the standard way, the same way it’s done at all your competitors? If so, there is likely a standard application that will serve their needs well and is also economical. Are they doing things differently simply because they lack processes and organization? In this case, adopting a standard LoB application can help to not only support the group but force them to comply with industry-accepted work processes.On the other hand, if you believe that the business group in question is intentionally doing things in a way that is unusual and valuable, you have another decision to make. Is the group being served well enough by their current line of business applications, or does it make sense to create a piece of custom software for them?
Entrance can assist you in researching and making this build versus buy decision. You may not be excited about spending good money with a software company and not receiving any software, but there is a reason that generally accepted software development frameworks, such as the Microsoft Solution Framework, include envisioning and planning phases and go/no-go checkpoints. The expected value of making the right decision up front far outweighs the cost of the decision making process.
Mobile Is Now Standard
The expectations for what a LoB application will deliver for a business unit have changed, having been influenced by the plethora of high quality consumer applications that are available anywhere and mobile-friendly. A newly-developed app is likely to be panned and underused if it is only available while on the company’s network and only on a desktop PC. Luckily, a properly architected application can reuse business logic, data storage and access, and even views to reduce the amount of additional work needed before the system can be used on phones and tablets.
At Entrance, we use the the React library created and popularized by Facebook to build modern user experiences. We couple this with other libraries and tools into our Single-Page-App (SPA) Starter Kit, which on its own provides a big boost to the rapidity with which development takes place. When extending an application into a mobile app , using the SPA Starter Kit means we can rely on the React Native framework to maximally reuse our code, minimizing the costs to our clients. Having this ability in-house means that our clients don’t need to use a line of business application development company to build an application, then another that specializes in iOS development to build an iPhone app, and finally a third that specializes in Android development to build an app that works on those devices. Each time you engage a new company, they must familiarize themselves with the code base and with your business, introducing additional costs. There is also added risk when putting a new and untested contractor to work on a project. The best course of action is to use someone for LoB application development who can build something once that can run everywhere you would expect it to.