There are lots of technologies available today to help you run your business. My client base is made up of about 600 small and medium sized companies around the country. From my writing and speaking activities I also meet with thousands of other business leaders each year. Of course, my findings are anecdotal and generalized. Some of my clients in areas like retail or e-commerce use very specific vertical applications. But from my discussions I'm finding that these five business technologies are among the most popular regardless of the size or industry they're in.
A customer relationship management (CRM) system is the tool for your sales and marketing people. It's a database - usually cloud-based - that has in it every person and company that touches your organization. That includes customers, prospects, vendors, partners and other passers-by in your community. When used well, it ensures that nothing falls through the crack and everyone in your organization is on the same page. CRM systems are used for marketing, sales and service management. It is the go-to tool for any growing organization.
If you've got more than five full time employees then you'll need a human resources (HR) management platform. These tools encourage employees to do data entry through a centralized portal, thereby alleviating some of the work done by your HR person. Today's HR platforms have workflows and automation to help you build processes for on-boarding and off-boarding new employees, managing vacation, sick and other paid time off, evaluating and compensating people and administering health, 401K and other benefit plans. They either provide their own payroll functionality or integrate with others.
Depending on the research you read, anywhere between 70 to 80 percent of the Internet will be consumed by video within the next few years. Of course much of this is from entertainment platforms like Netflix and YouTube. But a significant and growing percentage is contributed by corporate America - both small and large companies that are using video to reach out to communities with information, education and content. The smartest companies aren't just promoting their products. They're spreading knowledge. And then realize that younger generations - millennials and Generation Z - are relying primarily on this content delivered by video to influence their decision making.
Office management systems have now matured into full-blown collaboration and communication platforms that have become essential for every growing business. This is no longer just about word processing and spreadsheets. Today's systems allow document sharing across devices, calendaring, video-calling, online archiving of data, messaging, chat and email integration as well as tools that monitor your group's activities and alert members in advance of important tasks and events. When implemented the right way collaboration systems have an enormous impact on your team's productivity and of course your company's profits.
I include this technology for two reasons: one is that it's shockingly inexpensive and two because it is probably your most effective defense against Ransomware, the malware of the year. Ransomware is the first malware where the malware-writers actually make money. It's a billion-dollar industry. It locks up networks and requires payment (in digital currency) to unlock. It creates headaches and is almost impossible to defend against. However, if your company is running an online backup service your files - whether stored locally or in the cloud - are uploaded throughout the day. So if you fall victim to a ransomware attack, as many businesses have and will be, you can restore from your last backup and be back up and running quickly.
Yes, your resources are limited and yes sometimes it seems there are just too many options. But the five technologies above are drawing investment from most of my clients this year. What about you?
Disclosure: My company, the Marks Group, is a technology consulting firm and sells or works with some of the products and companies mentioned above.