Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 7

The right technology can accelerate business development in many ways – from reducing overheads to increasing sales. 

Use our blog series to understand tech tool options for growth, and the advantages and disadvantages they present.

Part 7: Integration Software

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In our final Tech Tools post we examine Integration Software, which allows business applications and processes to work together automatically.

All-in-one software solutions are often not the best choice when growing a business.  It can be more beneficial to select the most appropriate software tools for specific company needs.

However, it is essential that different online platforms can communicate and share data together –  which is where Integration Software is very valuable. 

Advantages

Continue reading Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 7

Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 6

Tech tools can assist your business in streamlining processes, enhancing communication, improving sales and much more.

Use our blog series to understand the advantages and disadvantages of tech tools for business growth.

Part 6: Accounting Software

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Accounting software automates financial transactions, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, purchase orders, billing and general ledger.

Advantages

Continue reading Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 6

Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 5

Tech tools can assist business growth in multiple ways, including improved operations, better customer service and more effective marketing.

Use our blog series to understand the advantages and disadvantages of tech tool options for growth.

Part 5: Document Management Software

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Document Management software automates the creation, secure storage and distribution of all types of documents online, reducing paper clutter and promoting efficiency.

Advantages

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– Access documents anywhere/anytime

– Unify document storage for easy, secure access, to avoid multiple location storage and versions (on computers, servers, CRM, web, paper, e-mails)

– Group Collaboration through file sharing

– Track and archive documents

– Safeguard data from cybercrime, ransomware, and disasters by encrypted cloud-based backup

– Aid compliance with audit trails

– Reduce physical storage costs

– Elimination of added technology and hardware costs

 Streamline processes and cut waste

– Eliminate document loss or damage with automatic backup

– Free up time for other priorities

Disadvantages

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– Cost of software

– Installation cost and time

– Staff training and motivation to ensure correct use

– Consistent Internet connection required with sufficient bandwidth

– Some companies prefer local hard-drive/server to remote cloud storage

– Risk of data breach/hackers

For further information see https://startups.co.uk/uk-based-cloud-backup/

Features

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Typical features include:

Document Capture and Imaging – Documents are digitised, using imaging technology

Document Storage – Records are stored, accessed, shared, edited on one platform

Document Search – Metadata (such as author and file name) is assigned to files to index them, they can be searched for by keywords

Permissions – Access for individuals and groups is managed, for viewing and editing 

Collaboration – Files are shared with individuals and groups, allowing for addition of comments and revisions

Archive – Confidential data is classified and archived in central storage  

Workflows – The life-cycle of contractual documentation is managed using rules-based processes, such as review and approval of draft documents and revisions prior to publishing

Virtual Data Room -Additional protections for online storage and sharing of confidential information

Mobile – Content can be created and edited on mobile devices, and data is displayed in mobile-responsive format.

Example Of Use:

If a customer calls to complain, past interactions might not be captured, meaning you start over again, delivering a poor customer experience and tying up staff resources.

However,  with case management software all customer interactions can be seen, plus any useful records such as a contract, to decide how to proceed.

Reports can be generated to show key performance metrics and progress towards resolving open claims.

https://www.softwareadvice.com/cms/#buyers-guide

Considerations

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Implementation

What support resources are available to train staff? Such as: training videos and documents, free demo, email/help desk support, FAQ/knowledge base access.

 

Cost

Most products are priced on a “per user, per month” basis.

How much are additional features such as optical character reader (OCR) integration, version control, workflow automation, and document scanning?

Integration

Check integration with your other key systems such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Google Docs, E-Mails, Accounting, CRM, HR, Cloud Storage, Open APIs and Project Management.

This ensures scalability and allows company-wide document text searches, for example, during internal or external audits.  

Security

What security credentials are in place  against external threats (such as hacking and data breaches) and internal threats (such as employee theft)? Latest protocols include AES and SSL/TLS encryption.

Document Scanning and Imaging

Consider Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which converts written documents into a digital format.

Scanning and digitally storing paper documents with accurate keyword indexing helps user searches. 

Purpose

Do you simply need an off-site automatic backup, to sync, store and share files (such as OneDrive, Dropbox for Business or Google Drive)? Or do you need the benefits of collaboration, editing, workflows, access control, image management, distribution, compliance, indexing, conversion and OCR a document management solution provides?

