Gravit-e Blog

September 17, 2014

8 Ways Software Improves The Efficiency Of Small Businesses

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As a small business owner you constantly find yourself wearing too many hats. Fortunately, many tasks can be minimized. By leveraging software you can manage time more effectively, stay connected on the go and improve your bottom line. 

Here are eight steps to making your business more efficient with technology:

 

1. Automate

“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all” -- Peter Drucker

Are there functions within your business that could be completely automated? A good way to find areas for improvement is to write down your daily, monthly and annual business activities.  Go through them individually to determine whether you can automate or improve the efficiency of those activities. For example, sending customers a happy birthday email on their birthday is a mindless task that can easily be automated with email marketing software. 

 

2. Streamline

Where operations cannot be automated they may be streamlined. For example, you can use a customer relationship management (CRM) software such as Salesforce to manage contacts. You can decrease time spent retrieving client information by linking an IP communications system to your CRM software so that a customer contact record automatically pops up when they call, providing valuable details. Not only will this save time, it will lead to better customer service. 

 

3. Move to the Cloud

Transferring core business activities such as bookkeeping and word processing to cloud or web-based applications can substantially reduce the amount of money spent on in-house software and hardware. You can use Google Docs rather than Excel and consider Freshbooks in place of Quickbooks. 

 

4. Make Your Work Portable 

You and your employees should be able to access important information anywhere at any time.  Consider using VPNs (virtual private networks) to grant your employees secure access to the company network from remote locations. Increasing ease of access will minimize project delays, missed opportunities and lost revenues. 

 

5. Collaborate

You want to make it as convenient as possible to share and communicate ideas throughout your company. Using project management tools such as Basecamp allows for easier collaboration between employees.  

 

6. Reduce Travel Time

You can increase productivity by reducing the amount of time you and your employees spend travelling. When possible, use online conferencing software such as Go To Meeting to video conference. Reducing time spent travelling also saves money.

 

7. Customize

If using commercial software to meet your business needs feels like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, you may want to consider a custom solution tailored to your business practices. You may even be able to develop a custom solution that integrates the functionalities of several applications to further increase efficiency and reduce time spent keeping track of multiple applications and repeatedly entering the same data.

 

8. Review

At least once a year you should take a step back to evaluate whether or not your business fully and effectively utilizes technology. New software and applications hit the market every day and service providers develop better products and new plans. It is important to ensure you’re using the most up-to-date version of all of your business software. Developing a long-term technology plan will help your company grow. 

 

September 05, 2014

How To Launch A SaaS Product

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Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is key. Acting on your ideas and building a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application already put you ahead of those who are merely contemplating. However, building the product does not guarantee potential customers will discover or use it, neither does a massive advertising budget. In order to save time and money, you must plan your launch wisely.

 

Keep It Simple

You don’t need to launch a full-featured product. In fact, launching with a few key features can help you get your product out faster. It is better to do a great job at one thing than a mediocre job at many. As soon as your SaaS application is live, your first users can help you gage which features to build and roll out next. 

 

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Trying to build a product that does everything is costly, time consuming and may be unnecessary. If you can integrate other SaaS application features, do so.  

 

Generate Buzz and Identify Early Adopters

Before your product is ready for launch, you can get the word out. While you may be afraid of tipping off your competition, the risk is worthwhile. You don’t have to release the details of how you’re solving the problem.

 

Testing

Beta testing is an essential debugging phase in a product launch. Testing ensures you’ve worked out the kinks before going live to a broader audience. In addition, you should take the time to ensure your website copy is concise and convincing. Many applications and websites go live with copy marred by spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. You may have built an amazing product that works seamlessly, but it is ultimately your messaging that will attract buyers.

 

Validate Your Advertising Methods

You may want to wait until after launch to spend money on advertising. This will give you an opportunity to figure out where your users are coming from and if you need to spend money on advertising at all. 

