Is hardly surprising that the choice of enabling software for small business has become more crucial than ever before. Although some larger organisations were already geared up for flexible working arrangements and remote working practices prior to the devastating outbreak of COVID-19, SMEs and sole traders did not necessarily always have all the right tools.
According to a recent Capterra survey, over half of the SME owners asked said that they had had to implement new software systems as a result of the pandemic. In fact, it should be noted that increased digitalisation of previously standard business practices has rushed forward in 2020 due to the restrictions and new ways of working that many SMEs have had to adopt.
That said, it has not all been plain sailing for SMEs because choosing the right software for small businesses remains a challenge.
In part, this is due to the fact that some of the best-known remote working packages – such as video conferencing and virtual meeting software – are really geared up for the needs of larger organisations. Some have pricing models that either make them prohibitively expensive for smaller business owners or, when they are cheaper, they provide an inadequate service because they are not reliable enough.
When it comes to software for small businesses, a middle ground is usually preferable. This is what most business owners are seeking – something that allows them to continue working in a way that fulfils their customers’ needs but without adding to their fixed costs so dramatically that it would mean pushing prices up.
In fact, what many SME owners have sought is a tech stack i.e. a rationalised set of software for small businesses that function well together.
So, what do business owners and IT professionals need to bear in mind when selecting the software for small business that will see them through the crisis? Read on to find out.
#1 Build an Integrated tech stack
The first thing to say about software for a small business operating remotely or without a centralised network is that they will need to rely on secure cloud-based software and apps.
Without access to a central server, for example, SMEs can share information and work through the cloud. Various software packages are on offer but a tech stack means having a mix of them which will integrate fully.
It is no use operating with a cloud-based app if it cannot display the software you already commonly use, such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, for example. A tech stack must work seamlessly in the cloud among all software components.
#2 Don’t rely on one software solution
It can be tempting to try and shoehorn everything that goes on in an SME into just one or two software solutions. However, you cannot operate like this for long. Not everything can be conveyed via email just as not all communications should take place in video conferencing software.
SMEs, like larger organisations, need a blend of communication and processing tools that replicate the office environment as much as possible. Small businesses that only operate with one or two systems will inevitably create problems for themselves down the line as their limitations start to become apparent.
#3 Plan for the long haul
When buying software for a small business that will enable these to carry on working in a socially distanced world, it might be tempting to opt for the lowest cost option. Although this could be a financial necessity for some, future-proofing your software investments will be better in the longer-term.
No one knows how long the world will have to deal with the contagion and even whether old modes of working will return once it is defeated.
Therefore, the smart thing to do is to opt for a software stack that doesn’t just meet emergency conditions but will help to transition to new working practice in the middle and long-term, too.
#4 Invest in time management software
One of the things that worry many SME owners is that they no longer have the tools they need to monitor their staff. It becomes harder to assign tasks, to see who is performing well and who is logged on but not being very productive. With time management software as a part of your stack, this becomes much less of an issue. With remote worker management software, you can keep on top of the hours employees are putting in even if they are working outside of normal office hours. It will also allow managers and team leaders to monitor performance as well as who might be overdoing it and potentially heading for an unwanted burnout due to overwork.
#5 Trial freeware wherever possible
Something else that puts small business owners off investing in what would otherwise be enabling technology is the cost of the software. This is much more of an acute issue for SMEs with tighter margins than it is for bigger businesses.
That said, lots of software for small businesses is scalable these days, so you can purchase only the licenses you need to match your current demands.
Equally, many SME-focussed software packages available today offer free trial periods. This will allow you to assess whether it is right for you in your stack before committing any financial resources to invest in it.