Cloud Location
  • Is GDPR compliant
  • Encrypts ‘at rest’ stored backups
  • Avoids the Patriot Act (gives US Government access to data held) 
  • Has good backup and recovery speeds
  • Has strong customer support, such as 24-hour UK-based technical advice by phone and email
  • Holds ISO9001 or ISO27001 certification, for reassurance customer data is secure
  • Has their own data centre, or if it is outsourced to a third party, who this is, where data is stored, and track record for cybersecurity

Safety

Keeping data secure is top priority for online storage services. This is done by:
Encryption – all information is encrypted as industry standard.
Identity management – robust layers of security are used, such as passwords and user permissions.
Multifactor authentication (MFA) – Two-factor authentication (confirming identity by phone or e-mail), or additional layers.
Multiple data centres – information is split between units for added security.

Examples

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Examples of Document Management Systems to consider, as reviewed by Capterra, Startups.co.uk, SoftwareAdvice.com and TechRadar:

1. Microsoft OneDrive

Easy use, fast load speed, mobile, low cost, live syncing of devices, file sharing, online editing, encryption, two-factor authentication and handy tutorials.

2. Dropbox Business

Strong security controls, user-friendly, fast transfers, device auto-sync, editing and colleague collaboration.

3. Google Drive

15GB free storage, easy-to-use, online editing tools, encryption, excellent app, fast data transfer, device syncings, needs stricter password settings.

4. Logical DOC

Content management solution for all business size and sectors. Access control, communication, permission and file management, drag and drop interface, customisable branding.

Pre-built document templates, tools to search uploaded documents, bookmark specific files, convert into multiple formats, edit documents and import or export content from ZIP archives, e-mail boxes and desktop devices.

6. eFileCabinet

 

7. Box

Suitable for companies of all sizes and industries. Security and admin controls, sharing and collaboration capabilities for global users.

Compliance with HIPAA, FINRA and FedRAMP, granular access permissions and advanced security capabilities – watermarking, data governance and device trust.

Collaboration on all file types and devices, choose where to store data, manage encryption keys, set metadata-driven workflows to automate content-based processes.

Integration with Microsoft Office, Google Apps, Salesforce, Adobe and  others. Integration across open APIs.

8. Docuware

Scalable, invoice processing, many integrations, Cloud-based, mobile support, ‘cloud workflow’, mobile apps – scan receipts, approve invoices, and sign forms on the go.

9. EisenVault

User-friendly, document upload,  sharing, collaboration, storage and archiving, full-text Search, access controls, indexing, file type conversion, Version/Revision Control, Optical Character Recognition.

10. Zoho Docs

User-friendly, document upload,  sharing, collaboration, storage and archiving, full-text Search, access controls, indexing, file type conversion, Version/Revision Control, Optical Character Recognition
    

For full reviews and further info see:

View at Medium.com

 

For SEO and blog-writing services contact jan@brilliantbusinessblogs.com or call us on 0745 2086994

Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 4

Tech Tools can assist your business growth, by providing efficient project management, increasing customer sales, automating financial management and much more.

Use our blog series to understand the advantages and disadvantages of tech tool options.

Part 4: E-Mail Marketing Software

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E-Mail Marketing is one of the most cost-effective and easy-to-manage marketing tools for businesses.

E-Mail Marketing automation tools create, send, test, optimise and report on email campaigns.

There are specific tools such as email subject line generators or inbox placement testing tools, and suites of e-mail marketing end-to-end tools, from e-mail automation to demand generation and revenue attribution.

For further information see https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/guides/modern-guidebook-email-marketing

Advantages

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– automate and measure marketing tasks and workflows to increase operational efficiency and revenue 

– time savings, to allow employees to focus on creativity and strategy

– cost-effective, with no advertising fees or media costs.

– permission-based leading to greater customer responsiveness

– performance reporting to improve ROI

– retain full control, and establish direct contact with customers

– create engaging, personalised emails

– allows subscribers to share your email content to attract new followers and customers.

– manage contacts and segment users into groups for optimal results

 – scalability – use e-mail marketing to its fullest potential while delivering the best experience for subscribers 

– A/B testing of subject lines, calls-to-action, personalisation, content and images to ensure effectiveness.

– forecast future campaign performance based on historical data, using machine learning and AI

Disadvantages

Continue reading Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 4

Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 3

Business growth requires consistent process-improvement and innovative marketing practices. Tech Tools allow efficiency in raising market profile, organising resources, nurturing client relationships and protecting assets.

Use our blog to understand the advantages and disadvantages of tech tools in promoting business growth.

Part 3: Social Media Management Software

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Social Media Management Tools allow you to automate your social media accounts, expand social reach, curate content, improve ad performance, analyse impact and monitor conversations about your business and competitors.

