small business software

Smart Small Business Software

By Jon Lee

There is no shortage of small business software that promise to streamline operations — from billing and HR to sales leads and resource planning. The robust tools that were previously only affordable by enterprises have become more accessible as the cost of technology falls. As a result, today’s small businesses have become inundated with solutions for every business function, yet these solutions rarely work together or simply fail to get the job done efficiently.

Finding the right software can be a daunting process. Afterall, it’s difficult to decide whether or not something is the right fit without testing it for an extended period. The time and resource investment required to introduce, implement, and maintain new software only to find out that it doesn’t meet the needs of the business can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

For example, while Salesforce is a widely-recognized CRM software, it’s built and designed for larger, 1,000+ employee companies and enterprises. Its features and analytics tools may be too cumbersome for the needs of a small business, so alternatively, a more intuitive CRM tool that seamlessly integrates with Google Apps like Prosperworks, would make a better choice. Similarly, Oracle PeopleSoft is often the HR product of choice for enterprises whereas Trinet has predominantly catered to small, growing businesses. You’ll also find SAP Accounting in use at many of the Fortune 500 companies of the world, but for new and emerging companies, Xero is a cloud-based accounting software with simple UI, which makes for a much better choice.

So what’s the difference between software for small and large companies? And what should you consider before choosing your tools? When it comes to deciding which of the hundreds of services work in unison to give growing businesses the competitive edge they need to recapture market share, here’s what to look for:

Issues with Enterprise Software

Small businesses require tools that are built specifically for them. Enterprise-level products are often feature-rich and highly customizable but when it comes to business software, more isn’t necessarily better. With enterprise software, the barrier to entry is typically so high due to implementation costs and upkeep that these products are not suitable for startups or small businesses. Enterprise software is not only highly complex and costly, but it is also not positioned to support the unique needs of small business. Small businesses have limited resources, and that doesn’t just mean their financial budget. Most small businesses do not have devoted IT teams to decipher, integrate, and maintain business software. This critical lack of talent resources means that software for small businesses must be accessible to the typical employee.

More importantly, great small business software should be supporting the business, not the other way around. That means that the software should fit right into the business with limited or no lead time to get it going. But what happens all too often is that integration and upkeep cause huge delays to software incorporation.

Quality Over Quantity

When determining which software is the right fit, it’s more important to focus on a software’s usability as it particularly pertains to your business needs. This is much more important than a laundry list of features. It’s unlikely that a small business will use or need every single feature that an enterprise software has to offer. A faulty line of thought is that it’s better to have more features than less, in the case that you might require those tools later on, but the reality is having more features complicates the necessary and core functions of the software. That’s why many enterprise software solutions providers have started offering the a-la-carte model to serve more of the market.

Instead of trying to ring up a huge checklist of features, focus on the core features and determine whether the software is a fit for your business needs. Define what you’re trying to accomplish with the business software, and spend some time comparing the offerings of various options. Keep in mind that a one-size fits all solution may not be for everyone. Smaller and more agile companies are better off mixing and matching software to accomplish exactly what they need, at a price that is suitable to them. In a subsequent post, we plan on aggregating all of the different softwares that do play well together.

Often times with business software, less can be more. Simple processes and clean UI offer a much more focused experience and will do much more for a small business than clunky, feature-rich software.

Easy Integration

Seamless software integration allows for more efficiency, transparency, and informed decisions. New software should easily integrate with the tools that the business uses most, like Gmail, Google Apps, and other relevant productivity software. Seamless integration with the software that you currently use means there are fewer supplemental requirements for deploying the software. The benefits of implementing departmental software are immense and it’s absolutely crucial to driving growth. But if you cannot integrate the software into your current structure, the newly introduced software can do more harm than good.

For small businesses to compete with enterprises, they need to be equipped with the tools that can stand up to what enterprises are already using. Enterprise-level software is not only too expensive for small businesses, but it’s also too difficult to deploy and maintain for smaller companies. When selecting a business software that can be truly useful, small companies must determine their explicit needs and focus on those core features. Ultimately, software that can fit into your company’s strategy will be the best choice for small companies.

Jon Lee is the co-founder and CEO of ProsperWorks, the leading CRM solution for businesses powered by Google’s Apps for Work. @ProsperWorks.