Your Tech Toolbox
Not sure about you but on an almost daily basis, someone is emailing us, offering us a new piece of tech to manage one function or another of our business. These products, by definition of their creators or sales teams are the biggest, the brightest and the best. But what do you actually need?
It got us to thinking. What should a small or medium business have in their tech toolbox? It’s not as simple as downloading a few apps and hoping for the best. Your technology suite needs to help you be more efficient, streamline your business functions and to be cost effective. It should support your business and give you more time with your client or customer.
Best to start with the hardware. Depending on the size of your business and the number of people you may need to kit out, choose something you know. We are Mac people so iMac, iPads and iPhones are our standard. More expensive but we work on them all the time, so they work for us. They fit our purpose. Do you go laptop over desktop or tablet, or is there a hybrid model to help your team to be at their best whether at home or in the office? What will work best as your business grows and evolves?
Server over storage? Depending on the kind of work you do and the hardware you choose, you have options for safe and secure storage of data and information, whether a server in a location or in a cloud-based storage system. Knowing the sensitivity of your data is important but unless you are ASIO or the Pentagon, it's likely no one is going to hack your cloud-based storage to look at your marketing plans or budget forecasts. Again, in the hybrid working model many businesses are adopting as we evolve out of the pandemic, cloud-based means access wherever your team are. Think Google Drive, Drop Box, I Drive, Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s OneDrive or Box.
Software is one of the great challenges of a modern business. What is nice to have over what is a must have. Depending on the kind of business you operate, you will have different needs. However, there are a few must haves for every business and they all need to integrate with one another to make them easier for you.
Accounting and finance packages are everywhere. Think MYOB or Xero when contemplating how they integrate with others. A quick search within your finance software will advise if there is an app available to link and support other business functions. It must work for you, and your accountant or bookkeeper, be easy to use and be able to do more than just manage your day to day. BAS reporting, time tracking, costs of conversions and sales integration are key.
Be wary of diving into deep water with this and perhaps seek some advice from peers or other business colleagues you know, to ask them how they manage their situations.
Your operational software must talk to the financial software and is there to manage client records, job and project information, scheduling, staff collaboration, quoting, invoicing, job costing and timesheets. This is, of course, dictated by the type of business you operate. A plumbing business will need very different software to an architectural firm or IT health solutions firm. If the two functional software packages are compatible, life is easier for you, your team and your finance folk. Ultimately a CRM package like HubSpot can manage many of the data retention, sales, communication and HR functions you might need in a small business.
Look around at what is on offer for free. While that may sound unusual, some software packages allow you to use them for either trial periods, or if you are starting up, give you free or affordable options for one to two person operations, especially if you are geographically separated.
Finding one app or one solution to do it all is unusual so be prepared to hunt down supporting apps to build yourself the tailored solution to fit the specific needs of your business. Perhaps you need form builders, photo editing and design software like the Adobe suite, project management tools, report creation, and industry specific tools – each of which can be worked into the solution to achieve exactly what you’re looking for.
Finally, get some training. Many of us muddle through with a piece of tech, using about 20% of its capacity. Training will fast track your journey to embracing the technology. If you’re busy running the business, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll find time to learn it by yourself, it just won’t happen. Having a third party provide structured training makes you commit to the cause and can help your staff manage the change as well.
Every tool in your tech toolbox has to serve a purpose, be efficient and cost effective. We know these things a little too well as we too are still trying to finalise all of the tools we need as we grow and evolve our business.
See you down the rabbit hole!