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Coherent exhibit at the North Lancs Expo

Last year, we exhibited at the inaugural North Lancs Expo run by the excellent Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, hosted at the Lancaster Brewery (who unfortunately were not giving away free samples).

This year, we exhibited again, at a much larger and more colourful stand. We demonstrated an iPad app that we built to help shops, cafés, bars and restaurants improve their social media presence. We gave away stickers and brochures describing some of the great work that we’ve done over the past year.

Thanks to all who stopped at our stand on Sunday and Monday. If you put your business card in our box, you have a chance to win a bottle of champagne! We’ll be drawing the winner tomorrow and dropping off the bottle shortly after.

We’re next due to exhibit at the Merseyside Business Expo on the 19th of October. If you missed us in Lancaster, come and see us there!

Edit 27/09/18: The winner of our prize draw is Elaine Wood from Bespoke Wedding & Occasion Stationery. We’ve reached out to deliver your prize!

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Coherent Software turns 5

Our company turned has just entered its fifth year of trading. It is widely reported that over 50% of companies fail within five years and the odds may well be worse in our industry where barriers to entry are low and a desire to grow as quickly as possible is common.

Within the last year we have:

A huge thank you to all of our staff, customers and other stakeholders who have made this possible.

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The future is flexible working

To catch the eye of top prospects and keep hold of the best you have in your business, you need to be able to offer benefits that are no longer just financial. Flexible working has become demanded by employees and job seekers and choosing a work schedule that suits their chosen lifestyles has provided many benefits to both employer and employee.

At Coherent, we have found that flexible working arrangements have brought many positive benefits and is just one of many things we have done to increase our company culture. Both for the company and the employee. Flexible working hours and the ability to work remotely has given many employees better control in their lives.

Some employees are more productive first thing in the morning, others mid-morning and in the afternoons, therefore their levels of productivity, motivation and happiness has increased greatly due to the fact they are no longer having to fit into a traditional 9-5 that doesn’t work for everyone. Being able to balance work and life has reduced stress and anxiety, giving employees more loyalty to their company and a greater level of job satisfaction.

 

“Your employees are your company’s real competitive advantage. They’re the ones making the magic happen-so long as their needs are being met” -Richard Branson 

 

There are solid grounds and very tangible benefits to offering flexible working arrangements. Many have seen improvements in recruitment and staff retention, reduced absences and improved commitment and productivity. The millennial generation no longer focus solely on high pay and bonuses. They also value flexibility and having a good work/life balance.

Recent research from Cranfield University revealed that “Flexible workers, managers and co-workers of flexible workers reported a generally positive effect on the quantity and quality of work performed. In comparison to those on standard working arrangements, flexible workers had significantly higher scores on organisational commitment and job satisfaction and nationally and internationally, our research has informed debate in several policy and professional organisations and has been cited as evidence in a number of policy documents” -Professor Clare Kelliher.

Finding the right people for your business is often difficult so in order to attract and retain a talented workforce, businesses need to understand what drives them.

“Being able to negotiate on when I start, and finish work has saved me £197.00 in childcare, I no longer have to juggle my family and work all at once. I am far more productive earlier in the morning, so by starting earlier, I feel I can achieve my daily objectives to a higher standard. Some of my colleagues are more productive later in the day and by having flexible hours they are able to work when they are at their most productive. Whether you’re a morning person or feel sharper in the afternoons, flexible working enables you, within reason, to be on the job when you’re feeling at your best. This will help employees to approach their role in a more positive way which benefits both the company and the employee, as employees look forward to work while the boss will enjoy the higher performance levels you’ll achieve in peak condition’’ said Office Manager Chantelle.

Adapting office space has also seen a rise in employee morale, satisfaction and creativity. Creating flexible workspaces where employees no longer have to be “glued to their desk” has the advantage where they can work in a group or on their own in a more informal setting such as in a café or on the office sofa with a laptop, giving employees better control of their wellbeing.

So why not see if flexible working will suit your business and reap the same rewards as we do at Coherent.

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Why Coherent is using Python and is staying at the forefront of demand

  • So, what exactly is Python?

Python is a general-purpose, interpreted and high-level OOPs based dynamic programming language that focuses on rapid application development. Writing a program in Python is often five to six times faster and due to ease of syntax in Python, the programmers can complete coding in fewer steps as compared to Java or C++. Python’s ever-evolving libraries and support makes it a viable choice for any project, be it Mobile App, Web App, IoT, Data Science or AI.

