Today, there’s technology available for practically every aspect of managing a business. Software can help you to be more productive, stay motivated, manage your time better, improve customer service, manage operations, and automate much of your marketing and finances.
Then there are dashboards, which can help you track the key indicators of how your business is performing in near real time so you improve performance, spot emerging problems, identify trends, and take action. Plus, you can generally produce reports on just about anything you find useful.
Before You Buy
Begin with an analysis of your business areas, establish a budget for digital transformation, and then examine the products available that match your requirements. A professional business coach can help you map out a long-term strategy for your company and that will give you an excellent foundation for defining how to automate your business operations for maximum competitive results.
Terrific Business Tools
Here are some of the tools available in 2019 that business owners should look into, and how they benefit the profitability and efficiencies of the company.
Scheduling Apps. Scheduling software beats the traditional calendar hands-down when it comes to keeping track of your timetable. Whether you’re scheduling appointments with clients or managing employee shifts, there’s an app for it.
Appointment apps enable your clients to book, reschedule, and cancel appointments through your website, social media profile and other online locations. On the back end, you can set up the framework for your bookings, and block off times that are unavailable.
Some of our favorites are Calendly, Appointlet, Acuity, ScheduleOnce, SuperSaas, and Square Appointments.
Collaboration Tools. Collaboration is the name of the game in the virtual business world. We no longer need to travel long distances and shell out big bucks for hotel rooms just to attend a meeting with compatriots or clients. Neither do small businesses need to cough up for company premises so that employees can sit in a costly office environment to do their jobs.
Online services like Zoom, Bluejeans.com, join.me, and UberConference enable global conferencing and screen sharing, while collaborative environments like Slack allow you to create virtual workspaces, meeting rooms, resource libraries, and even a water cooler to hang out and chat.
The phenomenal cost-savings offered by these options can go a long, long way towards making your business more competitive, but unbelievably, there are still some business owners traveling for face-to-face meetings in office premises!
Project Management Platforms. Remember when Microsoft Project took the corporate world by storm, but you needed a degree to understand how it worked? Project management programs have come a long way since then, and although MS Project remains one of the big ones in the corporate environment, smaller businesses can choose from a range of (often free!) programs that manage your workload just as effectively.
Some names that might be familiar include Trello, Workzone, Basecamp, Asana, Evernote, and Function Fox. Each of these has its own features and benefits, which are optimized for different types of industries.
Social Media Programs. Every business owner knows they need to be on social media but following through on a social media strategy is a different story. Streamline your process by spending an hour setting up all your social postings for the week ahead, using one of these dashboard apps:
- Hootsuite, which allows you to manage multiple social profiles, schedule posts, respond to followers, and track the effectiveness of your content at no cost.
- ManageFlitter is a tool to unfollow inactive accounts, track useful analytics, and boost relevant followers with its free limited plan.
- InstaSize enables you to format and edit videos and photos for Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and more on mobile with ease. Add text and filters, retouch photos, and produce collages that will make your product or service stand out.
A number of similar programs exist for each one of these functions, so there are plenty to choose from.
Productivity Apps. Maintaining productivity is one of a business owner’s primary bugbears. While building an outcomes-based culture in your company will help you fix the underlying problems leading to poor productivity, various software programs can help you manage it on a day-to-day basis.
Among the most popular apps is ToDoist, which is the ultimate to do list app, which interprets and categorizes tasks based on your entries. Keep your entire team on track, plan projects and assign responsibility, discuss details, and monitor deadlines all inside the app.
Then there’s Toggl, a simple, intuitive time tracker app that isn't limited by device, but works on your computer, tablet, and phone, so no matter where or what you're working on, your hours are being tracked. Toggl reports show you how your time was spent, so you can analyze the findings and adjust the way you work in the future to be more productive.
Customer Relationship Management Programs. CRM programs available include everything from prospecting and lead generation software, through marketing automation and reviews. Some of the options best suited to small and medium-sized companies are:
- Intercom, which enables you to provide live chat, education, and other resources for your online clients, making it simpler and more convenient to interact, respond, and communicate with them.
- Zendesk, which is customer support done correctly. The program allows management and tracking of inbound communications easily, integration with your company’s website, and streamlining of your responses.
- Teamgate, which tracks your sales results from lead generation to closure. A number of sales-focused CRM platforms exist, but this one offers a 100 percent guarantee of satisfaction combined with a low monthly rate after the free trial.
- Insightly, which allows product customization according to your specific needs, so you can engage with your customers in the way that suits them best and makes their needs feel catered to.
- Salesforce, a full-scale customer service tool that helps you build meaningful customer relationships, connect across a range of departments, and identify metrics to help you better manage your business.
- Zoho CRM is one of the few services that understands CRM isn’t just email. It enables you to engage with customers across multiple web platforms including social media.
Business Management Dashboards
What is a dashboard? It’s a tool that enables you to view several key performance indicators (KPI) at a glance. Much like the dashboard of a car, software dashboards allow you to pull in data from many different sources, spot problems and opportunities and do it all from your desktop or smartphone.
Start by identifying your key performance indicators, the few key predictors of future results; they are your “canary in a coal mine” that will alert you when problems are just developing or opportunities are there to exploit if you move quickly.
For example, 9 Spokes is a free business dashboard that allows you to connect all your business tools to track them in one place. With 9 Spokes, you can track information such as employee schedules, financial processes including receivables and payables, website analytics, social media engagement stats, current sales and profitability, products and inventory levels.
The program integrates with a number of well-known software products including Shopify, MailChimp, most major social networks, Google Analytics and Office 365.
Don’t let the number of options overwhelm you. This is a somewhat specialized field, much like accounting software. Hire an expert who can help you identify your real needs and opportunities for digital transformation, develop a long-term strategy to digitize your business, and select the right products and services for your requirements.
Find more options and user feedback on many of these business programs and services at Captera Business Software Rating Service.