What support resources are available to train staff? Such as: training videos and documents, free demo, email/help desk support, FAQ/knowledge base access.
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?
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.
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.
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?
Many cloud backup providers are US-based. Review UK-based providers or ensure your provider:
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
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 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.
Version control, integrated HTML editor, digital watermarking, optical character recognition (OCR) and multilingual full-text indexing. On-premise or cloud hosted. Phone support.
Branding, marketing and digital asset management (DAM) tools for businesses of all sizes.
Manage, maintain and distribute public and private digital assets, including videos, documents, and images.
Organise company digital assets into a centralised, searchable, database that can be accessed by any employee from any location. Two-factor authentication, access and editing rules can be set on an individual or peer-group bases.
Cloud-deployed platform, can be accessed from any web browser.
Suitable for companies of all sizes and industries. On-premise or in the cloud.
Manage digital data through automated organisation, approvals and sharing from one dashboard. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) automatically names files, builds a dynamic directory, and sends them where they need to go.
Integration with Salesforce, drag and drop and manage files from either system. Mobile device access – take pictures of documents and upload directly to the app.
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.
Scalable, invoice processing, many integrations, Cloud-based, mobile support, ‘cloud workflow’, mobile apps – scan receipts, approve invoices, and sign forms on the go.
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
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
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
– 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
Choosing A Project Management System – Considerations
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.
– 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
– 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
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
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.
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:
Goals and targets
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Packages to research include:
Very popular with small businesses, easy to navigate, lots of customisation and integration options, plus project management features such as task management and tracking.
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.
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.