Advantages:

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– Manage social media accounts and performance from one integrated platform

– Streamline activities to save time and optimise social media marketing

– Benchmark effectiveness of organic and paid social channels and videos

-Turn social media data into actionable insights to maximise ROI

– Build better strategy, content, and advertising by audience analysis

– Discover posts to promote, when to publish, and audience segments, to increase conversions

– Oversee, assign and approve team social media publishing across multiple profiles using a collaborative calendar, on desktop or mobile

– Choose Influencers most compatible with your audience based on AI recommendations, gauge their engagement and track KPIs in social media influencer campaigns

– Create customised dashboard reports to visualise results and aid data-driven decisions

Disadvantages:

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– Time to understand and correctly use the platform

– Security risk if forget to revoke access permissions for ex-employees

– Cost of software, but free versions exist, plus time saved and extra sales should mitigate this

For more information see https://www.socialbakers.com/suite/social-media-management, https://hootsuite.com and https://buffer.com

Typical Features:

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  • Scheduling – save time and effort by bulk-scheduling multiple messages in advance across social media networks
  • Mobile App – manage content anytime and anywhere
  • Web Extension – upload posts you discover while surfing the web, instantly post without logging in to social accounts. Create search streams by hashtag, location, or keyword
  • Content Calendar – plan and curate content, review and approve scheduled posts, collaborate with your team in real-time
  • Content Library – Organise content by tagging, search, and usage stats. Store and access content in the cloud —including Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive — from a dashboard
  • Analytics – prove social media impact and ROI, create and export custom reports in Excel, Powerpoint, PDF and CSV, bring data results to life with powerful analytics features
  • Insights – Get a clear understanding of social post performance across channels, track results by timeframes
  • Monitoring– build custom boards to create insightful reports with an intuitive interface. Draw on hundreds of metrics to measure social media content impact across channels and campaigns.
  • Team Management – measure team metrics, track time taken to respond and resolve posts and comments. Safeguard social media presence by managing access to social accounts and setting team member permission levels

Considerations

Functionality
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Check your preferred Social Media Management tool enables:

– social media scheduling in a single content calendar

– real-time team collaboration to plan posts and assign timely responses

– accurate analytics reporting

– integration with current apps

– RSS feed imports, to simplify and assist sharing content such as blogs

– custom-branded URLs

– engagement tools eg contest creation

– topic, keyword, and location conversation-monitoring

– recycling of posts indefinitely (known as evergreen content)

– tangible insights into audience reach

Ease of Use

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Trial a few systems to discover which best fits your business needs, and obtain feedback from team members.

Work out who will use it and for what purposes, to identify essential features.

The software should boost efficiency, consistency and response times, because all social media conversations are seen in one place, meaning you can prioritise activities and create a shared library of on-brand social assets.

Costs

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The number of social profiles managed, amount of scheduled posts and the complexity of features such as analytics and tracking will determine price.

Most Social Media Management systems have free versions, typically with limited profiles, posts and features.

Integration

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Check the social networks you need to use can be managed by your preferred Social Media Management tool.

For example, in addition to Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter, can it schedule and measure with Instagram,  Pinterest, Tumblr and Reddit?

Also, if necessary for your business, with international platforms such as Tencent, Baidu, Viber or VK?

Ensure you can add the power of social media to the tools you already use, such as CRM (see CRM Systems For Business Growth), E-Commerce (such as Shopify, Opencart and Magento), Communication (such as Skype, SharePoint and Hipchat), Data Integration (such as Zapier, IFTTT and Skyvia),and Project Management Software Project Management Software).

Examples of Social Media Management Tools

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Platforms to consider, as reviewed by Tech Radar, E-Clincher and Wordstream, include:

1: Hootsuite

An established platform with all the necessary applications and robust features including content creation, curation, organisation, bulk scheduling (upload several posts at a time) and RSS integration.

The free plan includes management of 3 social profiles, scheduling 30 posts in advance (queued), basic tracking analytics, contest creation, 2 RSS feed integrations, team features and custom branded URLs.

Supported Networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, WordPress.

2: Buffer

A well-known platform for managing multiple social profiles. Schedule content while web browsing with a Chrome extension, get suggestions on best times to post based on follower activity, and integrate with Google Analytics.

The free plan includes management of 3 social profiles, scheduling 10 posts, browser extensions and mobile apps, content creation, real-time analytics, team features, shortening plus tracking links, and an RSS feed integration.

Supported Networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest.

3. Zoho Social

Zoho Social helps manage multiple profiles, research relevant keywords, work with team members, and schedule posts from one dashboard. It syncs with Facebook lead ads, offers advanced reporting features and CRM integration.

Zoho Social’s free plan allows management of 1 brand, and includes a URL shortener and SocialShare plugins.

4. Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a one-stop shop for managing and scheduling all social media accounts through a simple-to-use platform, and a powerful tool for analysing data by demographic and geographic measures.