  • How does using a Python Programmer benefit your business?

Software development is a dynamic field. Developers need to constantly be learning new skills to stay relevant. At Coherent Software, we’re continually evaluating which programming languages are in high demand from those seeking bespoke computer software due to the world’s growing reliance on technology.

“In my opinion, the customer benefits when the developer benefits because if code is quick, easy to write and quick to compile and test then that is saving the customer time and money, combine that with our experience of using it and the good community, documentation, frameworks, and support and you can ensure that not only is the code quicker to develop, it’s probably less buggy…” Said Coherent Software Engineer Dan James.

Businesses in today’s world need dedicated software for successful operation and growth. It is, therefore, a crucial business asset to choose your software carefully so that it matches your business needs. Due to Pythons flexibility and the fact it can be integrated with many other programming languages, it is no wonder that it has been adopted by companies like Google, NASA, and Intel. That is why the demand for Python specialists keeps growing at an incredible rate.

“Python enables us to develop efficient and secure software in less time and encourages our developers to follow modern best practice” Said Managing Director James Hadley.

Coherent Software has managed to hire a team of skilled Python professionals, which gives us an important advantage over the competition. If you are considering an app or new business software, call us today on 0800 292 6474 or fill out the contact form on the right . We can tell you free of charge how feasible your ideas are and what a development roadmap might look like.

 

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Coherent’s Recent Accreditation’s

If you’re considering developing a mobile app for your customers, or an internal business system, you might feel overwhelmed by your options. Before you commit, you need to know that whichever agency you choose has the right skills and processes to make the project a success.

That’s why Coherent Software has become accredited to the world-renowned ISO9001 and ISO27001 standards. Our recent accreditations demonstrate that we have the skills and processes to ensure that projects run smoothly and quality and security are at the heart of what we do.

Are you still worried about your GDPR implementation?! Coherent’s commitment as part of ISO27001 demonstrates a higher level of awareness and a deeper understanding of information security so that you can feel safe, knowing that security will be a key part of any software built by Coherent.

If you are considering an app or new business software, contact us using the contact form on the right or call 0800 292 6474. We can tell you free of charge how feasible your ideas are and what a development roadmap might look like.

 

 

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Selling Online

 

It’s no easy feat to get your business up and running online. There are a variety of solutions to pick from — from free solutions such as Magento, Opencart, WooCommerce and Prestashop to paid solutions such as Shopify or Amazon.

How do I sell online?

Picking a platform
For most brick and mortar businesses, they generally opt to move onto an established platform such as eBay or Amazon. While these platforms provide much needed traffic, they can charge fees that range anywhere from a few percent to up to 20%, which is why many times it is desirable to choose a self-hosted solution such as Magento.

eBay vs. Amazon for sellers
If you’re considering eBay or Amazon as your platform though, know that they have drastically different fee structures. While eBay is much cheaper to sell on, you are responsible for paying shipping fees and a 10% fee assessed on most items on the final value. Amazon however provides affordable and quick shipping costs that you pay for indirectly with the small flat fee you pay on each sale (unless you’re using the Pro plan) and a certain percentage on the item value.

Setting up on your platform
If you’re selling on a major platform like Amazon or eBay, there really isn’t much setup except for getting a PayPal account at most before you get to the next part.
If you’re using a free, self-hosted option, you’ll need a domain name, hosting and a well-supported theme. Alternatively, you may hire someone to create one for you to make your store stand out, but it can get costly to do this. Furthermore, you’ll need to configure miscellaneous settings that range from the site title to payment gateways. Don’t fret, Prestashop for example as well as other free platforms are generally well supported and have full documentation to their software.

Choosing what to sell
Once you decide on a solution and set everything up, you’ll need to decide what to put on the store. For example, you might opt to add items that you have a lot of stock for to also have some in store. If you’re selling products without a physical storefront, things don’t get much easier as you still need to find suppliers willing to produce your merchandise.

Deciding on carriers to ship your items
At this point, your online storefront is just starting and you might not ship very much just yet. It’s difficult to find a good balance between revenue and costs, especially when you’re dealing with shipping as pricing is never fixed and can potentially ruin your business. In the UK, one of the most affordable and reliable shipping options is the Royal Mail. It’s great for lower cost items that ship within the UK and abroad. However, if your inventory consists of high value items, you may opt for courier deliver via DHL, for example.

