Knowledge-based businesses are where the lofty margins are. In any business, you will need to expand your knowledge and experiences to be able to stay relevant and desirable in the market. And, this is true for employees at every level within an enterprise. Now, only if startups and small and medium-sized businesses had the kind of cash reserves that enterprises have! This is where technology emerges as a leveler of the playing field. Here’s how startups and SMBs can lower costs and improve productivity, using tech tools.
Affordable and practical business training
SMBs and startups can leverage the many tech-powered platforms to access a world of information and training material, delivered through channels such as email, webinars, eBooks, walkthroughs, user guides, and DIY manuals.
Also, by using technologies such as video conferencing, screen sharing, and software simulation, SMBs can enable their employees to upgrade their knowledge without having to incur costs of travel and logistics in delivering those trainings face to face.
Open source software
The modern business uses dozens of applications to digitize and then automate business processes. From document management suites to customer relationship management tools, from enterprise resource planning software to cybersecurity tools, from email marketing and social media marketing solutions to accounting and bookkeeping tools — the list goes on and on.
With sophisticated tools come significant costs of licenses, ownership, maintenance, and support. Enterprises can easily absorb these costs, but not startups and SMBs.
The solution — open source software. This software is available for free, offers basic support, has ample knowledge bases available online, and in general offers comparable features as seen in premium software. Open source software is available across business application categories of the kinds discussed above.
Startups and SMBs can save thousands of dollars a month by choosing open source software alternatives for simplistic business processes. For instance, Apache OpenOffice is a free office document management and productivity suite that can deliver basic functionalities of the premium Microsoft Office suite.
Lower cost of collaboration with communication solutions
Collaboration is the need of the hour for startups and SMBs, and this needs to happen across time zones and geographies. The cost of traditional telephone equipment for teleconferences and the alternative of frequent travel for managers — both are inhibitive for small businesses. The solution, thankfully, is easily available, affordable, and scalable.
Web-based teleconferencing services allow business teams to collaborate without having to rely on expensive telephone equipment. Inexpensive communication solutions allow your teams to connect with others over voice or video connections, enabling easy collaboration.
Web conferencing tools, screen-sharing software, and VoIP hardware and software — all combine to create a sophisticated system of strong communication services for startups and SMBs, putting them on a level playing field with bigger and stronger enterprises.
Time-keeping and employee monitoring tools
For a startup or growing SMB, it can be difficult to accurately estimate the man hours required for project delivery. This can interfere with your business’ ability to accurately price its services and can also be a cause of bloated employee counts and salaries.
Because of the impact it can have on your ability to compete on price points, and the consumption of your working capital in employee salaries, it’s imperative that you leverage the services of a time-tracking and employee monitoring software suite. These include desktop applications, web-based tools, integrated tools that also include bookkeeping and project management capabilities.
The productivity boosts that such tools can enable for your business are tremendous, and the immediate cost-cutting they enable helps insure your software investment was prudent.
Cloud-hosted document management software
For a mobile workforce, lack of information access on the go can cause irreparable damage to your process efficiencies. To be productive, your field employees need to stay connected to your business’ information warehouse all the time. To enable this, all you need is a cloud-hosted document management solution.
Because these solutions can be utilized at a monthly “pay for what you need” kind of pricing plans, startups and SMBs don’t have to worry about large capital expenditures. This software enables document collaboration, password protection of information, easy categorization and record keeping for a massive number of documents, and anytime access from most device types.
Project management suites
The effective management of a project is dependent on the managers’ ability to access updated and streamlined information, perform complex analyses, access insightful reports, and communicate promptly and clearly. Project management suites bring together all these capabilities, and helps SMB leaders organize their projects like a pro.
Project management software offers functionalities such as progress tracking, resource allocation, budget keeping, time tracking, productivity measurements, and reporting. With visually insightful representations such as Gantt charts, bar graphs, histograms, and heat maps, these tools let managers get a bird’s eye view of the health of a project.
Also, these tools offer the ability to break down activities into tasks, assigning people to tasks, automating follow-ups and reminders with assignees, and communicating seamlessly using options such as email and instant messengers.
Every money matter managed for you
Let’s face it, humans can’t exercise as tight a control over financial processes as technology can. From the simplest of expense-tracking tools to more sophisticated (yet affordable) account-keeping software, startups and SMBs have a wide range of money management tools to choose from.
There are dedicated tools for activities such as tax filing, invoicing, credit management, collections management, and budget tracking, as well as integrated suites that offer all these functionalities within a single interface. Financial managers in your SMB will thank you for all the enablement and empowerment you can get them, via money management technology tools.
‘Cocktail of benefits’ for startups and SMBs
Productivity improvement and expense reduction — that’s a double-whammy right from the heavens for any small business or startup.
Thankfully, the technologies and tools that deliver this cocktail of benefits to your business are available in the form of open source (free or almost free) solutions and cloud-based software that can be subscribed to for a monthly fee. Start using these tools and speed up your ride to the playground where enterprises compete with each other.
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