It can manage multiple accounts and monitor keywords across social media, to bring awareness of when you are discussed online, and help you respond quickly to customers. Sprout Social has a social inbox, and basic team features.

Supported Networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn.

5. TweetDeck

If Twitter is crucial to your social media strategy, TweetDeck is the best social management platform, allowing creation of custom timelines, lists and searches, and adding of team accounts.

Free for Twitter users, not an all-in-one platform, but a great tool for managing multiple live-conversation Twitter accounts.

6. CoSchedule

CoSchedule is known for its social calendar feature –  to schedule and organise all social media posts. It has basic publishing features and ReQueue – intelligent software that schedules the top posts in your social history.

CoSchedule does not offer social monitoring, listening, or keyword searches. It has a separate dashboard for each client, re-usable task templates, social approval, and custom reports.

SupportedNetworks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr.

7. Agora Pulse

Agora Pulse has a variety of useful features – social engagement, publishing, listening, reports, and team collaboration. It allows auto-posting to queue evergreen posts, and content labelling to retrieve and analyse posts.

Agora Pulse has a Social Inbox feature for interacting with followers in one place and viewing every profile. It has social monitoring and keyword searches, plus team sharing features.

Supported Networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube.

8. Snaplytics

Snapchat lets users create short-lived ‘stories’ for user interaction. Snaplytics takes regular snapshots of your Snapchat account and offers insights and benchmarking, plus a library of previously created content to view engagement levels and for republishing.

Snaplytics supports scheduling stories for later publication, organised by tags for easy tracking. Its elegant dashboard displays marketing performance on a platform-by-platform basis.

9. Brandwatch

Brandwatch eavesdrops on information that could be crucial to your company from Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, news and other diverse web sources.

Social sentiment analysis shows the tone of data collected from profiles you’ve connected with, so you can include pertinent trends and emerging themes in your conversations.

10. Simply Measured

Simply Measured (by Sprout Social) is a more expensive, in-depth social media analytics tool.

It offers free reports on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, and sophisticated subscriber reports, including date and time engagement analysis and content type analysis. This allows you to publish the types of content that work best, at optimal times for your community.

For detailed reviews see:

Social Media Guidelines

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Whilst the above platforms are excellent tools for raising profile and driving sales, be aware of Social Media basics to ensure your efforts yield positive results (see Social Media Basics):

Quality – Publish content that people want to share, and that will last (see Content Marketing).

Quantity – Quantity is critical as new material will quickly override yours. Be consistent with posts, and re-post new content several times.

Posting – Social media audiences vary, so use data to determine how and when to post. Experiment with different times to identify the most effective to reach your customer types.

Hashtags – Be strategic with hashtags, @mention those that matter on each post. If creating a branded hashtag, make it easy to spell and say, eye-catching and memorable.

Goals – Know what follower behaviour you are trying to drive, so what channels and activities to concentrate on, and what metrics to measure to track success. For example:

Increased Brand Awareness
Use activities to collect and share customer testimonials, and highly-shareable content.

Increased Traffic and Conversions
Find opportunities to engage with relevant, interested customers who are ready to buy, and measure Click-through rate (CTR).
Increased Engagement
Start by responding to most user mentions, questions, and comments, then analyse this data to build a solid content strategy.

Measure follower numbers and how well your audience is responding to your content, such as number of shares, comments, mentions, and retweets.

Influence – Target Influencers that have audiences you want to reach. Tools such as Klout and Social Authority provide “influence scores.” Twitter and Google give rankings for topic influencers, and relevant forums contain influencers. 

Sentiment – Analyse the tone of a topic conversation using automated tools such as Boardreader or Mention, to see if people love, hate or are indifferent to your brand.

Conversation Drivers – Use Social Listening to work out when and how to start interactions with customers who may be interested in your service.

Monitor the topics and context of conversations about you, your competition, and your sectors. For example, who customers perceive as your competition and what concerns they’re sharing about your products.

and

For SEO and Blog-Writing services contact jan@brilliantbusinessblogs.com or call us on 0745 2086994

Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 2

To grow a business you need to hone productivity and maximise sales processes. Tech Tools provide efficient ways to raise profile, win customers, organise staff, and protect your company.

Use our blog to discover how tech tools can assist business growth, and learn the benefits and drawbacks involved.

Part 2: Project Management Software

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Project Management Software (PM software), is dedicated to keeping projects on budget, scope, and time, by systemising communication and productivity.

Features include:

  • file sharing
  • database-management
  • time tracking
  • email integration
  • task scheduling
  • activity interdependence definition
  • Gantt charts
  • reporting tools
  • resource and budget management
If you are struggling to manage business projects via e-mail, PM Software is the answer.

