By: Mike Monocello, Co-founder of Devpro Journal
Developing software for business has always been distinct from developing software for consumers. Not only are the functions business software performs different from the tasks most consumers would ever need a software application to do, but software for business also has to be delivered and designed to align with how businesses operate.
Here are six best practices for B2B software developers who are taking a new application to market or updating their software in 2019.
The demand for Software as a Service (SaaS) keeps growing. Gartner forecasted 21.4 percent growth for SaaS this year, from $153.5 billion to $186.4 billion worldwide. Businesses of all sizes are opting for SaaS so they can have benefits like automated security patches and new version upgrades. By paying the monthly SaaS fee, businesses find they have less of a need for on-premises IT hardware, less of a burden on their IT staff, less risk when they deploy new solutions, and easily scalability. In most cases, the best move is to deliver your application via the SaaS model.
- UI and UX
Software for business may have different use cases than software for consumers, but businesses want “consumer-like” user experiences for their employees. Legacy green screens will look completely foreign to people entering the workforce who are used to using smartphones and tablets.
But it’s not just a matter of preference. The extra training time it can take for new employees to learn a legacy or complicated system can be costly for a company, especially if it has a high employee turnover rate. Software for business with a consumer app feel can get employees to work independently much faster. Ease of use also plays a big role in the adoption of your solution. If it’s too difficult to use, employees will revert to manual processes or find workarounds, making ROI plummet – along with the likelihood that your customer will continue with their SaaS subscription. Aim for powerful software with a simple design that employees will want to use because it makes their lives easier and helps them do their jobs more successfully.
Even if you envision your application used on a PC in an office, make sure it can be used on a mobile device. Software for business doesn’t only run on desks from 9 to 5. They’re in the field, on the road and working from home 24/7. Give them secure, readable, workable access to your application from their tablets or smartphones as well as from laptops and PCs.
Also consider the mobile worker when you partner with hardware vendors, giving them options for mobile printers, payment card readers, and other peripherals that they need to do their jobs away from the office.
- The Free Trial
Businesses are going to want to try your software before they make a commitment. You may think the cost of subscribing to your SaaS solution for one month is low risk, but to use it, your customer may have to change processes, train employees and invest time in a learning curve. Offering a free trial of the software for a limited time can help assure potential customers that your application will have value and its worth their investment of time and resources to implement it.
From a development perspective, however, it means you need to design a trial version, possibly limiting the features prospects can use during a trial, and enabling them to upgrade to a paid subscription seamlessly when the trial is over. Build how you will offer a trial or a software demo into your strategy from the start.
Give other developers access to open APIs so they can integrate their solutions with your software. Building a connected ecosystem with your application at the center will make your application more valuable to your users and help you develop a sticker relationship with your customers. It may even allow you to create new revenue streams through referrals or residuals.
- Data Analysis
Compiling and analyzing the data that your application collects can provide your customers with valuable insights about their customers and the efficiency of their operations. Include a way for your users to access easy-to-understand reports that can help them manage their businesses more intelligently and more competitively. If your application doesn’t have this feature, you may lose customers to ISVs who provide software for business with this feature.
Insights from data are also valuable to your business. Develop ways to collect and extract data that will help you learn more about your users, their habits, and the features they find most valuable. Use this information to refine your application and to target marketing.
The outlook for ISVs that develop software for business is promising, with opportunities in virtually every vertical and niche. It’s an increasingly competitive market, however, and one in which, thanks to the SaaS model, allows your customers to try and switch to competitive applications that provide them with the usability and features they’re looking for. Designing software for business in line with these best practices can ensure you capture prospects’ attention, demonstrate your value, and retain them long term.