Leveraging IT to manage your business and your customers’ experiences.
Business owners spend lots of time trying to figure out how to make everything talk to each other, or copying and pasting information from one system to the other. More often than not, it results in one by IT mess. In order to manage this mess, I have seen with many small businesses is “daisy-chaining” software solutions together. The list of solutions might include:
- Accounting software – online or offline like QuickBooks of FreshBooks
- CRM or Customer Relationship Management software – online or offline like Act! or Salesforce
- Newsletter or Marketing Automation software – online or offline – MailChimp or Constant Contact
- Project Management – Basecamp or ZohoProjects
- Calendar sharing, such as Google Calendar
- Online presentation, such as WebEx or Join.me
- Email Management – Google Gmail or Microsoft Outlook
- Collaboration – Google Docs or Zoho Docs
- Document Sharing and Management – Box, SugarSync
With that many solutions, several problems immediately present themselves:
- These solutions all, typically, have different sets of data. If all of the data was from one source, you could quickly gather information or intelligence about your customers, clients, vendors, employees, etc.
- Not having the systems “talk” to one another could be the root of inefficiencies that could cost the company a great deal of money
- Each system requires learning, time that is not always afforded to you given your many other job responsibilities, and those of your staff
- Having that many solutions makes it difficult to measure a return on the money you are putting out
- It is difficult to manage the “holes” in the system to ensure that you are providing the highest levels of service possible
- It may prove difficult to manage the processes and consistency, period.
Essentially, this is crazy. Your time is far too important to spend so much time trying to figure out how everything works, cross-referencing information, copying and pasting information from one software to another and plain old missing out on opportunities! More likely than not, many business owners are probably taking advantage of only a small portion of what any of the tools they are using can do. That’s not smart money.
The way you work around this is to map out what needs to happen within the company, starting with making your target market aware of what you are doing, through customer engagement (working with your customer) and maintaining the relationships with your clients. The tools listed above will address them. However, efficiency requires that you find a way to make them all work together, or dump them for a single solution that can specifically address your company’s needs without the challenges that multiple solutions often present. Finally, you
With your map in place, look for solutions that are highly customizable and embody many of the needs you have for working with your customers. You will find that there are a number of solutions in the marketplace including:
- Modularized solutions that allow you to add on different components. Each modular is usually provided at an additional cost
- Open sourced solutions that are “free,” but often require assistance with installation and maintenance, which usually comes at a cost
- All in one solutions that provide a number of different tools in one solution. This solution may require that you adjust some processes in order to run effectively, but can be a good, inexpensive way to get all of your needs met under one roof.
- Build it from scratch – the most expensive root to go, but one that ensures that all of your company’s needs and those of your clients are being met.
While the all-in-one solutions on the marketplace aren’t always the easiest to find and gauge, I highly recommend Work, Etc.. We have worked with this firm for the past two years and have the company blossom. They listen, are responsive, provide great, individualized support and continue to grow to meet the needs of their client base. The solution is highly customizable, and combines email marketing, customer relationship management, project management, sales management, reporting, email archiving and billing under one low-cost license. The software is scalable, as the needs of the business change, and it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to run.
I am sure there are other solutions on the marketplace that do an extraordinary job, as well, so please don’t get stuck with one solution. As a business leader, you have to make an investment that you can live with in order to make and keep your company profitable and thriving. Remember – if you make your standard to pursue extraordinary, the fruits of your labor will pay off.
Aepiphanni Business Consulting: The Business Strategy People is an Atlanta, Georgia based Operations Management and Business Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of small to medium sized business leaders. We help business leaders DESIGN| CREATE | BUILD extraordinary businesses. We support our clients with financial management, product and service production and delivery, outsourced services management, sales & marketing and business growth. We provide them with a number of flexible solutions to help them reach their goals.
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