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Tools for the job

Today I had an informative conversation with the leader of a UK wide charitable organisation. They have multiple hubs of various sizes across the whole of the UK. These range is size from 000s square feet to tiny corner shops. Each collects donations of physical goods (furniture being one of their main focuses) and they then reuse these products directly to help people or to raise funds for the charity's mission.

Although not as large as (say) an old school linear furniture business with multiple stores. Their inventory management is much more complex. Almost every item of stock is unique and must be recorded and managed accordingly.

This could easily have led the organisation down a route of some pretty clever software. Flexible and smart enough to record each item, it's condition, price and location. Plus delivery requirements and everything else needed to seamlessly manage such a large and constantly changing inventory.

If you are screaming "noooo...." at that last paragraph, then congratulations - you're an experienced software developer ;)

The leader I spoke to described how they use Google forms and Google sheets to manage the bulk of this process. On the shop floor staff have pads with Google forms to enter new items as they are received, for example. Back office staff have a more difficult job of juggling lots of spreadsheets.

Some of us clever software engineers will be unhappy about this - so many opportunities for them to implement streamlined software that would bring efficiencies and automation and avoid mistakes and all that good stuff.

But the reality is, for this organisation, this represents really intelligent leadership. They need something that meets a really tough bar of cost, speed of change and flexibility - and they have selected an excellent tool for the job.

About the author

Barry O'Kane

Barry is the founder of HappyPorch. With 20 years in the web development industry as a programmer and agency owner, he has a preternatural ability to decipher the systems and processes code that holds many teams back from achieving their goals. Partners say Barry gets to the root of issues quickly and makes it downright easy to deliver good work.    

While he's unbelievably grounded, it's not uncommon to find him sailing through the trees as he paraglides his way round the world.