Business software essentials: 2016 edition

From accounting and inventory through to marketing and web content management, there is a piece of software or technology out there that can help you run your business efficiently and effectively.

15 Nov 2016

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” – Elbert Hubbard, Author

You are a professional in your own right, a proven master of your trade, and yet even you know you are not capable of everything. Technology may not be able to replace you, but it can be your all-purpose workhorse. You just need to make it work for you.

Why the right software matters

Business software doesn't have to be complicated, just useful.The right software allows you to automate countless menial tasks while maximising your billable hours. This goes well beyond having the most recent Office 365 subscription for word processing and spread sheets. This is about having the specific tools to tackle the complex needs and duties you complete in-house.

This can often mean keeping your software up-to-date or switching packages entirely in order to keep up with changes in technology, consumer demand, and industry standards. While it may seem costly, it is an investment in the future of your business that can pay real dividends in the years to come.

Finance packages

Business Victoria has shared a list of key considerations to keep in mind when picking the right financial software package for your business, which include:

  • Does the system calculate all payroll requirements (PAYE, annual leave, long service leave etc.)?
  • Does the system track stock, work in progress, orders, jobs and other task management requirements?
  • Does the system allow for interface with other computer systems such as online payments?
  • Does the system keep detailed records on customers including what they buy, how often they buy, when they buy etc. (often referred to as a Customer Relationship Manager system)?

As for what options are available to you, naturally there is the tried and tested MYOB which continues to be a reliable, easy-to-use solution. But this is far from your only option — depending on your needs and budget there are also options such as Xero, Quicken, Sage and Saasu. There are also the range of merchant services from banks such as CommBank for you to factor into your choices.

Consider the factors important to your business, your budget, the features of each package and your needs before making a choice.

Design packages

Business software should be useableLong gone are the days where Clip Art, Microsoft Publisher and Paint could cover your branding needs in terms of signage, logos, and flyers. Today’s consumers seek a degree of sophistication from even the simplest of visual displays from the smallest of businesses.

Before you make a choice, consider what design basics you may need to cover. According to Adobe, the following are often essentials:

  • Designing the basics of a business card
  • Mocking up a one page newsletter
  • Scamping out a logo
  • Optimising an image for social media and other online platforms
  • Creating an event or business flyer

In regards to which software options you have to choose from, there is Adobe Creative Cloud, Gimp, Canva and Corel Suite. The number one thing to consider here is how much of the work you want to do yourself and how much you will farm out to freelance designers and marketing specialists. From there you will be able to gauge how much you can spend on your own design software needs.

Inventory packages

According to Unleashed Software, inventory management programs can help you increase efficiency, consistently nail delivery dates, and better track your stocks. When dealing in fast moving or bulky goods, or sending your products to customers across the country, you need this.

Luckily this type of software can overlap with your finance software needs for a number of reasons, which is why your options may still include the likes of Xero. For a more dedicated solution, some of the top packages are eTurns, SAP Distribution and FlowTrac.

Web tools

In the digital world your software solutions will vary greatly depending on your required level of digital marketing and your overall web presence. Software solutions in this space can be free or are sometimes covered by other options (if you have made the investment).

In the area of web design there are content management software platforms such as Joomla, Wix, Square Spaces and WordPress, all of which can be backed by the use of Dreamweaver (part of the Adobe Creative Cloud). As for social media, one of the most popular solutions for managing your accounts is HootSuite – on a basic level it is free, with additional premium tools available for a small monthly fee.

Customer relationship management

Customer Relationship Management software or CRM packages are a smart and effective way to manage everything from customer data and support through to marketing automation and sales figures. Put simply, software in this space allows your business to be more agile.

Software options in this space include:

Whether or not you go down this road is up to you. While CRM packages aren’t an absolute necessity, they are fast becoming a business essential. But remember to consider your costs, needs and growth plans before investing in a package.

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