Although it may appear that some startups are able to get up and running with little more than a computer – after all, some of the biggest names in business began in suburban garages with little to no investment – most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that they needed a bit more than an old laptop to get started.
Regardless of the type of business you are launching, you need software to keep everything running smoothly and to handle the key tasks of managing operations. While you might be able to rely on the consumer versions of certain software tools for a while, as your business grows, you will have to invest in more powerful tools to manage the company.
This doesn’t mean, though, that you need to purchase every new program that comes on the market. Although some businesses will need specialized software for their daily activities (i.e., graphic design programs) the majority of businesses can operate efficiently and be productive while saving money by using five key types of software.
Basic Office Functions
The first, and probably most obvious, type of software your business needs is a suite of programs to handle basic office functions, including word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets. The Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) is perhaps the most well-known and widely used option, but there are other programs that work well also. Many businesses have begun using Google apps, for instance, to save money, but as you evaluate your options, you need to consider compatibility and security.
Free programs generally offer similar functionality without using resources, but you need to carefully evaluate the free vs. paid options and determine which is best for your business. In some cases, the free option might be “good enough,” but doesn’t really give you everything you need, thus making a paid option a better choice.
In many cases, contract management software is put on the back burner, as something that would be nice to have when the business is up and running and successful. However, given that contracts are the foundation of any business, and poorly managed contracts can cost companies up to 10 percent of their annual revenues, it’s important to put this type of software on a front burner. Powerful contract management solutions will ensure that not only are your contracts drafted, executed, and stored properly, but will also help you stay abreast of your contract portfolio and easily evaluate the risk contained in your contracts. This helps improve productivity and increase revenues – while also preventing losses.
Communication and Collaboration
Whether your entire team works in one office or is spread out around the world, you need tools to help them communicate and collaborate on their projects.
One of the most popular tools that businesses are using today is Slack, which is essentially a giant chatroom for your team where they can communicate individually and as a team, while also sharing documents and other action items in real time. Rather than relying on emails or instant messages, Slack keeps everything in one central location, ensuring that everyone has the chance to be on the same page and know what’s happening with individual projects or clients.
While tools like Slack help improve communication, collaboration or project management software also helps your team stay on track. Although some companies opt to use spreadsheets or documents and shared drives to manage projects, it’s very easy for deadlines to be missed or tasks to fall between the cracks.
That doesn’t mean you need to invest in proprietary project management software, though. Using a tool like the Trello app, for instance, allows project managers to add and assign tasks and keep everything on track. However you choose to manage projects, the bottom line is that it needs to be a priority.
How is your business managing finances? Does payroll take hours to get done? When tax time rolls around, is everything organized and ready for your tax preparer? With the right financial management software, many of these tasks are streamlined, and you can capture a clear few of where your company stands financially at any given moment.
Staying on top of your finances helps prevent major losses and ensure the long-term success of your company.
Customer Relationship Management
Finally, every business needs a customer relationship management, or CRM, solution. CRM software is more than just an address book. It allows you to keep track of customer interactions, store important customer details, and basically store all of the important information about your customers so you can build strong relationships that keep customers happy and increase sales.
Again, these aren’t necessarily all of the types of software that your company needs, but with these five tools, you can accomplish all of the key business functions efficiently and stay organized and productive.