Business technology has a tendency to become an Achilles heel for small businesses – sure, apps, networks and systems are vital for businesses to communicate, trade and collaborate. Yet often, once an application has been purchased, it can become near-impossible to make it speak to and work with the wider system.
It is widely known that for every dollar businesses spend on a new business app, they spend $5 to $8 dollars to integrate, extend and customise these for their use – a cost most SMEs simply can’t shoulder. Isolated and unused, the result can be an expensive – and often useless – application graveyard.
Few SMEs know at the start of their journey just how the needs and shape of the business will evolve. This lack of a clear strategy puts SMEs in a precarious position: invest in expensive technology hoping the business will ‘grow into’ it – with little means of knowing if the investment will pay off in the long run? Or buy fragmented IT systems and applications on a need-to basis?
As a result of this confusion, SMEs can quickly find themselves juggling 20 different applications from 20 different providers – which can leave staff faced with a tangled web of interfaces, navigation tools, support staff and invoices. This will not only likely result in a lack of adoption of apps invested in but also limits the potential technology can offer for businesses.
Information is gold for businesses – and for applications to truly bring value they need to be able to access, utilise and share as much information as possible. Applications that interact and integrate with each other allow complex systems to be linked up – this way, for example, contact information, emails, social media communications, documents, invoices, calendars and web conferencing for each customer can be pulled together in a single screen in the CRM system.
The combined intelligence gathered by these apps makes for a much more powerful, efficient and speedy workforce – without wasting money on unnecessary technology. It also ultimately enables the scaling that is crucial for a growing business.
Below are some simple tips for SMEs looking to maximise the value of their business apps:
1. Go Mobile
SMEs in particular have an increasingly mobile workforce, with many working remotely and requiring flexible access from multiple locations. Businesses investing in mobile apps should ensure they are easy to integrate with the main CRM system – giving employees on the go the same overview, capabilities and insight as those in the office.
2. Take Advantage Of The Add-Ons
Investing in apps from a complete ‘suite’ of interlinking apps that can easily be updated and expanded is a cost-effective way for businesses to harness the freedom and tools business applications offer. Some of these suites offer interlinking add-ons to manage campaigns, invoices, people, recruitment, reports, planners, and many more – effectively constituting a one-stop shop for the entire office which adapts and scales to changing business needs.
3. Manage Security
Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting SMEs to get access to valuable IP and into the supply chains of larger enterprises. SMEs should chose applications that allow them to beef up your security while making their working life easier. Some app providers enable businesses to only chose certain IP addresses, authorise specific websites, manage linked accounts, check active sessions and authtokens, check on activity history, enable https usage, and even close accounts. The reality is, app providers spend a lot more on securing their application and network infrastructure than SMEs can.
4. Build Your Own
Businesses can take customisation one step further and opt for software that allows them to build their own, dedicated online databases and forms. Simple drag-and-drop interfaces are now available that allow users to create basic to highly complex databases to meet just about any need. Databases can either be built from scratch or selected from a number of prebuilt ‘templates’ to work with.
5. Link Accounts
To get the most out of their apps SMEs should ensure their apps of choice can be linked to other key networking accounts, like Facebook and Google Apps. Linking a business app to a Facebook account allows the user to associate Facebook profiles to leads and contacts and gain precious information about clients (or future clients). Linking accounts also is helpful because it will enable the business to share email campaigns via these other platforms, gaining even more traction and audience.