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Choosing the Best Software for Business

Business efficiency derives from the handling of data.

While cash is the fuel your business needs to run, data is the lubricant in the motor.

The good news is that, for the most part, business data handling is free or low cost. All that is required is a little thought and use of the right tools.

Business Software Explained.

What software you need depends on what you do and how you do it. The important thing to consider is not which software application to use, but how the different applications handle your data. Most businesses add applications when they become necessary, such as payroll when the business expands beyond one man.

That’s fine, but before you add a payroll package consider what data passes through it and what you can do elsewhere in the business with that same data. Hours worked may well be useful for detailed invoicing and it will certainly help when you need to analyse business performance.

Instead of adding another application to overcome a particular issue, think about what data you have, what you want to do with it and, if a new process generates or collects new data, where else you may want to use it. If you want to put it simply just ask yourself – ‘How does it integrate with my business?’

Thinking the process through will show you that a well organised electronic filing system is far more valuable than a bunch of unconnected applications, often containing large amounts of duplicated data.

Data Storage and Computers.

Storage of quite large amounts of data can be comfortably achieved using free cloud storage. Most cloud services have a free entry level. Just registering a Gmail account or Outlook.com account will provide you with several Gbytes of storage space.

The Cloud Explained.

How you store your data will determine what hardware you need. Some software applications will only run on particular machines, so selecting certain software packages may restrict your choice of computers. Having said that, using cloud storage allows you to access your data with any device from a desktop PC, to a laptop, a tablet or even a smart phone. You may want to own a high powered desktop computer, or a sleek powerful laptop, or even a gold plated, diamond studded iPad. But none of these will make your business run any smoother. Most business computing can be done using a low price seven inch or eight inch tablet and cloud services. If you want to be seen with a computer that has a bit more pizazz fine, but remember that has more to do with image than it does with performance.

So what is data?

The term ‘data’ in this context covers everything from orders and invoices, to letters and advertising, to accounts and process instructions and includes details of customers and suppliers. Data is generated from business software solutions and the choice of software determines the quality of the data. All of this information must be available to the right people at the right moment in time in any business process or the process stops until the data becomes available. Careful choice of software solutions is essential to ensure data accuracy and integration and reduce data duplication. Updating, say, a customer name and address should not be done twice or three times when once will do.

Moving to Mobility.

On demand access to essential data will lead to improved efficiency, reduced costs and increased professionalism. Good data management need not be expensive. On this site our free guides will show you how to implement an information strategy for your business.

Cloud Solutions

Cloud Solutions

(Also see the page on Cloud Storage)

The term is popularly used in conjunction with terms such as Cloud Storage, Office365, Google Docs, Google Apps, Drop Box and One Drive. However, the Cloud Storage element of each of the products on offer can be very different.

 

Motivation

The first step is to consider what you want to achieve with the implementation of a cloud solution. As with most things in business this is usually cost driven, even a very small business can incur IT costs. A computer, a printer, Word Processor software, Spreadsheet software and Internet Connection all cost money and this increases dramatically when business grows to the extent that multiple computers and networking start to become a requirement. It becomes tempting then to look further when slick advertising offers the ability to cut cost or dramatically increase productivity by delivering the ability to work from anywhere on any device. This is especially so when the same solutions offer the opportunity to reduce the need to own, licence and maintain an estate of servers. The possible reduction in cost of IT alone would probably be sufficient to make the business case.

Similarly for the very small business, the facility for, say a plumber, to be able to access an appointments diary, quotation records, invoice records, customer records and even place on-line orders for materials from his van at a customer address, at the same time as reducing computer hardware and software costs makes the case for further investigation.

 

Examining the Market Place

Every company is unique, therefore the business case to be made for a Cloud Solution implementation will also be unique. There may be a temptation at this point to engage a consultant or advisor. However, it is still too early in the process to invest in a study. Better at this point to make an attempt to understand the basics of the solutions on offer. This will require a time and effort investment, but it will be well worth while.

No one knows your business as well as you do and no one knows what will work and what will not. Early engagement of external experts or even a complete solution usually results in the solution being twisted to meet the needs of your company, often when there is a more suitable solution to be had.

Cloud Solutions are unique in offering a very low cost, pay-for-what-you-use entry point. As there is no high cost initial investment and no long term contractual commitment you can test different solutions in different environments to discover the best implementation for each business scenario. Cloud Solutions are also aimed at implementation by business administrators and not IT staff. With the exception of overall governance and the maintenance of PCs and mobile devices IT personnel need not be involved. There are also many internet resources available to help in trialling.

Take your time and you will discover new ways to improve your business.

About

After a lifetime contracting in IT, working across a number of sites run by large organisations, I decided that I would return some value to business and commerce.

The advent of cloud computing platforms, such as those offered by Microsoft (Office 365 and OneDrive) and Google (gmail, G-Suite, Google apps, etc), means that the potential for business leaders to implement solutions for their own organisations has never been greater.

It also means that the IT costs for start-up business has never been lower.

This web site is intended to promote data-first thinking in the reader. Stepping away from the traditional IT thinking, where business process was always tied down by the number of computers, the number of operators and the licencing cost and availability of software. Software is no longer the king pin of IT, even apps are not the king pin of IT. The gateway to a stable and scalable data structure is determined by the platform.

Data is gathered, stored and processed by the platform. This means that software needs are minimal and the applications should feed on commonly stored data. The idea of having customer details duplicated across many software applications and, often, many different computers is outdated.

It follows that software procurement should focus on the deployment of applications to a minimum specification. In the instance of accounts the focus should be on sorting financial data into nominal heads, which suit the business model, and producing final accounts acceptable to the appropriate taxation departments.

Additional processing, as in invoicing, purchasing, customer management and inventory should be handled externally. These functions are merely data handling and are better dealt with using database tools than any modules produced by suppliers of accounting suites.

A data-first centralised storage model helps in a GDPR environment as the data is in one place and is easy to find and update. Imagine a system where finding every letter, every email, every invoice/purchase order, every snippet of contact can be found simply by typing the customer name into a search box.

What we do

Advice and guidance on affordable PC and Mobile Apps for your business

Collect data on Smart Phones and Tablets

Store data and documents and track them

Use powerful search for data and documents and find them on any PC or Mobile

Produce letters, orders, email and invoices ‘on the fly’ and know that they are stored where they should be

Import and export data across business software

Automate Spreadsheets and other Office applications

Solutions developed in C#, VBA, Dynamics and shell script

Contact

Business Cloud computing, gmail, G-Suite and especially Office 365

Don’t be afraid to ask. I can’t be available on the phone all the time, but if you send an email to enquiries@ffox.biz I will try to get back to you with an answer in a reasonable time.

If I don’t have an answer I will tell you.