Power Up Your Small Business – Transform With Technology

If you are a small business owner and you are looking to increase your ability to do more in less time, then harnessing the benefits of technology could be the answer. We take a look some of the ways your business can harness technology to help take it to the next level.

1. Automate Administration

Look to automate as much of your administrivia and backend procedures as possible. Start with any of the functions that are repetitive or time-consuming. Automating these processes will assist in reducing the amount of time taken giving you additional capacity to take on other functions. Typical applications you should consider are word processing and spreadsheet functions.

Using word processing applications allows you to set up templates, merge documents and create forms, or you can go one better and install software such as Microsoft Groove and create online forms. Email applications allow you to communicate quickly and easily using email

2. Formalise Finances

Installing Accounting applications, such as MYOB or Quickbooks, is a fantastic way to formalise your finances. It allows you to quickly and easily enter your financial information. It also allows you to work quickly and effectively with your accountant when it comes preparing Business Activity Statements, end of month financial reports and end of year taxation activities. This all helps keep your accounting fees under control. Another benefit is that you have the ability to create a raft of important financial reports, including cashflow forecasts, debtor aging, sales reports, etc which helps to provide vital information to assist in effective decision-making.

3. Corral Customers

Using software to establish a centralised customer database has enormous benefits for your business. Firstly, it keeps your information together, in one location, and becomes a single source of the truth. This ensures that your business is not at the mercy of one or two key employees and acts as a ready reference for new employees, enabling them to get up to speed quickly.

Having a customer database is the foundation stone for effective marketing. You will be able to analyse, profile and segment your customer database in order to better understand your customers, their needs and wants, which will enable you to better target and market to your customers and to develop new and improved products.

4. Open Online

Establish an online version of your business. A fully functioning e-commerce site is like having another branch of your business open. It allows people to research your business, your products and your services at their convenience. It also provides your customers the opportunity to shop from the comfort of their home or office, which could be local, national or anywhere in the world.

5. Master Marketing

Using online marketing techniques, allows you to design, develop and deliver marketing campaigns quickly, easily and much more cheaply than using traditional mail. Online marketing software allows you to automate campaigns at sign-on, for special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries, set up seasonal campaigns such as Christmas or holidays and can even automate the delivery of training and education programs.

6. Start Socialising

Use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook to market your business. These sites are a fantastic way to reach potential customers and to create a sense of community, which helps to create customer loyalty. Social media can also be used to build influence, improve your business or personal reputation and earn your customers trust.

7. Consolidate Communications

Implementing a centralised and online communications hub within your business enables you to gather your organisations communications in one place and provides ready access to all your staff members. Software such as Sharepoint can help consolidate all those important communications in one place. Documents you may like to include are standard operations guides, company policies, employee guides, Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines, memos, research papers, project information and status reports, meeting agenda’s and minutes – to name but a few.

8. Initiate Integration

Start to look at ways you can integrate these systems to make your life even easier. For example, you may want your online business automatically download transaction information to your accounting package, or your customer database to synch with your online marketing software.

Looking for ways to automate your business can help you to make your business operations, faster, easier and simpler. They can also provide additional capacity into cash strapped businesses with limited resources.

Continue to look for opportunities to power up your small business.

Groove Network. Are you in it?

If you are in a business that passes documents around to be reviewed and edited over and over before they are ready to be posted for advertising or for a client, then you have probably already heard of a software solution to help keep your “floating” documents organized from Groove Network. You may not be aware that there is another option out there. In this article you will be presented with some basic information about the differences in collaboration software from Groove Network and NextPage.

Idea behind collaboration software.

The central idea behind having collaboration software is that it allows business professionals to work directly with other business professionals by allowing them to work together to create business documents, presentations, and budgets. Most collaboration software is centralized. This allows business professionals to work on the same documents at the same time from different locations. Some centralized collaboration software solutions include Groove Network, Microsoft SharePoint, Documentum, and Filenet.

Groove Network Advantages.

There are a few advantages to using centralized collaboration software such as Groove Network. The main advantage being that they work very well for team collaboration. Groove Network’s software keeps all files, projects, and data in one centralized location that everyone who is working on the project can access. This allows them to review and update the same document that everyone else has used, which essentially keeps everyone working on the same page.