Advantages

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– improves overall team communication, final project quality, and customer satisfaction

– creates deliverables on-budget and on-time

– provides linked package functions and pre-designed report templates

– every task is assigned to a specific person with a deadline. Team members can see who is responsible, if they will complete on time, and be alerted in advance to possible delays

– visibility on each person’s tasks allows redistribution if over- or under-worked

– replaces e-mail and multiple document versions with online, real-time collaboration on tasks

– team members access and store project assets and information through the mobile PM app

– helps resolve problems, such as slipped deadlines, by automatically rescheduling tasks

–  tracks time spent on projects and integrates with billing systems

– allows fast identification of issues, and tracking of their fixing and testing

– produces analytical reports describing and visualising data and results

Disadvantages

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– strict project management guidelines may discourage creativity and innovation

– team members may lose sight of ‘the big picture’ and focus solely on deadlines

– time taken for employees to learn and accept the software

For more information seehttps://www.capterra.com/project-management-software/faq/#faq-1

Choosing A Project Management System – Considerations

Functionality

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It’s important to find the project management tool that best fits your business.

Work out who will use it and what the business needs are, to identify essential features and interfaces.

PM Software gives an overview of current projects plus detailed information on work underway to progress them.

Reporting features vary – most provide budget and resource (workers, materials, money) management, some offer, for example, time tracking and status reports.

People involved in a project use the PM app to see their designated tasks, update their progress, enter time spent and share documents.

Check the software integrates with your existing systems where necessary, for example, in recording labour hours and expenses, messaging, and task setting, and that is is as customisable and intuitive as needed.

Many PM solutions include storage space for uploading files into the workspace for team viewing and discussion.

They often have an option to connect to third-party online storage services, such as Box, Google Drive, or OneDrive, so files can be linked or uploaded from them.

Consider choosing software used by clients and companies you work with, to co-ordinate easily with them, saving time and money.

Ease of Use

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PM Software can have impressive features and capabilities, but these might over-complicate basic functions like adding and updating tasks, which may reduce team compliance and increase costs.

Use free trials to test usability – get team feedback on preferences, problems and work impact.

The benefit of a good PM system is that your team logs into one workspace and has everything at hand to get work done.

This might include a prioritised to-do list, all necessary assets, colleague notes, a calendar of deadlines, live-chat, integrated or connected communications, a place to find answers, and billing tools.

Design an implementation plan to help team members learn and use the new PM application in their daily workflow.

Costs

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Providers usually charge either a flat monthly rate or a rate per user. Generally teams with over 10 people will save by choosing a flat rate plan.

Most offer a substantial discount for committing to a full year rather than paying monthly.

Often platforms aimed at small businesses will charge a flat monthly rate, whilst those that prefer larger enterprises typically have a per-user-per-month fee structure.

Additionally, PM platforms with many permissions levels – such as for executives, portfolio managers, project managers, and team members – suggest they are aimed at larger companies.

Complexity of features, number of users and storage space will determine price.

Some PM systems have free versions, which limit the number of projects managed, features and storage space available. For example, Teamwork Projects, Zoho Projects and TeamGantt.

Security

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Access to web-based PM software is through the internet, with data stored via remote hardware. Installed PM software is stored to local computers and servers.

Risk management involves the identification, evaluation, and mitigation of risks, and is often included in PM solutions, specifically focused on risks to a project.

Separate risk management software covers full company risk assessment and implementation.

Similar Software That Overlaps with PM Systems

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Workflow Management Software

Projects are a specific type of work with a start date, end date, and deliverables – as opposed to ongoing work with no clear beginning or end date, and recurring tasks, such as answering calls or fixing glitches.

Workflow management software assists ongoing work, and is more flexible and less prescribed than PM software.

It is sometimes treated as a standalone tool, and other times incorporated into PM apps, for example, Asana.

Or it may have PM apps within it. Workfront and Podio allow the addition of workflow management tools.
Kanban

Kanban is a type of workflow management system.

Traditional Kanban systems use cards along boards, labelling the task a card represents, the work needed on it, and when it is due.

Cards travel along the board from “to do,” “doing,” and “done.” Kanban software digitizes the process for ease of use and collaboration.

Kanban apps are used by software development teams.They visually display and help control the amount of new work taken on before current work is completed, to avoid overload.

Gantt Chart PM Software

Gantt chart project management software is used to make bar charts that visually display work to be done in a designated time, critical paths, task relationships, progress, and baselines to track deviations.

Look for software with extra features such as project planning, collaboration and resource management.

Task Management Software

Project management apps do include task management features in them, but standalone task management apps are available if sufficient to requirements.

