3 Cloud Software Solutions Small Businesses Need Right Now
Hundreds of phone calls a day. Unanswered emails and frustrated customers. Projects or events that are too complex for a spreadsheet but not complex enough for formal project management software (besides, do all the employees project know what a Gantt chart is anyway? Do they even need to know that?). Your business is now big enough that it's time to start building the operational infrastructure. But where do you even start? And if every cloud solution is ~$20/month, how do you pick the right ones?
Have no fear, I have been there and lived to tell about it. I remember my first day as Operations Director at a startup-like organization. Everything is important RIGHT NOW. Or is it?
Here's the good news: with cloud software, you can have an efficient operational infrastructure up and running pretty quickly. If you don't like any part of the solution, you can learn from that experience and if needed, make a change before the next subscription fee cycle starts. The important thing is to get your business and operational data digitized so you can start to normalize every day activities.
1. First things first: Financials
All businesses need to manage financials in a formal software tool immediately. This seems obvious, but in the environment of fast paced growth, it can be easy to let cash "leak." Standalone financial software works great at first and is a great foundation to start ensuring accurate tracking of financials. Eventually, however, your financials may need to be connected into your online store, a customer relationship management system (CRM), or inventory solution. Whether you choose an accounting software such as QuickBooks or Oracle Netsuite, it is important to consider future needs as much as possible in that selection process.
2. Helpdesk & Customer Service Software
Some people may disagree that Helpdesk software tool is an immediate "must have." They may say that managing communication in email or spreadsheets gets the job done. I disagree- as businesses have only one chance to make a first impression, a helpdesk software solution that tracks inquiries, ensures timely feedback, and provides branded responses is key to ensuring the best customer experience from the start. Helpdesk tools also reduce labor intensive tasks by providing standardized responses to frequent inquiries and providing visibility to the most common inquiries. Helpdesk tools are so sophisticated now that these standardized responses still seem personalized to the user. Helping to reduce the time spent on managing inquiries while still providing professional responses immediately provides valuable time back to your business while still providing the best possible customer experience.
3. Task Management Software
If your business performs a standard set of tasks as part of a work product or event, there has to be a way to ensure key tasks are accomplished and providing visibility to the "who, what, where, and when" of which employee performed the task and when. As your business grows, it can be natural that some of these steps are missed and quality suffers. Task management software provides an easy way for employees to mark tasks as complete and for supervisors to see what tasks are at risk or outstanding. Employees can also log in to the system and see exactly what is assigned to them.
Often, when starting a business, it is hard to keep up with the volume of demand. With the above solutions in place, you can transition from "fighting fires" to seeing trends of what areas of your business are working well and what process areas need attention.