In an ideal world, certain tasks would be outsourced to specialists so they can focus on the primary function of their business. In reality, many small businesses simply don’t have the budget for that, so they have to rely on other systems to support those less-efficient business processes.
Technology has come a long way in this area. Small business owners no longer have to rely on paper ledgers for accounting or simple spreadsheets to create weekly rosters.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to know what technology is best to adopt. Using the right technology can be very cost-efficient but finding the right one can add up.
The multitude of choices that all promise to solve all your business issues can be overwhelming and can easily lead to the wrong decision being made. Or worse, no decision being made at all.
Confusion is nothing new
Deciding on the main technology to support the main function of your business can be relatively easy. Different industries utilize different technologies and those choices can be simple. As a business grows and develops, different needs arise which may not be covered by the original system, so new apps are brought in to solve the issue.
This could include accounting apps, shift scheduling software or automation for processes such as email marketing.
A thorough understanding of your technology needs is vital, but knowing which app is best suited to those needs is where the challenges start. Researching the options takes time and introducing new systems to a workforce can be slow.
Even when you do find the right apps for those individual business needs, integration isn’t always straightforward, and you can still end up wasting time transferring data between tools or platforms.
This eventually leads to frustration.
Frustrated employees trying to keep up with which app they’re supposed to use for which task.
Frustrated management who don’t see the results they were hoping for when they introduced the latest app.
Frustrated end users who don't know where they need to go to access what they need.
The way forward through the fog
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. When deciding what direction to take, we have a few tips to help you on your way.
Let’s reduce that frustration and simplify the world of small business technology.
1. Utilize what you have: start with an applications inventory
Before you head out to invest in something new, take a better look at what you already have. Developers update their apps all the time, so there may be a new feature that you weren’t aware of.Oftentimes, we find companies are using different tools that do the same thing.
For example, we've recently seen a company use both MailChimp and HubSpot. These are both common tools for marketing and have many similar features. The best approach would be to choose one and fully utilize all their features.
It is oftentimes more efficient to purchase a subscription of one tool so you can use enhanced features, as opposed to using the free versions of multiple tools.
The more tools you use, the more places your data is in. This means you'd have to determine how to bring that data all together to analyze it.
Tip: Take an inventory of all your existing software and what you’re using it for to identify whether there are any redundant applications and understand what technology is being used across the company.
When we work with small businesses to develop a digital adoption plan (utilizing the grant from Canada Digital Adoption Program), compiling an applications inventory and developing a current technology map is one of the first things we do.
2. Do your homework: look at reviews, sign up for free trials and talk to vendors
Use sites like G2 and GetApp to compare features and pricing.
Sign up and test the software yourself, as it’s important that you get a sense of the usability. This is especially critical if the software will be used by many people in your organization.
One thing that many vendors offer is a product demo. Don’t hesitate to reach out to book a call with several vendors so you can fully compare their features. Evaluate whether they meet your “must have” or “nice to have” requirements and document this evaluation for discussion with the team.
Tip: To evaluate software that will be used by many people, invite one or two individuals from the main group of users to participate in testing and selecting the software. You may even want to invite those who you think would be MOST opposed to new technology. It’s never too early to start getting buy-in from the people that will be affected.
3. Choose apps that work together: consider integrations
When evaluating a new software, consider whether it works well with your existing technology. This will make potential integration easier with fewer possibilities for error and accidental data loss.
For example, if your company is already using Microsoft for email and documents, then it may be a logical choice to select Teams (not Slack) and SharePoint (not Google Drive or another content management system).
Tip: Look for an “integrations” page or section on the vendor website.
4. Automate what you can
Automating mundane tasks and building automatic workflows can help your employees do their job easier and with less potential for errors.
Most employees don’t want to spend their time on routine tasks - their skills and energy may be best utilized in higher-level work.
In fact, you may already be using automations. A common example is when your online booking tool (like Calendly), videoconference tool (like Zoom) and your calendar (like Outlook) are working seamlessly to allow your customers to book online meetings or appointments.
Use automations available within the software you already use.
Tip: Automations need a trigger and an action. Start learning about automations by testing out single-step automations and connecting two applications you already use.
5. Nominate a Chief Digital Officer
Oftentimes, a team will start using software that suits their needs. This is fine for that team, but may cause problems when looking at all the technology across your business.
For example, an HR team will select a scheduling software, but don’t check to make sure it integrates well with payroll or accounting.
This is where a Chief Digital Officer comes in.
Ideally, this person is on the management team, and their role would be to provide oversight into all technology decisions in the company. They would have ensure that any technology adopted are well-integrated with other tools and guide the implementation of major tech initiatives in the company.
Tip: The Chief Digital Officer should be accountable for the Digital Adoption Plan for the organization. Need help creating one? Book a call with us to learn more about using a $15K grant to help with us.
You don’t have to go at it alone
It may be for differing areas of business, but many small business owners face this same challenge.
You shouldn’t have to compromise the quality of your product or the service you provide because you’re too busy trying to juggle all the other aspects of running a business.
Getting it right can be very beneficial to your business. Improving operational efficiencies and lowering unnecessary costs all help to make your business more resilient in our ever-changing world.
Even though most small businesses aren’t likely to have in-house experts, it doesn’t mean you have to deal with everything yourself.
Look at tech options that come with support or using a tech partner such as Cue North.
We can help with understanding your current technology, determining your future needs, and supporting technology implementations.
It’s our understanding of small business tech challenges that enabled us to build Shyfted, a community platform for healthcare professionals working shifts. Our client has been facing a challenge for years and we stepped up to help build a solution that works for them (and many other health teams as well!).
The right technology is out there to support you. You just need to make it work for you, not the other way around.
If you’d like to know how Cue North can help you tackle your tech challenges, contact us today for a no-obligation 30-minute call. We can help you reach your business goals sooner – with less stress.
Founder @ Cue North
Helping leaders build great organizations through processes and powerful digital experiences