Why SMBs should focus on next-generation management

Using proper management software can help businesses avoid errors that could affect customers, profits and reputation

Think about the tools you use to manage your business. According to research from Applied Business, nearly three-quarters (73%) don't use resource planning and workflow management software, with 67% not using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) application. More worrying is that the research reveals that small businesses are often prone to errors with the systems they do use, which has a negative impact on their overall profitability.

As the digitisation of business has continued, many in the small business community are still not approaching their IT systems with the due care and attention needed. Daily data backups are still low, with businesses using outdated versions of the software they have come to reply upon.

In addition, as the business environment has continued to lead by technology, particularly hosted systems, your business needs to ensure it's leveraging the available software applications and services to remain competitive and profitable.

However, your business needs to ensure it not only has policies in place to ensure these systems and the data they manage are up-to-date and working efficiency to avoid costly mistakes such as data losses, but also to ensure your business is using the data it collects to its full advantage.

To discover if your business needs to overhaul its management systems, ask yourself these questions:

1) Can you remember the last time you updated your core software systems?

2) Are you still using spreadsheets for project management?

3) When was the last time you backed up your data?

4) Are you inputting the same information into different systems across your business?

5) Does it take days or weeks to make decisions using email?

Is your business still relying on paper documents?

Has your business not been able to innovate because your legacy systems can't be updated?

Your business needs to begin its move to more digitisation, and integration as soon as possible. It needs flexible, integrated systems that foster high levels of collaboration and communication across your company.

"Small businesses tend to be light on resources; limited budgets and low staff numbers mean that implementing resource planning and workflow tools can be a big overhead," Paul O'Shea, CEO of IT consultancy Kumoco, told IT Pro. "Conversely it's these tools that small businesses need to ensure that they can grow to the next stage. Understanding the tipping point between overhead and growth tool is where many small businesses run into difficulty. Getting it right can transform your business."

Controlling your business with the best available tools is a commercial imperative. IT systems have become integrated to offer small businesses in particular services that enable them to fully compete in their markets.

Change management

Using the right digital management tools is also being driven by your customers. The number of channels consumers now use to connect with the businesses they buy from has continued to expand. Your business not only needs to manage these channels but also ensure it has dynamic and flexible systems in place to remain competitive.

What's more, your business needs to ensure it has the management systems in place to meet the challenges of continuous innovation. In its Digitisation of Everything report, professional services firm EY said: "We believe that the digital revolution, and its consequences, offer a great opportunity to transform. However, capturing the rewards of a digital world requires considerable commitment and a proactive approach. It is not enough to have a social media strategy. Companies need to develop a comprehensive 'digital strategy' that reaches far beyond the marketing department."

For many SMBs, changing their IT infrastructure and the application they use on a daily basis is daunting to say the least. However, James Woodall, CTO and founder of software firm Intoware, advises there's no time to lose."Software and hardware is evolving all the time and a quick web search can show you how easy it is to set up a CRM or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) today," he says. "The longer you leave it, the harder it will be."The key is these systems will unlock efficiencies that have been hidden behind cumbersome legacy applications and IT infrastructures. Being able to see each customer's details clearly, access data remotely, have confidence that information is safe and secure, and have tools that help and support innovation is how your business ensures its profitability over the long term.

Agile enterprises

Having the ability to innovate at speed means understanding every component of your company. Well-chosen management applications are the core to reaching this goal.

Imagine being able to collect, track and analyse every piece of data your business collects. Your teams are empowered, as they have at their fingertips the information they need to identify new business opportunities, but also make efficiency gains to reduce your company's overall costs.

Choosing a suite of tools that enables your business to work more efficiently is the key, as Stu Collett, founding partner of Super User Studio explained: "We use a range of SaaS (platforms) and tools that help create lean and efficient workflows for our clients and internal business -- for example, Microsoft Office Suite, Xero, Insightly CRM, Team Gantt, Basecamp, Google Docs, Realtime Board, Trello, GoToMeeting.

"We like to have a systemic approach, but one that is agile and dynamic too. We have a six-monthly review to see if there is something new that either brings value to us internally or to our clients in terms of workflow."

The tools that are available continue to evolve to meet the increasing demands of consumers. "I think it's getting interesting in terms of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and SMB resource planning market," said Super User Studio's Collet. "We're starting to see young, innovative start-ups nipping at the heels of established ERP providers. At the same time, we're seeing large ERP SaaS vendors create simplified offerings to the SMB market. I think SMBs will benefit from both sides, which is great."

The days of managing your organisation with a spreadsheet are gone. Your business can only compete if it is using management systems that can give you a complete overview of your business.

Also, the detail needed to ensure projects stay on-track and on budget, but also identify problems long before they have a negative impact on your company is critical. What's more, management applications enable you to future-proof your business, and ensure it's fit for the challenges ahead.

Main image credit: Bigstock

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