Software To Automate Your Small Business
Having the right technology is crucial for your business. It allows you to go about your business with ease of mind. However small your business is, it is important that from the outset you use the right software to track performance. This reduces the inefficiencies that affect small businesses and helps you understand your business right from the outset.
Get software that covers the three key areas of your business; accounts, customer service and operations. Most software available in the market does this however, you may find some software more suitable for your business than others depending on the complexity of operations and industry.
Below are links to software that you can get free online or from Amazon. With most software being freely available it is important to try out different software before settling on one. Ensure it is not too complicated for you or your team and that it has the reports and capabilities you are looking for.
Introduction to Small Business Software
Small businesses are all different in actual size, needs and phase; start-ups and micro-businesses to growing and established companies. This will determine the type of software an entrepreneur chooses to use along with a range of factors that will play significant roles. For example, accounting in the past was exacting work that required penning in entries and physically calculating to come up with financial reports. With the advent accounting software, accounting and tax calculations have been made easier. This is especially important for the small business that cannot afford to have an in-house accountant and or internal auditor. If you have an external accountant it is great for them as, with a little help, staff in small businesses can effectively use it to input correct data meaning there is better record keeping.
Thus, accounting software not only helps to reduce human error but can go a long way in giving business performance insights that can lead to better strategy and planning. Complex data can be easily analysed to make decisions on what to stock, which markets to entering, what products you can penetrate those markets with and the cost of acquiring customers among other very important information. Coupled with a good business model and market information, good accounting software can help you win or lose in business. A good accounting software should help you get all the information you need however if it is too complex it may not be practical for your small business and may tend to be expensive.
To make a decision on the software you need to come up with a list of the aspects, you would like to monitor and record before starting to choose software. Your accountant and operations experts can help you with this if you are not able to. Good time spent analysing each of your business processes and the documents needed by the internal revenue and tax authorities will also give you a good indication of what you must have in the software. You can also simply turn to the software used in your industry unless it has obvious shortcomings that will hinder an aspect of performance you would like to monitor or address.
Factors to consider when choosing accounting software
Before delving into the different types of software available let's look at some things to consider;
1. Your scope of business; accounting software doesn't just measure cash in and out but can monitor a range of other accounting tasks. Be clear on which tasks you would want to measure.
2. Integration with current software; A software that can integrate with current software reduces the cost of buying other modules or software. If the new software cannot integrate it may require that data is input twice and this may not make your work easier as your business expands. This should also be considered if sell online as a system that can interface with online payments would be a very important advantage
3. Capacity; The future needs of your business should also determine the software you get. If the software has no potential for upgrades when you grow then it may work only for a short time after which you would have to reinvest in a new software. Software that can be upgraded to increase capacity is best.
4. Inventory; A software that will help you manage inventory helps with better efficiency in product management and reduces pilferages
5. Payroll; if our payroll requirements are integrated into the system this is a great advantage as a separate payroll system for a small business is an extra cost (PAYE, annual leave, long service leave etc.).
6. Operations tracking; A system that can track work in progress, orders, jobs and other task management requirements helps you know where there may be wastage even as it monitors the different aspects of work in progress thus it improves efficiency.
7. Bank Integration; A system that can be able to handle the number of bank accounts
8. Foreign currency; Ability to handle foreign currency
9. Tracking; of separate financial records for each business or department within the business
10. CRM; Keeping of detailed records on customers as in a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager system) including what they buy, how often they buy, when they buy etc as this reduces the need to buy a separate CRM.
11. Knowledge; if you have an accountant it may be easy to go with the software that meets your needs and they are trained in. If not, software that is easy to learn and use is best as his reduces the learning time and chances of human error
12. The method of access; there are cloud-based software and those that you install on a computer or network server. If you are always travelling there may need to have software that is accessible to the net or one that is cloud based. However, accessibility to the internet will be a major factor in this. Internet-based software is best where staff do not work in the same location.
13. The industry you operate in may also influence the software you get. Some industries may use a certain software because it generally meets the industry needs and any specialised staff you get would be familiar with its usage. However, this should not keep you from using other software if they better meet your business needs as it has a unique businesses model.
14. Budget limitations; this will determine what you actually get and should affect the choice last. This is because the right software, however, expensive will save you a lot of money and heartache in the long-run. Also, consider that software licenses vary with number of users and period
Classification of Software
Having defined what you want in a software, it is time for you to pick the one that offers most if not all the functions that you are looking at, at your budget. There are two broad classifications of software (not just accounting software)
1. Vertical Market software; this is specific to an industry and is more expensive and often bespoke. They are sold through a value-add reseller (VAR) who will be able to demonstrate the software, help with installation and training. Costs include the software, license and maintenance fee and the costs of the services of the reseller. Keep this in mind if you choose to go this route.
2. Horizontal market software; these can be used across different industries and can be tailored to suit different business needs and sizes
Other broader classifications include;
- small business payroll and accounting packages versus more full-service business management programs
- Online Web-hosted applications
- Free programs.
Here is a run-down of each category and some of the popular products available for small to mid-sized firms:
Intuit Quick Books Online
- Choose from three plans, starting at $9.99 per month
- Save time with workflow automation and easy navigation
- Used by accountants and integrates with more than 150 business apps
- Choose from four plans, starting at $9.95 per month
- Simple and intuitive user interface
- Features a comprehensive set of tools for on-the-go accounting
Free Accounting Software
- Free (with ads visible)
- Cloud-based with basic accounting functions
- Customer service costs extra
- Additional features available with paid service
- Best pricing — $24 per month includes all features
- Clean layout with clutter-free dashboard
- Connects with popular online payment gateways so you can get paid faster
- Great for micro-businesses
There is a lot of free online marketing software. Google provides most of the software ranging from blogging which could be considered a way of marketing as well as owning YouTube which provides an advertising platform. Google analytics is the largest analytical tool for online marketing.Given that google is also the largest search engine, a good ranking on Google can do nothing other than boost your online presence. Other marketing software mainly does email marketing and include;
d. Campaign Monitor
Another category of marketing software mainly helps in posting on social media. Such software includes
Hatchback forms a cross breed for email marketing and sociak media posting. Some software in both categories also offer analytics and customer management tools on cloud. A good way to pick a software for marketing management is to actually try it out. You may find that some reports may not be worth the extra cost or that you do not need to pay for the extra reports as the free versions work just fine. However as your businesss grows, the need for more detailed analysis becomes very important.
Graphic Design Software
Graphic Design Software can save you a lot of money if you are always producing new promotional material. Most design software is easy to use and can basically be used by anyone who can use a computer or phone. As with other software, design software is often free but for specific functions a fee is required. This makes it worth your the time spent using it as even with a little taste in design one is able to come up with original work that you would have otherwise had to pay for.