These days, businesses use a wide range of software tools to perform their everyday tasks. Some of them may be very old, desktop or local network legacy systems which are creaking at the seams. Businesses may also use spreadsheets and word processing software to do the job of dedicated apps such as project or task management, or a CRM, which isn’t ideal. As part of our ‘continuous improvement’ mantra we would recommend reviewing software regularly to ensure it is fit for purpose. It could save you money, in the long run, to switch over to newer, cloud-based apps, and ensure you are equipped with the right tools for growing the business.
Many newer software systems for small and medium-sized businesses are based in the cloud, which means that their data and functionality is available online and accessible from anywhere in the world. They process information via apps which can be installed locally on your computer or mobile device, or accessed via a web browser. The advantages of cloud technology include lower costs as you don’t need to host the software on servers, better scalability, and improved reliability. And as they are accessible from anywhere in the world, as long as you have access to the internet, the opportunity for you to work with a remote team and increase your talent pool is another huge benefit.
If you’re not sure whether you’re using the right apps in your business then now is the perfect time to step back and take stock. We will show you how to review your apps and choose the best software for your business, using a methodical approach, in just a few easy steps.
Why should you review your business apps?
We know that it can seem daunting to switch software tools, but outdated systems could be costing you dearly. They often require manual workarounds because they don’t do exactly what you need, and rekeying data from one system into another is prone to user error and extremely clunky and inefficient.
Even if you’re using more modern apps, do they support your business goals? Do they offer longevity for your business? And can they be connected with your other software tools using automation, to save money and streamline your workflows?
By choosing the right systems you can ensure they are fit for purpose, will support the business going forwards, and if they are one of the 6,000+ apps that integrate with no-code automation platforms like Zapier, then you can take productivity to the next level using automation.
How to review your apps
The first step is to review your existing apps. If you’ve previously documented your processes then you should have a list of them, but it’s worth checking this and having a brainstorming session with your team to ensure nothing is missed.
You can create a spreadsheet to list every app, and which departments use it. For each app document how it connects with the others within the business. What data is transferred, whether that’s an automatic data feed or manually rekeyed from one system into another?
Next, you should define what requirements you have, in an ideal world. It’s unlikely that any app will tick all your boxes without hiring a developer, but if you at least know which features are key for your business then you will be able to check which ones are supported by your existing apps and any potential new software.
It’s important to review your existing internal apps because they could have useful features which you don’t currently use. Software is evolving all the time and new functionality may have been added since you originally implemented and configured them. They may have a different pricing plan which includes the features you need, for example, if you need to collect e-signatures on documents during your sales process, your CRM might have this as an add-on feature rather than requiring to use and integrate another app. Check whether these features are fit-for-purpose, meet your needs entirely and whether it allows automation opportunities to enhance your processes further. It can be expensive and time-consuming to change apps, so make sure the existing ones are optimised first before considering a switch.
How do you research new apps?
Before looking for brand new apps for your business, check out what native integrations are offered by the existing ones. Native integrations are where apps can be connected without any third-party tools, and can often be configured really easily. These could give you a shortlist of other apps to look at. For example, if you use Xero for your accounting but are looking for a CRM then you can check which CRMs it connects with to create a list of contenders to research.
You can see in the list below that Capsule and Hubspot are two of the CRMs that Xero links with natively.
If you know that you will need to connect some of your business processes, for example, email marketing with e-commerce, then check out the list of Zapier integrations which shows apps it can connect, by function.
It’s also worth speaking with others in your industry to see what they use, and if they would recommend any apps.
How do you choose the best software for your business?
There are lots of different criteria you should take into account when choosing software for your business, including the following:
- Features and Functionality
- Support levels
Check which of your must-have requirements are offered by the app. Get in touch with their sales team as they may offer a demonstration, which is really useful if you need to ask questions. It may be that none of your contenders does everything you need, but by comparing their features you will at least know which gives the best coverage.
Cost will be a major factor so you should check out the different pricing plans for the apps on your shortlist and consider how your business will grow. Many apps have a free plan, with limited functionality, which might be enough to get you started. They then increase their costs to access premium features and/or more data they can process, so it’s important to factor that in as you expand.
Support is also key, especially when you are changing over from one system to a new one. Levels of support often vary depending on what plan you’re using, and also consider which time zones the support team operate from.
If you narrow down your selection to two apps then you should consider trialling them to see which one works best for your business. Although this could be time-consuming it’s the best way to find out which is the easiest to set up and use, and is the preferred option for your team. You could ask a couple of key members of staff to get involved with the trial and run it alongside the existing process to ensure business continuity is maintained. You only need a minimum of data to conduct the trial, but ensure it is configured as per the provider’s guidelines. There will likely be documentation and videos to help you with this, and you can always reach out to the support team if you’re not sure of anything. Doing this will give you an idea of their service levels, which you can factor into your final decision.
Running a trial for a couple of weeks will give you vital data that you can then collate and share with the wider team.
Making the final decision
Once all the research has been completed you will have everything you need to make the final decision on which are the best software apps for your business.
Review the list of contenders with your team and discuss each element that you are using to compare them. Debate the pros and cons of each one and then come to a final decision.
Once the decision is made you can then plan how and when you will implement the changeover. There are lots of factors to consider for this including timescales, who will do the data migration work, training the users and creating new process documentation.
Reduce your overwhelm with our automation training programme
And finally, if you’re really keen to reduce your overwhelmand transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business.
It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too!
Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate.
Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘.
Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.
Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors.
Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.