If you decide to invest in advertising, you need to refine your message and methods. You can run small campaigns on a variety of networks with different messages and images to determine which ones are worthwhile.  

 

Research and Refine

Launching the first version of your SaaS application is a major milestone, but it is only the beginning. The phrase ‘launch and learn’ is common among start-up communities because releasing a product is an opportunity to gain valuable feedback and identify barriers to purchase.

 

The best way to ensure your SaaS application is successful is to keep an open mind and listen to your users. At the same time, it is important to remember that you can’t please everyone and your application can’t do everything. In time you will find a balance between your own business sense and consumer feedback.

August 25, 2014

Top 10 Signs Your Business Needs Custom Software

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Do you find yourself contemplating how to run your business more efficiently? Is technology leaving your business behind? Do you see an opportunity to provide better service to your clients? There are many reasons why businesses should invest in custom software.  

 

Here are 10 signs your business needs custom software:

 

1) The Right Software Is Not Out There

Do you have your own business style that doesn’t mesh with standardized solutions for the masses? Are you trying to use a program for an unintended purpose? There may not be any commercial software that meets your technology needs. If so, you need custom software that is designed to be as unique as your business.

 

2) Commercial Software Requires Your Business to Adapt

You shouldn’t have to change your business practices to adapt to software that just doesn’t cut it. Instead, you should consider a custom solution that will optimize your current processes. Custom software is flexible and can be updated as your business grows.

 

3) You’re Drowning in Paperwork and Admin Tasks

Chances are you don’t get a thrill spending hours searching for the right piece of paper, entering data manually or performing other tasks that should be automated. By utilizing custom software you can focus time and energy on more important things.

 

4) You’re Still Using Spreadsheets

You may be the spreadsheet master, but Excel won’t accelerate your business growth. Spreadsheets can also be risky, as they lack security and others can easily revise them.  Additionally, they are difficult to maintain and time consuming. Using custom software is a much more efficient way to store, maintain and utilize your company's data.

 

5) You‘re Using Multiple Software Systems That Don’t Communicate

If you find yourself entering the same data into multiple software systems, it’s time to integrate them using custom software. This will minimize data entry and reduce redundancy, saving you time and money.

 

6) Your Commercial Software Has Gaps

You may have found an off-the-shelf software solution that works for your company and meets some of your needs. In this case, custom software can be built to work with your commercial software to give you a complete solution.

 

7) You Aren’t Getting Enough Out Of Your Business Data

Collecting business data is one thing, but translating data into relevant insights is another. Here are some red flags that you aren’t getting enough out of your data: 

  • You’re creating your data reports manually
  • You’re collecting data and don’t know what to do with it  
  • You don’t have a bird’s-eye view of your data
  • You find yourself entering the same data into multiple software systems
  • The standard analytics associated with off-the-shelf software aren’t giving you a deep enough look

A custom solution will give you the insights you need in the format you want, making your data easier to interpret.

 

8) Custom Software Gives You A Competitive Edge 

Building custom software can improve workflow and enable you to offer services at a superior level.  Any custom software built specifically for your business becomes your intellectual property, adding value to your company. Using the same commercial technologies as your competitors keeps you on the same level, whereas effectively implementing a custom solution puts you ahead.

 

9) Your Customers Are Creating Demand

You may offer an amazing service to your customers, but find that technology is leaving you behind.  Perhaps your customers are asking if you have a mobile app or online store.  You can develop custom software to enhance your services and make it as easy as possible for people to business with you.

 

10) You See An Opportunity To Solve Your Client’s Problems

After spending time listening to your client’s woes you may have great ideas regarding how technology could solve them.  You may be able to offer them a Saas (software as a service) solution and create additional streams of revenue for your company.  Act on your ideas before someone else does and build them the custom solution they're looking for.

 

Ultimately, wasting time and energy is costly, as is losing clients and missing out on new ones.  Technology should be what sets your business apart, not what holds it back. In an increasingly niche marketplace, a custom software solution is not only an advantage, but a necessity for business survival.

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