Marketing, talent retention, supply chain management -- there are plenty of areas to pay attention to if you want to give your business an edge. However, one thing that tends to be overlooked when it comes to developing a competitive advantage is your tech. 

What software are you using with an eye toward setting yourself apart from the competition? This isn't simply a question of spending more money on products and services. It's about software strategy, integration, and use.

Here are some of the best ways you can upgrade your tech to beat your competitors in an increasingly aggressive market.

Start with safety

While it's tempting to begin by downloading the latest marketing tools or investing in a cutting-edge data analytics solution, it's important to consider your company's software safety first. Cyberattacks have never been more of a threat, and the variation in the different kinds of attacks -- 52 percent from hacking, 33 percent from social attacks, 38 percent from malware -- is disconcerting, to say the least.

Start with software security. For example, IT consulting and training provider IBEX partnered with Verizon Wireless to offer a new product called Network Detection and Response (NDR), a software that mitigates vulnerabilities through automated threat detection and comprehensive workflow intelligence. This helps alleviate the threat of a cyberattack, allowing your team to focus on operating your business. IBEX also provides professional IT training for staff so they feel confident about not just using the product, but also protecting your customers.

Use software for collaboration

Software is often seen as an easy way to streamline tasks like payroll. Utilized properly, modern software can give your team a creative edge as well. This can be done through a number of communication and project-management tools that go beyond modern classics like email and text to keep your team in close communication. 

Online software solutions can now create virtual workplaces to store your team's conversations, plans, and even work product. Using online software solutions has the effect of increasing your organization's efficiency and, by extension, its productivity.

Some examples include well-known instant messaging products like Slack, as well as established collaboration tools like Trello and Asana. But look at free or low-cost trials to experiment and find the best fit for your company's workflow. It may be that a software package that works for enterprises is best; you may find that newer products like Samepage or Flock are a better fit. 

Learn your software's capabilities

When choosing software for your office, it's essential that you take the time to learn the capabilities of the programs you've ultimately chosen. It's easy to spend countless hours reading reviews and comparing individual offerings, but the initial act of choosing software is just the beginning. 

Once you have your software in hand -- metaphorically speaking, of course -- it's crucial to take the time to use each piece of software properly. For instance, while many people are willing to try Google Docs, they often miss the powerful collaborative element that comes with the program's sharing capabilities. However, harnessed and used to their full effect, this element can enable co-workers to develop a document together in real time, largely eliminating the effort and time spent sending versions back and forth via other communication channels. 

Using a data analytics tool like Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics, or Shopify's analytics dashboard is another good example. Simply using the software won't necessarily yield high-quality results. You must learn to understand the data being provided, and then interpret it into meaningful information that allows you to set KPIs for your business operations.

Taking the time to learn the unique ins and outs of each program -- or hiring a team member with the requisite knowledge to fast-track the process -- will enable you to glean every advantage you can from each piece of software.

Lean on the cloud, and always be willing to adapt

Shifting to a cloud-based solution like NDR or Trello enables you to rest in the knowledge that your software is maintained offsite. This, in effect, outsources your software maintenance to a third party, freeing up your own team to focus on your company's core products and services.

Along with leaning on cloud-based solutions, it's important to embrace an "always be adapting" mentality when it comes to your software. Long gone are the days when the same program could serve a company for years, or even decades, without interruption. If a business wants to stay ahead of the curve, it must constantly be searching for the latest software solutions to gain or maintain a competitive advantage.

Whether it's through taking greater security measures, integrating new collaborative tools, or digging into the nitty-gritty capabilities of the programs you're using, setting your company's software apart from the competition is an exercise well worth the effort.