Technologies for 5 Critical Areas of Growing Businesses
In today’s business world, there is a wide spectrum of technological tools to support and leverage the growth of entrepreneurs and their startups. In fact, small and medium-sized businesses have never before had more and easier access to the range of information technologies available in the market today. The typical challenges of a rapidly growing business, such as limited human resources, tailored budgets, the priority of developing a sales pipeline, the need to differentiate itself in a competitive environment, among others, can be addressed and solved faster with the help of many of these technologies.
If you think in terms of the operating areas of a business (accounting, sales and marketing, research and development, human resources), it is evident that today’s entrepreneurs have plenty of technological options to impact the productivity and successful management of each critical area. Accordingly, the practice of selecting technologies must be in line with the priorities and the stage of maturity of each business, thus enabling the prioritization, testing, selection and implementation of these powerful tools. In addition, the abundance of technological options in the market allows businesses to take “calculated risks” at low or no cost, since many software and application providers offer trial periods, freemium versions and custom payments that make it possible for entrepreneurs to make informed decisions.
We highlight below 5 critical operating areas of a growing business and discuss some technological tools for each area.
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Customers are at the heart of every business undertaking. The management of the customer’s life cycle, from the prospecting for opportunities, through the economic proposal and up to billing, is the most critical process a growing business must manage. A company must know at all times how many customers it has, the average billing, the sales expectations for the next quarter, and the key performance indicators of its sales pipeline. There is a broad portfolio of solutions in this area, where the leader is SalesForce.com, with versions that scale from one employee to an army of salespeople. There is also Zoho, whose free CRM version offers very high functionality for up to 10 users. And lastly, SugarCRM, which is a very popular open source tool that covers the entire customer relationship management cycle.
Every entrepreneur knows that keeping the budgets up to date, managing costs and expenses, and generating invoices is essentially a full-time job. Luckily, there are robust tools (that do not include Excel) available for accounting: QuickBooks is the standard of thousands of SMEs in the market and is synonymous with trust for bookkeeping and accounting. There is Xero, a cloud-based tool that has captured a large market share thanks to its dashboards and collaboration capabilities.
3. Document management and knowledge virtualization
The era of drawers and desks full of documents is over. In fact, responsible management of all the knowhow of a company, in the form of proposals, plans, schematics, product blueprints, competitive profile matrixes, absolutely everything, should reside in the cloud and be accessible to all employees, at any time and from any place. Of all the solutions that make this possible, we highlight Dropbox for its universal access and user-friendly interface. There is also GoogleDrive, which stands out for its collaboration and version control strong points.
4. Social media management
In today’s business world, there is no question that social media platforms are critical to provide scope, visibility, positioning and viral ability to the content generated by companies. This is why managing multiple customer-facing platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) has become key to reach the target interest groups of each company. Tools like SproutSocial and HootSuite allow such management, powered by strong analytics.
5. Human resource management
The most important resource in any business project is the human resource. From payroll to talent management, human resource management is a key function. As we said before, the maturity of the business signals the technological tools to be used. Payroll management can be entirely managed with accounting tools (see above). On a case-by-case basis, each country has tools for managing benefits, social security contributions, pensions, severance pay and health care (for example, EnlaceOperativo in Colombia or PayChex in the US). For comprehensive management of benefits, suite-type tools have emerged, such as Zenefits in the US. Moreover, the management of human resources from the perspective of monitoring competences, performance indicators, and talent promotion is possible with tools like Acsendo.