Here’s how to pick the right software for your small business
The idea behind technology is that it is supposed to make our lives easier. However, too often it’s just an overwhelming source of frustration and well, expense. It is important to go into the field with a game plan, otherwise you will step into the stadium (or Google) and find yourself surely overwhelmed with every coach, fan and player (software apps and reviews) screaming at you, making you just want to run back into the locker room and curl up in the foetal position.
Here are simple 4 steps to follow to make sure you pick the right software for your business:
Step 1: Work out how you want your life to look in 5 years
This may sound a bit left of field, but I assure you it is important. I see myself sitting on a beach in 5 years with a laptop that only needs to be pulled out for the quick check every so often. As that was my dream, I set about to build it into my business, and I came up with the following conclusions:
1. My business had to be able to be operated from a laptop
2. It needed to be ‘live’ in terms of its data wherever I was in the world
3. It also had to be small enough as not to interfere with the rest of my life (this is where I started to think about mobile apps as well)
4. It needed to look good and be functional
Step 2: Figure out the core elements of your business
When I started to think about everything I needed for the business, I was able to separate them into three main parts:
1. The operations or functions of the business, in other terms the reporting of the money side of things
2. The actual data for the business and how that was going to be stored and accessed
3. The marketing side of the business, and how that was going to be best organised
Step 3: Use trial periods to test out software
Once I had figured out the core elements that I would need to move forward, I knew that given my first determinations, all my elements had to be cloud-based. I also knew that being an avid Apple Mac girl for the past 15 years, I couldn’t go back to a PC, and besides the Mac also filled my ‘design’ requirement.
I started to trial the software, however rather than just jumping into one and testing that, I would pick the top few and trial them at the same time. For example, I trialled both Box and Dropbox at the same time.
Both were very similar, in fact Box offered additional features but it was the way it looked and felt that sold me on Dropbox. Plus, as a consumer I could jump online and see all the cool stuff that Dropbox were pulling together in the future and what the system may look like moving forward.
Step 4: Look for additions to make your life easier
Once I had tested my three core elements and found my preferred versions, I could then start to look to all the additions that make life easier. For me, I settled on Xero as my accounting buddy, Dropbox for all my files and records and a CRM/Project Management tool called Daylite which sold me when I found it integrated with all my emails.
From here, I have been able to find most Apps integrate with the first two and am using Zapier to place links into my slightly obscure CRM system. The Apps are what make life wonderful, my staff put their hours into an App named Harvest (which they just adore the feel of) where we pull together invoices that are automatically feed into Xero.
It’s like magic, everything works and now when I am looking into adding more Apps to our business, as long as it integrates in with the core elements, I’m more than happy. Although we still trial and test to see which one we like the best.
A couple of other things to keep in mind, are the Mobile versions of the Apps, these can be that little added surprise that makes you fall in love with your App. For example, when I am sitting in a coffee meeting, my Daylite App not only allows me to pull up emails that I have sent to the person sitting across from me, but I can see every time I have contacted them, and if I am running late, I can call directly from it and even log the time that the call went for – amazing!
So happy planning, and remember to focus on how you want the business to perform, with all the technology that is available today, keep it simple and pick a couple so you don’t get overwhelmed by choice.
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About the contributor:
Jenny Letts is a forensic accountant, who specialises in helping people understand the value of their intangible assets, such as businesses, goodwill, royalties, intellectual property etc particularly during periods of change. Website: http://www.jennyletts.com.au