Your IT solutions firm is successfully helping SMEs with an impressive range of services from infrastructure and web hosting to tech troubleshooting and data recovery.
You’ve scaled up your venture and are now looking to invest in low cost technology that will boost your own business without breaking the bank.
And with two thirds of UK small enterprises investing in digital technologies to improve their growth and attract new customers, you’re in good company.
Here we detail ten technology solutions in six core business areas, that will help to streamline and enhance your day-to-day working life.
Productivity is more than just a buzzword.
The Office for National Statistics recently reported that the productivity of British workers, or economic output per hour worked, has jumped at its fastest rate in six years. And it’s been reported that global corporations are zooming in on their productivity by removing organisational obstacles and inefficient processes to amplify workplace production.
There’s also a preoccupation with personal productivity. We’re bombarded with top ten lists of the best time management self-help books. Or spoilt for choice in the app store by dozens of gizmos that promise to help us use our time better.
It’s safe to say that ‘doing more with the same’ is an obsession that isn’t going away any time soon.
As a business owner, you’re looking to improve your operating workflow to increase staff efficiency and overall output. There are a number of solutions in technology that will allow you to do just that.
Asana is a popular project management tool that helps your team to track projects and work closely together to achieve results. It shows clear team member responsibilities, deadlines, high and low priority tasks and timelines in one intuitive dashboard. You can easily see who on your team is doing what and when.
It can be used for marketing campaigns, product launches, company goals or any other projects within your business. You can pull off reports to analyse how work is progressing, make templates for recurring jobs and search through old tasks to find data or information. No more cumbersome Excel Gantt charts or not knowing the status of a project.
Asana offers a free, basic account for up to 15 team members so you can test out the software before investing in the paid-for version.
The Premium option costs £7.99 per month, or there’s a custom-priced Enterprise plan for larger businesses. Asana is used by SMEs as well as global corporations including Airbnb, Uber and Pinterest.
Ever wanted all your apps to talk to one another?
Zapier allows you to build connections, or ‘Zaps’, from one app to another and create automations for recurring tasks, saving you precious time and effort.
It has 1,000+ apps listed, including Gmail, Mailchimp, Excel, WordPress and Google Forms, making drawn-out, repetitive admin a thing of the past.
There’s a free option for two-step zaps, for example Zapier will move all data fields from a Google Form and add to an Excel spreadsheet. There’s also a complimentary 14-day trial of the premium version which starts at $20 per month.
The paid plan allows for workflows with three or more steps. You could set up Zapier to automatically move email attachments from Gmail to Dropbox and then alert you via Slack that you have a new file. It automates many other time-consuming actions.
Customer Relationship Management
Recent research found that sales people spend less than 36% of their time selling. Nearly two thirds of their time is spent on non-revenue generating activity, predominantly admin.
The same statistics also showed that only 22.9% of salespeople follow a structured time management methodology and labelled CRM “frustrating”.
However, there are numerous small business IT solutions out there to help overhaul your customer relationship management systems. These tools will not only make CRM easier and less of a time drain for your team but will also improve sales and customer service.
Zoho CRM is one of the most popular for SMEs. It offers easy-to-use CRM software that has a multitude of benefits. One of these is multi-channel outreach where you can contact prospects via email, telephone, live chat and social media and save all the details of each interaction in the dashboard for easy reference.
It also offers an AI assistant, real-time notifications, in-depth analytics, process management to build and automate sales processes, sales forecasting and quality scoring for leads. You can also build self-servicing portals for your customers.
There’s a free 15-day trial to see if the tool is right for you. And a starter plan of £10 per month.
Zoho also offers a wider suite of software for operations including HR, emails and communication, app creation and finance.
Finance and Client Time Tracking
Manual invoice processing and filling in timesheets can be an inefficient use of time, adding no value to a business. It’s estimated that small businesses spend an average of 120 working days each year on repetitive administration tasks, with accounting tasks costing firms the most.
Does your invoicing and time monitoring procedure need an update? It’s time to embrace hassle-free low cost technology to optimise and systemise your finance workflows and to cut the time it takes to complete timesheets.
Wave offers financial software for small businesses at no cost. You can send professionally branded invoices, estimates and receipts. As well as log expenses, track payments and balance the books.
You’ll never waste valuable time searching in pockets, desk drawers and bags for misplaced old receipts again as the Wave app scans receipts and automatically saves them in your account, so you can manage expenses instantly and while on the move.
It allows you to connect your bank accounts and synchronise the relevant information so it’s tax-return ready. You can also run reports to see how your finances are faring.
