Tech tools to boost business productivity
These easy-to-use applications can help make your business more efficient.
Digital and automated tools are paving the way for greater small business productivity amid ever-increasing customer expectations.
"Small businesses today are being squeezed in two ways: One, they are always looking for ways to make more from the limited time they have," says Steven Aldrich, senior vice president of applications at Go Daddy, one of the world's largest technology providers dedicated to small business. "And second, consumer expectations are that the small business is going to be responsive and professional in their communication."
Here are a few business productivity tools that can help you secure a competitive advantage.
Tool #1: Cloud computing
Growing companies want to be able to share documents easily with many team members. The number of businesses using cloud computing increased to 71% in 2016 from 58% a year earlier, according to the RightScale 2016 State of the Cloud Report.1
Cloud computing through Google Apps ($5 per user/month)2 and Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium ($12.50 per user/month),3 for example, allows employees to simultaneously access and share web-based spreadsheets, presentations, and other files.
Small businesses are also using online workspaces to streamline the flow of ideas. Podio, a cloud-based collaborative tool, creates digital workspaces that allow team members, clients, and vendors to manage projects. Podio also has functionality across a variety of third-party productivity applications, such as the note-taking platform Evernote. While the online workspace provider offers a free service that allows up to five team members to use its core features, unlimited access is available with a premium upgrade for $9 per user/month.
Tool #2: Automated systems
Automated systems not only save business owners time, they can also help reduce human error. GoDaddy surveyed 600 small business owners and found that nearly a quarter of them lost track of whether their invoices had been paid.
Accounting programs, such as QuickBooks (starting at $10 per user/month)4 and GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping ($4.99 per user/month),5 let business owners send invoices, track payments, and prepare financial reports with just a few clicks.
Tool #3: Mobile technology
Since the advent of mobile technology, work is no longer confined to an office or storefront.
"People who buy from a small business have increasing expectations of its service level," says Aldrich. "If they send an email to that small business owner asking a question, they expect a response very quickly — over half expect a response in four hours, and a quarter expect a response within one hour."
Applications like Desk.com allow you to view customers' information on your mobile devices and communicate with customers directly via smartphone, email, and social networks. Desk.com offers a small business starter plan with basic features for $3 per month.6
Payment transactions are also mobilized with on-the-go payment terminals, such as Wells Fargo's Mobile Merchant product. Current payment technologies make it easy for merchants to take payments using a mobile terminal that can be used anywhere or even convert their existing phone or tablet into a payment terminal by attaching a card reader to read credit and debit cards. These tools allow businesses of all sizes solutions to accept almost any kind of payment, anywhere.
Explore the variety of cloud-based, automated, and mobile-enabled tools to learn how you can make your small business more productive and more responsive to customers.
1 "RightScale 2016 State of the Cloud Report." RightScale. http://www.rightscale.com/blog/cloud-industry-insights/cloud-computing-trends-2016-state-cloud-survey
2 "Choose a Plan." Google Apps for Work. https://www.google.com/work/apps/business/pricing.html
3 "Office 365 Business Premium." http://products.office.com/en-us/business/office-365-business-premium
4 QuickBooks. http://quickbooks.intuit.com/
5"Online Bookkeeping." GoDaddy.https://www.godaddy.com/email/online-bookkeeping
6 Desk.com. http://www.desk.com/pricing