The Internet has opened up a boundless vista of opportunities for business. There are thousands of online tools available for any business to better organise their work, take advantage of oodles of file storage space for free, reach their customers more effectively and much much more. However with this sea of possibilities has come a challenge for business owners and company managers; selecting the tools that are most useful to their organizations’ goals from those glitzy applications that are all fanfare but of no real benefit. Then of course there is the time investment that is required to further sift through the useful tools to find those that will bring the organisation the best return on their investment and the best fit for the business. To help the overwhelmed IT manager or entrepreneur faced with this dilemma, here are some basic questions that can provide clarity:
1) What are your business’s key processes and which of them can be improved by online tools?
To begin with, you need to have a list of your core and non-core processes. After scrutinizing the elements of each of these processes you will be in a position to know which of these can benefit from the implementation of an online solution. After this you’ll have an idea of which features to look out for in the available online tools. Separate the essential features from the features that are nice to have but not really important and based on these features you can begin your search for relevant tools/applications. Compare each of the tools you find against your list of required features, scrutinising them carefully to come up with a shortlist. For instance, if you find a tool that requires users to key in data and come across an alternative with a scanner that simply reads the information from a barcode, the latter would be the better investment.
2) What tools do I currently have?
Carry out an audit of the tools you’re presently using to determine if they need to be replaced and why. Many online applications will allow you to carry out more than one area of responsibility such as project management and customer relations management (CRM). It is best to avoid having two or more tools doing more or less the same task; you will end up paying for features and storage capacity that you don’t need. Look for applications that can handle a multitude of business tasks so that you do not have to log into multiple applications and waste time switching between screens. Company audits are extremely useful in ensuring that your organisation’s resources are not being wasted on duplication of tasks. If your audit reveals that the tools currently at your disposal are getting the job done, you don’t need to go for a different tool just because it’s shinier or the talk of the tech industry. All that may be required is to upgrade your current system.
3) How does it integrate with my systems?
This is a really important consideration. It would be foolhardy to invest heavily in, say a tool that helps with your email and sharing of documents if it is not compatible with your existing computer systems. Check to see what add on’s or plug ins are available that will integrate seamlessly with existing applications you already use. You will find many of the more popular applications integrate with the many commonly used programs such as Google Apps, Gmail and Salesforce.
Security is another important factor to consider. The Internet is a vast, untamed beast teeming with virtual (and real) threats. Will the use of the online tool expose your in-house systems to external threats? All these questions need to be answered clearly before you invest in the application. Also investigate the backup arrangements that are in place and the possible downtime of the application.
4) How much will it cost?
While weighing up similar applications that perform the same function, one of the tie-breakers will of course be what they cost. And in looking at how much an online tool will set you back, you need to consider the costs of setting it up, user training and keeping it up. Always take advantage of the free trial offered by most tools and don’t be afraid to ask for an extension if you need it. Another very important consideration is scailability. Find an application that can serve your needs now in your business but also as you grow. Avoid having to go through the headache of changing over applications in the future which will drain all of your resources.
5) What Training and Support is available?
If you are going to make the big decision to implement a new system into your business, make sure that you factor in the time and effort to learn the system properly. Time invested upfront will pay off quickly allowing you to start using the features and functionality including shortcuts. If you aren’t able to work out how to use certain features then you will quickly loose interest and struggle. Ensure that the tool you chose has a good level of support, particularly check out their response time. Training is another consideration, online video tutorials are great and will speed up your learning. Tutorials also make it easier to share with your team to get everyone up to speed.
These are some of the most important pointers that can help you select the right online tool from the thousands currently in the market. Remember, it’s not about choosing a good tool; it’s about finding the right tool to suit your business’s needs.
If you would like to learn how to increase your personal and business productivity including which online tools will suit you and your business then take action NOW! Contact Wendy on 0407 967715 Email; firstname.lastname@example.org