Often team members need to record the time they spend on certain clients. This might involve jotting down hours on a notebook, trying to remember the details at a later date or another unreliable method. TSheets takes the guesswork and tediousness out of completing timesheets.
Employees can clock in and out with one click on the mobile app, change a job code or take a break instantly. TSheets can also be integrated with accountancy and payroll software for accurate reporting and billing.
It’s free for one person and a free 14-day trial lets you test out the tool for two or more employees. It charges $4 per user per month with a monthly base fee of $16.
It’s been predicted that by 2020 half the UK workforce will work remotely. While this has been shown to boost productivity and reduce sick days, it throws up some challenges with regards to interaction between employees and clients.
In the age of working from home, on the road teams and international clients, small business IT solutions that aid swift and secure communication are critical.
Zoom offers cloud-based video and audio conferencing, chat and webinars across mobile, desktop and in-room systems. It has functionality including simultaneous screen sharing, Google Chrome and Outlook plug-ins, and webinar hosting for view-only attendees.
You can host video conferences with up to 500 participants, record meetings and use instant messaging while talking.
Zoom is free for meetings of up to 100 participants for a maximum of 40 minutes. If you’re looking for more features and unlimited access, there are three different subscription plans available from £11.99 per month.
Communication is continuing to shift from face-to-face contact and telephone calls to instant text messaging. Slack enables quick chats across team members situated remotely or in different parts of the office. It archives chats so they’re easily searchable later, as well as integrating with thousands of apps to streamline workflows.
It also offers private and public channels, so that each department or client team can have a group chat. There’s file sharing, one-to-one voice and video calling and personalised notifications, so you never miss a crucial update or get inundated with the unimportant stuff.
You can create a free workspace in Slack or opt for a paid-for plan with added performance features that starts at £5.25 per active user with a monthly fee of £6.30.
Hiring, training and retaining the best talent is incredibly important for any organisation, large or small. With UK businesses estimating losses of up to £40,000 per year for hires that haven’t worked out, it’s vital to put an efficient HR function in place.
As your team expands, so does your human resources responsibility and the inevitable admin. There are various low cost technology tools to conquer HR, saving energy on recruitment and repeated implementation tasks, and reducing paperwork.
Part of the Zoho suite of tools, alongside Zoho CRM described above, Zoho People focuses on simplifying your HR operation. It offers “360-degree HR solutions” including leave, travel and employee database management, onboarding sequences, performance appraisals, benefits administration and attendance reporting.
Zoho People has a mobile app to manage your people on the go and an employee self-service portal so they can maintain their own personal records.
There’s a 15-day free trial and a free plan including the basic tools. If you opt to sign up to the full service, subscriptions start at £7 per month for five employees.
Strategic marketing contributes three times more value to a business strategy than any other organisational function. Your marketing activity might include branding, website design, social media, email marketing, events and exhibitions, SEO, online and offline advertising, PR, printed brochures or direct mail. Each area requires careful planning and execution to get the best results.
Marketing is essential for business growth but can consume endless hours from your day, be unnecessarily complex or expensive. Below are two small business IT solutions that will help your marketing run smoother.
Hootsuite allows you to manage all your social media activity in one place to build and engage with your online audience.
It provides scheduling, content curation and analytics for the most popular channels including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Hootsuite also integrates with a further 250 apps.
There are various pricing plans, from £16 per month, so you can select the one most suitable for your business. There’s a free plan for one user and three social media profiles.
Hootsuite also offers online social media training courses and an option to run digital ads, such as on Facebook, through your Hootsuite dashboard.
The famous saying that a picture is worth a thousand words couldn’t be more true. Conveying a complex idea in one image cuts through marketing clutter and can rapidly engage your core customer.
You should use enticing and eye-catching visuals on your social media channels and website, in your emails, presentations and blogs, as well as in printed materials such as business cards and flyers.
Canva is an online tool that allows you to easily create graphic designs to several standard sizes, such as for a Facebook profile header, or to custom sizes as required. It provides images and icons, professional design templates, a selection of fonts as well as an easy drag and drop interface.
There’s a free option with basic functionality for you to create graphics in quick time with no need for a graphic designer or your own artistic skills. Or, if you’re looking for more creative scope, there are upgrade and custom packages, from $12.95 per month for one user.
Intuitive, automated, accessible low cost technology that helps businesses run efficiently is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. Struggling with antiquated systems, getting buried under paperwork or bogged down with admin is not an option for a growing provider in the IT sector.
Above are a few ideas on software to invest in this year, however there are digital tools available now for almost everything. So, whatever your business need or challenge, with a little research you’ll no doubt be able to find the relevant solutions in technology.