Advertising your business
After you add your products to your store and have everything ready, it’s time to get your store known. There are many ways to do this, ranging from social media to local advertisements. In today’s day and age, most businesses will benefit the most from social media advertising, specifically through Facebook and Instagram. They are terrific options as you’ve the ability to choose the demographic you’re targeting, and with Instagram (a photo-oriented social networking app), people can see your products in action which improves customer conversion.

Synchronizing stock levels between your store and website

One implication of running both a store and website is that you need to maintain inventory levels for both storefronts. If you’re using an inventory management solution within your store, we can help you get it integrated with your online store, whether you’re running it on Shopify or Opencart. If your business runs primarily on a paper-based inventory system, our team can help you migrate from your current system to one that is electronic and integrate that to your online store.

Costs associated with opening an online store

Depending on what you choose for your online storefront, you can expect to pay just a few dollars a month up to tens to hundreds or even thousands. Assuming you’ve stocked your inventory already, you need to pay for your domain name, hosting, advertising and/or software fees. In terms of platform fees, Shopify for example charges $29, $79 and $299 for their basic, general and advanced plans. If you choose to get the Pro plan on Amazon, you’ll need to pay £25 per month.

With advertising, you can expect to pay anywhere in the range of a hundred pounds when you’re starting out. However, the profit you make through these ads directly drives your business, so it’s usually worth investing into.

In terms of getting a domain name and hosting, you really only need this if you’re not using an established platform such as eBay. When you use Shopify, you’ll need a domain name and with other free software you’ll need both hosting and a domain name. Make sure you choose a reliable provider, though, as a low-quality hosting company can drastically affect your sales if it is slow or unreliable. As an established UK development and hosting company, we provide fully managed hosting services which means you won’t need to worry about downtime or performance should you choose to host your business with us. Alternatively, a reputable managed hosting provider can be a great choice for many users.

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Reaching Xero’s limits? It’s not the end of the world.

Are you reaching Xero’s limits?

Xero is a popular small business accounting solution. This idea is further reinforced by the 200 employee limit as well as other lesser known “soft” limits on invoices, expenses and transactions. You may wonder whether or not is is a viable option for when your small business grows. With some creativity, you can avoid moving to a more expensive, enterprise resource planning system.

Accounting systems like Xero care less about the value of transactions compared to the number of them. Small businesses tend to make a plethora of small, low value transactions which can quickly add up to hundreds or even thousands of entries on Xero. The issue for Xero is that the more entries you use, the more it costs them in terms of processing power.

As a result, many small business accounting systems place limits on the number of transactions that can be used in a given period (e.g a month).

For example, Xero places a limit of 1000 sales invoices per month, a limit of 1000 purchase invoices per month and a limit of 2000 bank transactions per month (valid as of June 2018).

These are, in effect, soft limits that can be exceeded at your own risk. Due to the nature of Xero, if you exceed these limits constantly, it will slow down and will likely cause issues when attempting to interface with the system. Worse case scenario, the software simply stops working.

Do you need to plan your migration out of Xero then? Do you need to avoid it completely? Probably not. In the majority of cases, with some clever thinking, some rearranging can be all you need to stick with the popular cloud accounting option.

Here are a few tips you can take advantage of while using Xero or any cloud software:

Tip #1: Putting transactions in batches

Usually, if you’re taking advantage of a POS system or inventory management software, your vendor will likely support transaction batching. Ask your vendor, you never know if they might have it.

For example, if you run a small business that processes large invoices that contain many invoice items, you may encounter the limits of Xero. It will likely slow down to the point of timing out! Issues can become so severe that you may even struggle to generate financial statements from Xero.

Fortunately, transaction batching can be used to limit this. Instead of processing the individual invoice items, we can take the final invoice amount and use that. This can cut the number of “invoices” listed on Xero from tens of thousands to mere hundreds to thousands.

Tip #2: Consolidate

Many businesses run a variety of different systems to manage inventory, their online stores, etc.

As sales begin to pick up, naturally Xero begins to get bogged down by the number of transactions you make. Just like the previous tip — you guessed it — you’ll eventually reach the point where Xero will fail to generate business activity statements and other important documents.

