It’s the time of year when many small business owners pause to evaluate the past 12 months’ performance and set expectations for the next 12. How will your strategy evolve in 2015, and how will you tweak your business structure to support it?
While you’re asking yourself those questions, Jamie Sutherland says you should also consider whether the software and other business technologies you’ve been using will enable you to achieve your new goals and objectives.
Sutherland, who is President of Xero US, a provider of cloud-based accounting solutions for small business, points to five signs that it’s time to upgrade your software or change services.
1. Your software won’t scale. Once you know where you’re going, explore whether your technology can go there with you. Will your current setup sustain added headcount, expanded services, or additional integrated technologies? It’s important to use a service that can accommodate your business as it grows, Sutherland says.
2. Your technologies aren’t interoperable. Thanks to cloud-based tools, small business owners are no longer reliant on expensive full-suite systems built for enterprise-size clients, Sutherland says. “These days you can choose software a la carte-style, but it’s important that all of your systems easily integrate with one another,” he says. “For instance, if your payroll and expense software do not effectively ‘talk to’ your accounting application, then you won’t have the most accurate view of your finances, which is the main benefit of these services working together.”
3. You need to be at your desk to access your tools. “Desktop software had its day, but we live in a different world now,” Sutherland says. “There is no need to keep using clunky desktop applications that are not efficiently scalable, are difficult to sync, and do not have wide-reaching mobile capabilities.” He recommends cloud-based tools, of course.
4. You don’t have cross-platform access. “We no longer live in a 9-to-5 world and business is no longer limited to the office, so technology shouldn’t be either,” Sutherland says. A survey his company conducted found that 60 percent of small business owners work outside an office. “Their software should do the same,” he says. If it doesn’t, you’d be wise to consider upgrading to tools you can access anytime on iOS and Android devices as well as desktop devices from any place you have an internet connection.
5. Customer support is lacking.Few small businesses can afford an in-house IT pro to troubleshoot tech issues. So, reliable customer service from your software provider is crucial. If tech difficulties cost you hours on a helpline or days waiting for a response to a question sent out to cyberspace, it’s time to consider a better tech provider.