When you’re a small or medium-sized business owner, you need to be agile and prepared to deal effectively and efficiently with any challenge that comes your way. The goal, particularly in today’s challenging environment, is to do more with less.
The more processes you can automate, the more you can let your employees focus on strategic, valuable work. You can do the same—you can put your attention toward those things that will help you grow a stronger, better business.
The following are some of the core types of software that essentially every business should have and regularly use for productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness as well as a general sense of agility.
Accounts Payable Automation
Accounts payable automation software is a way to help you eliminate manual, paper processes. You can move past the time-consuming, tedious, and often inefficient data entry processes you’re otherwise relying on.
When you invest in AP automation software, you don’t have to chase anyone down for approvals, nor do your employees have to chase you down. You’re not trying to find missing paperwork or backtracking to fix human errors.
With great AP automation software, you can cut business costs and help your employees be more engaged because they can work on strategic projects.
Some of the things to know about AP software include:
- You can drive more consistency in your payment process with software solutions, control cash flow, and securely pay your suppliers.
- You’ll get more insight into spending overall, so you might be able to optimize your processes better.
- Using an automated solution will mean faster invoice approval.
- You’ll gain a centralized view of things like all the pending approvals that are waiting, plus your employees can access invoices from any internet-connected device.
- There’s a general reduction in the need for people to be involved.
You can set certain conditions under which AP software executes. For example, you can set it up so that an invoice below a certain amount of money doesn’t have to be approved.
An accounting solution is also essential.
With an accounting solution, your employees can work faster while you’re also improving accuracy. You can reduce your costs and eliminate redundancies. You also have data and reports at your fingertips so you can make intelligent, strategic decisions.
Features you might look for in business accounting software include:
- Digital invoicing
- Cash flow tracking
- Payroll management
- Budgeting tools
- Tax reporting
- Invoice management
You want to look for AP automation and accounting solutions that are relatively easy for your employees to use and don’t have a steep learning curve. If something is too complex, it will frustrate employees and turn them off from using it.
If you don’t already have it, a productivity solution is a must-have, especially when you have employees who may be working remotely, outside the office.
Productivity software is very broad. It’s any platform or tool that, as you might guess, helps your team increase productivity. Productivity can include communication that’s facilitated in a faster, easier way. Productivity can also help with the creation of spreadsheets and presentations and the organization of data.
The goal of any productivity tool is to help save time on both simple and more complex tasks.
The automation of tasks is often integral to productivity software. For example, maybe your team receives automated reminders about upcoming project deadlines, just to give one very broad example.
When looking for project management solutions, it’s good to choose platforms that give you centralized visibility and control over the work that’s happening, no matter where your employees are doing the actual work.
For example, being able to track employee and team efforts is helpful. You should choose productivity software that lets you streamline how employees work together, even when they aren’t in the office, and assign tasks.
You want employees along with you to be able to see both the big picture on projects and tasks broken down individually.
Customer Relationship Management
A CRM system can connect multiple teams and departments including sales, marketing, and customer service. Metrics, activities and notes can all be shared within one system, and each user will have access to client data in real-time, as they need it.
There’s more coordination across teams, and you can also pave the way for your employees to personalize each customer journey.
Around 39% of companies with CRM platforms say their data gives them a competitive advantage or serves as a strategic asset.
Communication software is a broad category of apps and systems that allow for the exchange of files, video messages, text, and audio usually via the cloud.
Collaboration software can also fall into the larger category of communication software, or it can be part of productivity software.
With communication or collaboration software, employees save time because they can avoid switching between so many apps, which interrupts workflows.
Communication or collaboration tools can also ensure all needed files are in one place, even when different apps and services otherwise host them.
Internal communication is maintained under one umbrella. If you need to refer back to a message or a conversation you had in a chat, this is simplified.
If you were going to try and find an integrated communication, collaboration, and productivity software solution, it might include the following features and capabilities:
- Project management, which we touched on above, so that you can plan and schedule projects and tasks and also allocate resources.
- Task management features that would allow for task management throughout its lifecycle. You can set dependencies, priorities and deadlines, keeping the entire project on task.
- Document management provides a secure way for users to work together on documents, and they’re well-organized and easily accessible.
- Internal messaging features help you share comments, ideas, and feedback, and then a record is kept of each conversation for references purposes.
- Notification features will ensure any relevant stakeholder receives notifications when there are changes made to tasks or when they’re mentioned in a discussion.
- You always want mobile-friendly software solutions, particularly when it comes to collaboration, communication and project management.
- Secure is critical as well. You have to make sure you’re choosing solutions that prioritize data security and protection.
Slack is an excellent example of a communication tool. Slack was originally designed to help eliminate the inefficiencies that occur with email communication. Using Slack, you can create channels organized around anything from topics to projects or clients.
There’s real-time communication, file sharing, meeting scheduling, and integration with third-party project management, productivity and cloud storage tools.
One of the most functional elements of Slack is the search function. You can search conversations, mentions, or users to find what you need and then bookmark it.
Knowledge Management Systems
Knowledge management systems (KMS) are something you can use internally for your employees and also your customers. A knowledge management system is an IT system that can store and then retrieve knowledge for better collaboration and understanding.
Whether it’s for internal or external use, a KMS is to help people use knowledge to achieve tasks better.
A knowledge management system will usually include setting up a forum or community feature and FAQ content. Knowledge management systems can consist of tutorial and how-to articles, education, training programs, webinars, and certificates.
If you use knowledge management, it can free up support staff. If you’re using it for customers, it can serve as a conversion tool. More than 30% of consumers say that when they’re looking for a new product or service, they rely on the use of product guides, best practices and educational content when making a decision.
Email marketing is service-based, and it helps marketers. Software can be used for different purposes including growing your email list, designing and building templates, and creating tailored, segmented lists.
Features you might prioritize in selecting email marketing software include a robust selection of templates and a user-friendly email builder. You also have to make sure it’s mobile-ready and in line with the required mobile-first mindset of today’s consumers.
Content Management Systems
Finally, a content management system (CMS) is software that helps build a website, but you don’t need code to do it. You can use the CMS for all website infrastructure work, allowing you to focus on the forward-facing elements of your site.
WordPress is one of the most widely used and well-known content management systems, but others are available depending on your needs.
A content management system usually has two core elements. The first is a content management application or CMA. This is the part of the software where you can add and manage content on your site.
The second is a content delivery application or CDA, which is the back end. This is where the content you input is stored and made visible to site visitors.