Apps allow assignment of tasks to individuals, adding descriptions, deadlines, and attached documents to each, but not necessarily as part of a larger project.

Task-management apps work well for ongoing work.

Collaboration Software

Collaboration software is different from true project management software, which is more specific.

Collaboration software has many different apps and services, from video conference calls to letting two people type on a document at the same time.

Modern PM services often include native communication and collaboration tools, and may allow connection to collaboration apps your team already uses, such as Slack or Google Docs.

Project Portfolio Management Software

Project portfolio management focuses on the big picture – projects are grouped together into portfolios, for example, by company, department, or sector.

Whereas PM software supports individual projects but doesn’t provide an overview of all projects.

They may share similar features, such as collaboration, budget and task management.

For further information see https://www.dummies.com/careers/project-management/how-to-choose-project-management-software/

Examples of PM Software

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Popular PM software, reviewed by reviews.compcmag.com and financesonline.com include:

1. Zoho Projects

A straightforward interface, excellent features, and plenty of support for integrating other tools.

Easy setup and use. Responsive. Good value.

2. LiquidPlanner

Rich tracking and resource management. Unique dynamic features. Drag-and-drop simplicity. Responsive site.

Though expensive, one of the best work-management tools.

3. Wrike

Quick setup. Supports an unlimited number of projects. Includes time tracking. Offers customizable dashboards and reports.

Provides plenty of ways to integrate with other apps and services. User-friendly.

4. Teamwork

Extensive features and intuitive interfaces, ones of the best services for managing projects.

Simple and intuitive design. Integrated calendar. Free account available. Great customisation options.

5. Workfront

High-end Enterprise project management, and ongoing work tools, in one highly customisable service.

Feature-rich. Supports different permissions levels. Open API.

6. Clarizen

Best suited for Enterprise organizations. Though easy to start using, expensive and less slick than other options.

Comprehensive work management and project management (PM) platform. Easy to navigate. Quick setup. Open APIs.

7. Celoxis

Easy to learn and cleanly designed, with a wide range of features for tracking tasks, financial resources, and time.

Customisable dashboard. Good tools for generating reporting. Can track human and financial resources. Task timer included.

8. TeamGantt

Highly intuitive for beginners, good for small businesses.

Easy way to get into Gantt charts, quality tutorials. Reasonable price.

9. ProofHub

Aims for simplicity without skimping on major features. Offering excellent tools at a competitive price, excellent for small businesses.

Clear interface. Quick and easy setup. Nice balance of features and simplicity. Competitively priced.

10. Microsoft Project

Takes specific conditions to be a team’s best option, but then a powerful tool.

Detailed options for managing resources. Customizable reports.

Confusing to buy, learn, and use. Doesn’t integrate with many apps outside Microsoft. Pricier than competitors.

11. Basecamp

Doesn’t have a full suite of scheduling and task management tools, but great for managers wanting one place to track all team ongoing discussions.

Lacks reporting tools. Flat monthly price. Stellar apps, well-designed and intuitive.

12. Project Manager

Designed to provide efficiency in project planning, budgeting, scheduling, execution, and reporting.

Provides effective tools for project planning, monitoring, and reporting, plus many advanced add-on features.

13. Meister Task

Aims to help project managers gain complete control of tasks and projects.

Customisable project boards for team agreement of progress, adjusts tasks to workflow, helps decide priority of tasks.

Everything done is saved in the activity stream to allow easy tracking. Can be integrated with most common apps like Zendesk, Dropbox, and GitHub.

14. Asana

Impressive number of tools and third-party integrations. Best at keeping teams on track and in-step through every phase of a project.

Most intuitive task management system and mobile app. Comprehensive reporting tools. Best third-party integrations, such as Slack and Hipchat, Google Drive and OneDrive, and Jira and GitHub.

Steeper learning curve, but enormous library of resources and tutorials.

15. monday.com

A library of easy-to-use templates to get started, personalised design, very intuitive, customisable.

Shareable with outside clients,easy collaboration and external app integration.

Limited tools, expensive for small teams.

16. Casual

Visually pleasing “mindmap” interface, storage compatibility such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Box built in, affordable pricing for small teams, intuitive.

Lacks functionality for bigger teams, less communication and development third-party integrations, subpar mobile app.

17. Trello

Best for individuals or small teams, most generous free version with unlimited users, projects, and tasks.

Easy to learn, highly rated desktop and mobile apps, customisable.

No calendar view, 10MB upload file limit on free version, limited integrations except cloud storage services.

For the full, detailed PM Software reviews see:

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Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 1

To grow a business you need great organisational skills and efficient processes. Tech Tools provide cost-effective ways to gain market exposure, win new clients, manage staff, control projects and stay secure.

