Software, programs, applications, apps – they all mean the same thing and are basically the means to get computers to do what we want and make our lives easier. There are literally thousands of different software programs that you can use to help run your business better, so how do you choose the best apps? There are 14 core categories of business software: email, chat, calls, social, contacts, calendar, files, data, documents, design, development, commerce, finance and tasks. Not all of these categories are relevant to all businesses so we’ll take a look at the software most applicable to small and medium enterprises. If you’re interested in finding out more about some of the other apps not covered in this post, please get in touch as we may be able to help.
These three types of software all relate to how you communicate with both internal and external stakeholders. Email is the original method of communication on computers. As it’s been around for such a long time, most people are familiar with how to send, receive and manage their emails. But what if you need to share emails with a group of people such as support staff or sales team? A team inbox, such as Hiver, Front or shared folders in Microsoft Exchange lets multiple users share the same inbox but have separate signatures so that the recipient knows who the email is from. Email clients are fine for a few people but what if you want to contact hundreds or even thousands of customers or leads? Then you will need an email marketing app. There are hundreds available that range in price from free to hundreds of dollars each month. They also vary in terms of their functionality so it pays to look at a few different ones to find the app that’s right for you.
Not long after email became fairly widely used, chat or instant message (IM) was introduced with AOL’s AIM one of the first and most widely adopted. What started as AIM soon became iMessage and Facebook Messenger, but these weren’t necessarily suitable for the work environment where groups or teams need to communicate. Enter apps such as Slack and Google Hangouts which were developed so that conversations would be visible to the whole team. In order to easily communicate with people outside an organisation, live chat solutions such as OLark were developed so that customers could contact sales and support teams without having to email or call.
While you can still make phone calls using your desk top handset or mobile phone, there are many more options available. Video calls can be made using Facetime or Skype when you want to communicate one on one. If you need more people involved, Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting are more appropriate. For webinars or web conferencing, specialised tools such as Zoom, Webex or Livestream are the go.
It would be almost impossible to remember the phone numbers of all of the people you meet. That’s why the contacts app on your phone is so handy, you don’t have to remember anything. But, when it comes to your customers’ details, you need something a bit more sophisticated. That’s where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) apps come in handy – they are designed to manage not just contact information but also your sales pipeline, products your customers have purchased and when, relationships between different contacts and more. Again there are hundreds of options so do some research before making a decision. You can download a handy guide here.
Chances are a document app was one of the first pieces of software you became familiar with. From a basic text editor such as Notepad to word processors like MS Word, we’ve all used something to put our ideas onto digital paper. If you need to make your documents look good, desktop publishing software like Adobe InDesign are the way to go. Combining your documents with a database will enable you to better manage them. Evernote and OneNote help you manage notes, photos, recordings, etc., in one place. Knowledge Base apps such as Zendesk allow you to share detailed instructions with staff and customers, while an intranet such as Share Point lets you manage best practice, HR documents, internal process workflows and other important company information for employees. When you want to share your documents on the World Wide Web, you need a Content Management System (CMS). WordPress and Drupal are the most popular but there are many others available.
While many organisations aim to go paperless, you still need a way to manage your files. Using Explorer or Finder is a great way to manage your personal files but you’ll need something more sophisticated if you want to share files with people either internally or externally. Apps such as Dropbox or Google Drive sync files and folders to the cloud so that everyone you have given access to the file has the same version.
When you have goods or services to sell, you need a way to manage the sales process. That’s where commerce software comes in. There are a number of different point of sale (POS) software options available to help process sales. Many of these integrate with other systems such as finance and inventory tracking, plus there are industry specific POS suitable for hospitality, accommodation, medical facilities, etc, so there’s bound to be one to suit your business. If you want to sell online but don’t want to build a custom eCommerce platform, you can use Shopify or WooCommerce which enable you to add marketing content for products, an online shopping car and even track and manage inventory. If you don’t want to set up your own online store, you can set one up on an online marketplace such as eBay or Amazon.
While spreadsheet apps such as Excel were a godsend in their day, most businesses today need something more sophisticated. Payment processing apps such as eway and PayPal enable you to accept credit card and other payment details from customers. You’ll also need something to produce proposals and/or invoices for customers and finance management software to import bank feeds. Most modern accounting software will allow you to do this and more. Choose cloud-based software so that you can manage your business on the go.
These are just some of the many different software options available for small businesses. Get in touch for advice on the best apps for your organisation.
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