OVER the past few years the web application scene has exploded, with literally hundreds and thousands of “web apps” being built to solve increasingly complex business problems.
Among some of the most popular of these are those suited to a variety of businesses that typically enable increased efficiency within a particular business area.
Basecamp from 37Signals is a prime example of this type of “web” software. It is an online project collaboration tool that allows businesses of any size to easily manage their projects and communicate effectively with their clients and partners.
Another great example is Google Apps - which provides web-based office tools like Google Mail, Google Documents and Google Calendar. These free apps allow a business to get started quickly and work collaboratively.
In these times of economic uncertainty, businesses are increasingly looking at ways to make themselves more productive, lean and efficient. Instead of getting bogged down with admin tasks, staff need to be on the ground, working and communicating with clients, old and new, to bring more work in. Even firms who would traditionally shy away from web-based software solutions are becoming increasingly switched on to “web apps”, as a way of avoiding costly up-front fees, licensing costs and long maintenance contracts.
Web applications can come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from generic solutions to a specific problem (eg. project management) to something more bespoke.
For example, we recently worked with a large offshore postal carrier to build them an e-billing platform for their bulk-mail clients. This enabled them to move to an entirely digital system from the pre-existing paper-based system, allowing for much more control and monitoring over all the inputs by these clients. Consequently, it ensured that the pricing and billing was carried out correctly.
The system now handles over £20m per year in transactions and is estimated to have saved over £1m a year from miscalculated postage since its implementation.
As technology continues to grow, more and more opportunities are becoming available to create web applications that are easy to use and extremely powerful.
Applications that were previously extremely difficult to implement, such as web-based word processing, are now good enough for anyone to use. The increasing trend is a push towards web-based software which is cross-platform (can be used on PC’s, Mac’s etc), rather than desktop applications that can be limited to a particular platform.
Ultimately, this all leads to a whole range of benefits to the end business consumers. It allows staff to work remotely, documents are automatically backed up in the cloud and allows for true real-time collaboration between employees.
In our opinion, the most beneficial aspect to web-based software is platform independence, meaning that a companies existing IT infrastructure does not have to be modified to switch to using web-based applications.
Chris Barber is technical director at Newcastle web solutions company Carrot Media