Certainly, to keep efficiency, you wouldn’t consolidate transactions by hand as that wouldn’t be beneficial to your business. We can help: we’ll create a solution for your business that summarizes  transactions for each day and moves it all into one daily transaction.

Once you begin consolidating transactions, not only can you keep everything automated, you’ll be free from any further slowdowns.

Tip #3: Use a billing engine

When businesses first use Xero, many times they choose to use it as a billing solution as well.

Instead of bogging down Xero with billing, you might consider using a billing engine such as Chargify or Chargebee. Taking the heavy lifting of billing from Xero can significantly increase the speed that it works at.

In fact, you’ll get benefits such as prorated billing, automatic cancellation handling and service provisioning with Chargify that Xero doesn’t normally provide. This means that Xero can do what it does best — bank reconciliations, the plethora of accounting statements, etc.

Not only does it provide plenty of additional benefits, many billing engine providers also offer support for migrating from Xero. Because Chargify comes with full Xero support, you won’t have to abandon it entirely.

Tip #4: Build your own integration

The default integration between your trading and accounting system may suffice for now, but may need to be replaced later on.

Most popular systems come with well documented APIs (interfaces usable to connect software). As a result, it is generally possible to create a system that pulls data from your trading system automatically, put it all into a single batch and post it into your accounting system.

This would require you to turn off the default integration partially or even entirely.

There’s a huge benefit to having a customized integration. It can be modified to suit your business’s continued growth and leaves you much more control over your systems, which allows for better software solutions that work for your business.

 

 

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Increase efficiency and lower costs on popular eCommerce platforms

 

Many online store owners wonder, “How on earth am I supposed to compete with Amazon?”
With their product selection and fast fulfillment times, it’s no wonder customers
are flocking to these eCommerce platforms.

Selling with Amazon and eBay

Since Amazon’s platform is so large, many shops opt to have products fulfilled by Amazon. However, the fees are undeniably high and can take away the profit you make on each item.

Lowering your seller fees is no easy feat, though. Amazon runs a complicated system where users are a flat fee per item as well as any associated category fees while eBay runs a percentage based system, taking anywhere from 8% to 15% of the item value.

Using Amazon, you can drop the £0.75 item selling fee by purchasing their £25.00 upgrade seller plan, which is great for larger stores on the platform. You may also opt to contact Amazon to purchase products directly from you, so they maintain inventory and you don’t lose any profit whatsoever, though this is a rather difficult process that will likely end in a rejection.

With eBay, opt to remove any of the additional “highlighting” features offered. A well written listing with professionally taken pictures will do wonders, compared to a bolded title, etc. You can save up to £3.00, so it’s definitely worth a look.

Alternatives to Amazon and eBay

While you can lower your seller fees with these popular eCommerce options, opening your own eCommerce store can be a great option to keeping more of your profit while also having greater control on customization. You might opt to have someone host your store for you, host it on our platform or perhaps run it yourself. Some options include Shopify, a cloud hosted shop platform and Magento, a free Adobe-owned eCommerce platform.

Costs for the software can range anywhere from the low, low cost of free up to hundreds of dollars, so be sure to weigh your options carefully. Shopify allows for easy dropshipping, while Magento’s most attractive feature is that it is free.

However, if you opt to use a self-hosted platform such as Magento or WooCommerce, it needs to be run on a server. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a cheap shared hosting plan though, as it will likely end up that you’re upsold to a virtual server or are suspended due to overuse of shared resources. As the old adage goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Automating accounting and finance management

Seeing your store grow and turn a profit is every shopkeeper’s aspiration. However, as you emerge as a retailer, you will eventually need to pay your staff and produce financial statements for tax purposes, especially in Europe, where value added taxes (VAT) are leveraged differently across member nations.

Whether you choose Xero or Sage, managing your accounts payable and receivable can be a nightmare, especially if you’re manually inputting client transactions. We can help you increase your business’s efficiency through the automatic posting of transactions, automated staff invoicing and more. Not only will this save you time, it can increase your business’s revenue as you can spend more time on what you love.

Increasing the productivity of your staff

A moderately sized business will usually have at least a few employees working to manage inventory, find suppliers, etc. Your team is the core of your business — it simply cannot run without them. Make their jobs easier with software — we can create something that manages stock, assigns work to staff and more. They’ll spend less time performing menial tasks and more time running your business, allowing it to flourish.