Use our blog to understand tech tool options for growth, and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Part 1: CRM Software

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CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software enables a business to record customers’ contact information and every interaction with them — by phone, email, social media, appointment or helpdesk.

CRM analyses this ‘institutional customer knowledge’ to improve customer service and increase sales.

It automatically identifies cross-sell opportunities and adds value to every customer touchpoint.

Additionally, CRM improves team collaboration and productivity, guides new marketing campaigns, and tracks orders and invoices.

Once a business reaches a point where spreadsheets are getting out of control and lack the above functionality, CRM is the efficient solution.

CRM can be a pre-packaged or bespoke system, cloud or server-based, depending on business size and needs.

For further information see https://uk.pcmag.com/cloud-services/67398/the-best-crm-software?amp=1

Advantages of CRM Systems

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– organise all your contacts and internal client information in one interface, automate everyday tasks, saving time and driving better sales performance

– analyse data to improve sales processes. For example, sending a loyal customer a birthday gift, up-selling a beneficial service based on previous discussions, or attracting back inactive customers with personalised offers

– easy tracking of sales pipeline and projected revenue from data such as calls made and appointments booked

– personalise and automate marketing (see customer segmentation blog) to engage and grow a customer base by gathering client profile information

– prioritise sales by grouping prospects, such as by size, area, sector

– co-ordinate team actions for improved results, such as sales teams using data collected by client service teams

– Set and measure sales goals with accessible reporting and analytics

– track communications, engagement, activities, e-mail marketing campaigns, and social media interaction

– improve customer satisfaction and retention through identifying and resolving problems sooner, targeting customers with special offers, and being reliable and responsive

Disadvantages of CRM Systems

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– loss of records if remote CRM host provider suffers an outage. Use local backups to avoid loss

– time wasted if system goes offline

– development and maintenance costs (plus backups) for proprietary CRM

– system upgrades and security patches essential for personalised CRM systems

– costly training and time away from production. Managerial staff additional training for specialised functions

– integration with existing systems can be complex

– staff resistance to new system -accurate record inputs are essential

For further information see https://www.techwalla.com/articles/the-disadvantages-of-crm-systems and https://mopinion.com/best-crm-software-for-small-businesses-smb/

Typical CRM Features

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  • Calendar Management – task management refines productivity
  • E-Mail Management – automatic data capture from e-mail interactions, speed up tasks such as sending bulk emails, automatic replies for common queries, sending receipts or instructions
  • Quote/Proposal Management – improves workflows, schedule calls and appointments, manage completed sales and track revenue
  • Marketing Automation Integration – reminds staff to follow up customers at the right time, or actually performs follow-up task
  • E-Mail Marketing – initiates e-mail marketing based on criteria, such as a trigger during customer phone calls, customer sign-ups to a webinar, or customer account cancellation. Sometimes built-in, sometimes connects to third party such as Mailchimp
  • Lead Scoring – Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and predictive technology in CRM reminds users to complete tasks and guides their next actions. Business intelligence (BI) platforms can automate opportunity scoring and forecasting.
  • Customer Support – improves efficiency in sales, complaints, information and assistance
  • Lead Management – tracks prospects from lead generation throughout the sales pipeline. Can trigger actions based on lead progression, and update customer status – such as from lead to prospect – based on their action

For further information see https://www.capterra.com/customer-relationship-management-software/faq/

Choosing A CRM System – Considerations

Functionality

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Business Process Mapping (BPM) is vital before purchasing a CRM. This will visually display how certain activities are undertaken in your company, and who is responsible for different actions within those activities.

By highlighting issues that need resolving in your business you can choose a CRM that supports both current and best practice processes.

Understand how employees need to use the software, and what tools and processes are currently used.

Map common tasks to CRM to ensure it will simplify, not complicate, workflow. Obtain feedback from users in different roles, to eliminate unnecessary features, add others, and estimate training needs.

Purpose

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What is the purpose of your CRM? What data does it need to achieve this?

For example, customers’ personal information (to personalise e-mails to specific groups), or insights from web, e-mail or social media (to discover who loves your offering and who needs better customer service).

Commonly tracked data includes:

  • Customer information
  • Sales figures
  • Team information
  • Goals and targets
  • Business information

Does it need to be mobile (cloud-based with a mobile app), so staff can use it remotely?

Is it scaleable to suit business growth?

Costs

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Some providers operate ‘freemium’models – free at entry level then paid-for at higher volumes or for additional features

CRM prices vary drastically depending on your company needs in terms of features and number of users.

There will be per-month, per-user fees, one-off fees and annual costs. There may be fees for training, upgrades and ongoing support.

There may be minimum user criteria.

