January 11, 2017 in Strategy

It’s 2017. MOST businesses today use software in some way or another. We’ve talked about custom and off-the-shelf software before, but regardless of what your business model is, you probably need at least some off-the-shelf software to run it.

Small businesses need to answer a new question: not “Should we incorporate tech into our practices?” But, “WHICH tech is most valuable for us?”

Thoughts on Business Software Tools

Okay, so if you need off-the-shelf software, how do you know what to pick? Each industry has its own unique tools, but a quick survey of our team yielded some great advice for any business owner.

Bootstrap first. What can you do to duct tape a solution together? If you spend some time solving a problem without software, it will give you a better understanding of what you need and why you need it. Example? We’re currently working on a solution to our complex scheduling challenges. With several developers and projects going at once, keeping up with the schedule gets complicated. Post-it notes and a whiteboard will help us see the whole problem. Then, if that low-fi solution doesn’t solve it, we know where to start building.

Pick the right size. One of the worst things you can do is overbuy. You don’t want software to be so high touch it hinders your team rather than helps them. You also don’t want to buy a whole suite of software for one feature. If you’re going to make the investment, take the time to train and implement the solution fully. You also want to make sure the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefit. Huge licensing fees or custom building costs aren’t always necessary.

Stay close to the money. We say this all the time around the office. Don’t ever let the allure of software distract you from your core business. If software costs (in either time or money) pull you away from building your customer base, shut it down!

Business Software We Use And (Mostly) Love

So, what software does a company full of developers recommend? We do use some software specific to developers, but we also use some tools that we think would benefit any business.

  1. Slack. Hands down. Everyone on our team loves and recommends this chat tool. Even when you run a small team, the accessibility is invaluable. You can talk to the team easily, but you can also share and store documents and other files for easy access. Our tip? Set a company policy for when people will be available and when everyone will be on “do not disturb.”
  2. GSuite. At this point, most of the world runs on Google. But, if you’re still not on board, Google Apps was the second most recommended software in our team survey. Gmail, Drive, and Calendar all work together to keep your team on track. Company-wide buy-in is important, though. For example, at Centresource, most of us keep our calendars up to date so it’s easy to schedule meetings without 50 emails (or Slack messages) nailing down a time.
  3. Project Management. We use Trello, but everyone has a favorite. (And our developers have opinions…) Basecamp and Asana also have their merits. Even if you don’t identify as a project-based company, you probably have projects more than one person contributes to. They could be internal or external, but regardless it’s vital to put all of the information in one place. I use a Trello board for this blog’s editorial calendar. It makes it easy for me to remember, but it also gives my teammates access to what I’m working on and opportunities for them to contribute.
  4. CRM. Regardless of size, customer relationship management (CRM) software organizes contacts and streamlines interactions with them. There are a million options out there. We like Contactually for email flows and Pipedrive for sales pipeline data. The Hubspot CRM is also a great tool that can easily integrate with other marketing efforts.

What tools are you using to build and grow your business?