Drawbacks to Groove Network.

While the collaboration software solution provided by Groove Network is very useful and beneficial, there are a few drawbacks to using it. The main disadvantage being that Groove Network’s software requires the use of an IT infrastructure. Another potential drawback is that it requires an extensive amount of installation time. Other collaboration software options out there also require everyone you work with to have the same software in order to share information. All of these drawbacks to centralized collaboration software can be very expensive and inconvenient.

Are there any other options?

An alternative solution to the centralized collaboration software is NextPage. NextPage 1.5 Collaboration Software tracks documents with Digital Thread technology. Say, for instance, that you are working on your company’s budget. You want to make sure that your facts and figures are correct so you send your spreadsheet to several of your co-workers for review. They look over the spreadsheet and make the necessary changes. They then return their spreadsheet version to you, and with NextPage 1.5, you simply merge the document versions together into one. NextPage 1.5 lets you see all of this visually via a graphical version history. With the graphical version history, you would always know where the various versions of your spreadsheet are stored, what changes have been made, who has reviewed your spreadsheet, when the revisions were made, and how the revisions fit together. NextPage makes it easy to see where the document has been and what revisions have been made.

So what are the major advantages of using NextPage?

The major advantages to using NextPage’s collaboration software include the following:

o Do NOT need a centralized server

o Do NOT need an IT infrastructure

o Installation can be done in a matter of minutes

o Will work with associates who are NOT NextPage subscribers

o Solves document management problems where they originate

In conclusion, if you are in a business that could greatly benefit from using collaboration software, look at and evaluate the possible software options out there and see which one will be of the most benefit to you in your company. I have presented a few ideas for you to think about and get you started in your decision. So get out there and organize your document management!

Small Business’ and Microsoft Office 2007

When you start up a small business, one of the questions you need to address is what software is essential to my business? As a small business consultant, I have seen many companies, owner managed businesses and sole traders start up and be faced with this question, invariably linked to very scarce capital resources. The main purpose is to get software that can quickly sort out complex data and unburden the computer with the help of a fast processor in a stable manner.

Although there are other software suites available, available in a number of versions, Microsoft Office provides the essential applications and is the most commonly used. For business purposes, the options open to you are; Office Standard, Small Business, Professional or Ultimate.

Microsoft Office Standard 2007:

The entry level for Office, this version includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. These are the basic essentials of most businesses, a word processor (Word) a spreadsheet (Excel) a presentation package (PowerPoint) and a combined email, calendar/ diary, address book function (Outlook).

Microsoft Office Small Business 2007:

The Small Business version includes all the above applications with the addition of Publisher 2007 while the Outlook version includes Business Contact Manager, which helps you to organise all your business contacts, rather like an rudimentary CRM system. Publisher is a desktop publisher package, designed to help you create publications and marketing material. In fact, this can really help you to save money. You can create your own letterhead, business cards and compliment slips and print them off as required, rather than go to the expense buying several hundred from a commercial printer.

Microsoft Office Professional 2007:

This version includes everything above and includes Access 2007. This database is invaluable if you need to handle large volumes of data and want to make it relational, such as contact lists, orders and stock. It includes templates of common applications and is reasonably easy to use.

Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007:

Probably a bit over the top for a start up, comprising as it does, all the above applications with OneNote 2007, Groove 2007 and InfoPath 2007 as well. OneNote is an extremely flexible application that allows you to keep unstructured notes in a series of tabs. For example, if you are researching product lines, you could keep screen shots, URLs, and competitive information, all in the same place. When the business is larger and can justify a server, OneNote is an invaluable area to let your employees keep ideas and brainstorming thoughts.

Groove is another application that is really designed for use by a number of people on a network. It helps you to keep common files in one place and notifies those people who need to access them when there are any changes to those files. InfoPath is an application that allows you to create forms used to gather data which can be used in conjunction with databases or online. As the forms are based on XML, they have extensive applications in Ecommerce.

Of course, every business has different needs, so you will need to choose the version most applicable to your requirements.