For smaller businesses which lack the expertise and resources of their larger counterparts, the need for efficient processes is even greater.A good business application can help small businesses optimise how they do business ? they streamline processes, better manage customers and improve employee engagement. In recent years, the rise of cloud computing has seen web-based applications join the plethora of business tools on offer. The problem is, where do you start? With so many available, it?s becoming difficult for businesses to see the wood for the trees. There are countless desktop applications, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions, all of which claim to increase process efficiency while cutting costs. Businesses are simply inundated with options, and it?s not surprising that many end up investing in tools that aren?t suited to their specific needs. With limited budgets, organisations need to work out what their core business processes are and adopt the applications that will enhance them. Communication is key A good place to start is communication. Communication is a core process that can be improved through the use of business applications. The speed and cost effectiveness of digital communication, such as email, has seen many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) adopt it as the key channel. The issue is that many take a “one-size-fits-all” approach and solely rely on tools such as Outlook for all communications. While perfectly adequate for day-to-day emails, they can fall short in terms of efficiency and compliance when used to send important business documents. Businesses should instead consider communication tools that automate the preparation and sending of documents, removing time-consuming, repetitive tasks and reducing the opportunity for human error. Prioritising payments This leads us on to invoicing. Invoicing is an essential part of doing business ? after all, it ensures you get paid for your goods or services. With modern software versions able to automate key functions, such as ledger recording, reconciliation, and invoice preparation, it has become a tool few organisations can live without. For SMEs and their limited resources, ensuring good cash flow is vital to survival, so it?s important that the invoicing process is as efficient as possible. An invoicing tool can guarantee invoices are created on time, contain all of the necessary information, and are distributed to the intended recipient. At a time when stories of late payment continue to hit our headlines, it?s become more important than ever for businesses to have applications in place that will facilitate the payment process. Gaining intelligence Another type of application that can be extremely valuable to SMEs is an analytics tool. Amongst larger organisations, big data continues to be an area attracting heavy investment. While perhaps not needed by SMEs on the same scale, it can be useful to gain insight into business information which can be turned into very real intelligence. Whether it?s visibility into spending, marketing habits or team productivity, having the ability to analyse business operations can help organisations optimise how they do business. It?s undeniable that business applications have the potential to empower small businesses to run their processes more efficiently, improving productivity, customer satisfaction and sales, while cutting costs. What tends to inhibit them, however, is the way they adopt and invest in applications without working out how, or if, they are needed. Ultimately, if you invest in the right applications that enable you to communicate more effectively, guarantee positive cash flow, and gain business intelligence, you will be provided with the foundations needed to successfully compete against your more established counterparts. Erwan Kernevez is digital solutions director at Neopost.
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