For further information see https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/biggest-mistakes-people-make-when-choosing-a-crm

Ease of Use

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CRM systems can combine email, tasks and sales into a centralised dashboard.

During testing, evaluate how easy it is to find features, conduct tasks, import data, connect accounts, assign activities; how well it helps users correct errors, and how easy it is to train others in it.

Consider what data and analysis the CRM does and does not need to provide  to assist business growth, and if it presents this in an accessible format.

Integration

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Check how well the CRM solution integrates with your other software tools, such as cloud storage, customer service platforms or marketing automation software, to avoid importing data manually or paying for integration software and additional equipment.

Integrating your CRM software into your email platform means that entering the customer’s name or ID in one platform automatically brings up data from the other.

For example, integration with your phone system, to capture call and conversation data. Or with social media management and analytics platforms, to capture these customer interactions.,

Determine which features are included and which need a third-party add-on.

Integration is either ‘native’, so the CRM or system you want to connect has a prebuilt integration module to download and implement.

Or if both systems support an open application programming interface (API), they can be coded to build a custom integration. This provides flexibility but adds significant cost.

For further information see https://www.mulesoft.com/resources/saas/crm-integration

Cloud versus Server

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There are many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CRM solutions, and also on-premises own-server CRM options.

With installed CRM software, data is stored and accessed on each user’s computer, plus backed-up in-house.

Cloud-based CRM is quick and cheap to implement and maintain. Data is stored and accessed through the software company’s remote hardware. This frees up space within your business, and allows easy remote access.

Whether web-based or installed CRM is most suitable depends on your company needs.

Customer Support

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Clarify what support is included for set-up and on an ongoing basis.

SaaS solutions have tiered, subscription-based pricing, offering different levels of support.

Security

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CRM software should generate an audit trail whenever someone changes a password, and let you set access controls for each user.
Make sure CRM software integrates with your current IT security software, such as your identity-management system, for single sign-on authentication.
Check the vendor’s service level agreement (SLA) to see where your data resides (especially relating to GDPR), who is responsible for its safety, and what happens if there’s a problem.

 

Mobile

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Evaluate the mobile app carefully if staff need to access and update CRM remotely. Mobile devices are very different from desktops and will be used and render differently.

Make sure your CRM software can support your mobile platform, and check for seamless functionality if needed.

Reporting and Analytics

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CRM software should allow analysis of  leads and deals, with customisable reporting features to display employee performance and customer type response.

Check the CRM lets you export reports to present data to stakeholders. Use an integrated Business Intelligence(BI) tool to turn data into displays of metrics such as statistics, demographic information, product popularity and sales conversions.

Combine data from multiple sources—such as your CRM database and your warehouse and supply chain – to ask complex queries and provide new insights, taking multiple data sources into account.

Examples of CRM Systems

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Packages to research include:

1. Insightly

Very popular with small businesses, easy to navigate, lots of customisation and integration options, plus project management features such as task management and tracking.

Website: www.insightly.com

2. Zoho

Various editions available, good sales and marketing features, website visitor tracking and lead scoring.

Website: www.zoho.com

3. Hubspot CRM

A free version available with activity tracking, contacts and company profiles, data dashboard and integration options.

Website: www.hubspot.com

4. Apptivo

CRM software with customisable solutions. Features include project tracking, finance management, and customer relations.

Website: www.apptivo.com

5. Salesforce

One of the biggest and most widely used CRM software. It can be less easy to use and expensive for a beginner, but there is a basic edition called Lightning Essentials. This includes an advanced contact manager with e-mail integration and follow-up reminders, plus lots of integration and customisation options.

Website: www.salesforce.com

6. Agile CRM

Agile CRM offers a lot of features like custom appointments, drag-and-drop marketing automation and reports via email. It supports widgets, lots of plugins and integrations.

Website: www.agilecrm.com

7. Capsule CRM

Easy-to-use software that allows tracking of relationships and sales pipelines, but less functionality for campaigns and reporting.

Website: www.capsulecrm.com

8. Base CRM

Ideal for companies seeking to customise sales pipelines. The sales tracking solution has sales stages, you can add leads, stakeholders and records to sales deals, plus there are integrations with social networks and third party apps.

Website: www.getbase.com

Also review:

9. ConvergeHub

Website:www.convergehub.com

10. SuiteCRM

Website: www.suitecrm.com

In conclusion, CRM software lets businesses understand customer preferences, to serve them better and to increase sales, whilst improving operational efficiencies.

Be sure after your initial research to use the free trials plus demos to see what a system offers, how easy it is to use, and how well it fits with your business growth plans.

 

For SEO and blog-writing services contact jan@brilliantbusinessblogs.com or call us on 0745 2086994
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