 

 

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Tablets for business: Time to get an iPad?

You may have heard the old joke – Steve Jobs was up late one night trying to think of a new product to appease investors. He sat at a table with several iPhones and eventually arranged nine of them into a rectangle, giving birth to the iPad.

Tablets in business: statistics

A surprising number of clients are telling us that they use tablets, and in particular iPads, in their business. In fact, Apple sold 11.4 million iPads in just the second quarter of 2017. As a result, their reach extends not only to businesses, but also to educators and consumers.

Just a decade ago, no IT professional would ever believe that tablets would ever control the market. With the introduction of the iPad, consumers and enterprise customers alike began transitioning, and for good reason. It features an advanced enterprise management system, making it perfect for all businesses due to its feature rich interface and restrictions system.

What we’ve done

We’ve worked with countless companies that wanted to reap the benefits of the Apple ecosystem. Take a look at Auto Car SOR, a dealership financing company that we’ve consulted for. We created an app that allowed them to increase efficiency and save resources by linking up their accounting, task management and document systems. Not only did this get recuperate lost time from manual data input, it also benefited from our bespoke development approach. Coupled with a modern interface and responsive support, they were pleasantly surprised as the system was implemented.

Another business that we’ve integrated the Apple ecosystem into is Capture Pod. They provide photography booth services to events. At an event, a customer was so impressed with their services that they wanted to leave a testimonial — something that they could not record at the time. We developed a bespoke testimonial app that stored video to the cloud and eventually was deployed in several stores in the United States. All of this was created to work on the iPad.

The benefits of having iOS devices in general deployed in your business environment is often times a benefit to productivity and efficiency. The management interface that is provided can prevent staff from trailing off, as well as keep the devices secure. With such a fantastic platform, it’s no wonder businesses love the iPad and it’s why we love it too.

Sources: MarketWatch – iPad sales in Q2 2017

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What it costs to develop an app

 

I am a hypocrite. When I speak to a designer, marketer or copywriter about a project, I can’t help but ask these three questions:

  1. What will it cost?
  2. How long will it take?
  3. What will the results look like, precisely?

Their businesses, just like ours, are project based, and the answers to all three depend on a lot of variables.

It’s because of these variables that we don’t normally publish prices or turnaround times on our website. Every project is different and, although we want to be open and transparent, it’s important to understand that minor details can have a large impact on a costs and turnaround times.

But really, what does it cost?

Our day rate is £490+VAT. This is extremely competitive by UK standards.

For a very basic app, for one platform (i.e. Android or iOS), a sensible minimum is about £3,000+VAT. Double that for both platforms. For a small app, most of the time goes into laying the foundation, so doubling the feature set doesn’t usually double the price.

Are Android apps cheaper than iOS apps? Are iOS apps cheaper than Android apps?

Generally, they are roughly on par. There are extra costs associated with buying the Apple hardware and licences needed to build, test and publish apps, but the smaller range of devices and interface designer makes up the difference.

How long does it take?

There are typically three phases for mobile apps:

  1. Design phase. We create a unique “look” for your app. This can take 2-4 weeks depending on complexity. To save time and costs, this stage can be omitted if there are no specific aesthetic requirements.
  2. Build/test phase. Minimum 2 weeks for a very basic app. No maximum!
  3. Publishing on the App Store / Play Store. It can take at least a week for Apple to approve your app and list it on the App Store, allowing people to download it. Google is generally a bit quicker.

I have a great idea. Can you build the app for free?

It’s shocking how often we’re asked this – especially about mobile apps. Sadly, ideas are easy; execution is difficult. We also need to keep the lights on, so no, we don’t work for ideas, equity, exposure or appreciation.

What about cross platform development (e.g. HTML5, ReactJS?)

We don’t do a lot of cross platform development. There are a few reasons for this. First, Apple and users generally dislike apps that do nothing more than a mobile-friendly website could. Second, most cross-platform development toolkits deliver a sub-par user experience (e.g. lag). Third, some more advanced functionality isn’t available at all, so it’s possible that an HTML5 app may need to be rewritten entirely later.

That said, we know HTML5, ReactJS and Java, and if you’re dead set on a cross platform app, do get in touch.

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