Paperwork is officially dead, meaning businesses need to bring operations such as inter-colleague communications, client engagement, accountancy and other admin tasks, onto digital platforms. There are of course a multitude of software options available, fitting the needs of the huge variety of business types.
With the 2018 business year starting, we’ve compiled what we think are the top qualities business software should possess, along with the prominent software options involved in the different areas of running a business – those that are likely to dominate the field in 2018. Accounting software is going to be especially important in the coming year when all accounting will need to be digital, but we’ve also mentioned other software types that will help operations work more smoothly, and will ultimately help bump up profits.
If you’re using a tool that you think is amazing and want to tell others about it (or to get our thoughts on it), please share it in the comments!
What makes software great?
There are those of us who get technology instinctively, and who can experiment and self-teach with enthusiasm, while others are more cautious. When developing a list of good business software qualities, at the back of our minds was the idea that no matter a user’s IT capabilities, the amount of time a product should save should greatly outweigh time needed to learn to how to use it!
A great software solution should be:
- User-friendly and accessible – Think of the difference between the Adobe Creative Suite, and its open source alternatives. Clarity and ease-of-use can be expensive to buy, but you’ll save future time and money. We’re thinking great dashboards, analytical features, and on-hand help like chatbots, messaging and daytime numbers.
- Compatible, flexible, simple – Simplicity is the name of the game, so a great tool needs to be uncomplicated, easily-adaptable, and able to work well with other software. A great piece of software will be easy to learn and customize and should help make your digital toolkit simpler, not more complicated.
- Dynamic – Microsoft office solitaire, Guinness, and a few other products are perfect in their current state. Most others need to evolve with the times and trends. As just one example, the best desktop tools will have developed or will be developing mobile and tablet-friendly versions. They will also be compatible with new regulations, including the General Data Protection Regulation that comes into effect on the 25th of May 2018.
- Well priced and easy to buy – Great software isn’t cheap, but will involve minimal fuss to purchase and install. The dodgy software is the exact opposite.
- Digitally secure – Especially when money and accounting are involved, software must store data in external, secure locations. This is, of course, absolutely essential to any business’s operation and reputation.
- Innovative in applying AI – Artificial Intelligence is making waves as a cost-saver in the business community, both on a large scale (such as its applications in manufacturing and logistics), and on a small scale (such as in intelligent administration and chatbots). Entrepreneurs and software developers should remain on the forefront of this trend, and be prepared to incorporate new advancements into their products.
Our Top Software Picks by Type
#1: Accountancy Tools
Financial software is increasingly essential for any UK small or medium business, filling invoicing, bill payment, recordkeeping, and data access needs. Quickbooks, Clear Books, Xero, and FreshBooks are the classics which are likely to remain the most popular, one-size fits all tools for businesses in 2018, using quality, familiar frameworks, and structures that are consistently added to. KashFlow, Sage 50cloud, GoDaddy, OneUp and other accounting tools are more specialized and are worth investigating in closer detail lest they are a perfect match for your business.
#2: Team Coordination and Communication Tools
These are ideal for keeping varying, sometimes significantly spread-out staff, more informed and connected with each other. Skype remains a trusted golden oldie, broadly awesome but particularly good at remote working over a long distance, but facing some competition from FaceTime. In terms of greater planning and distance collaboration that goes beyond webcam conversation, tools like Slack, Trello, Float, Asana, and KanbanFlow allow information exchange on varying message-board/whiteboard formats – a means for long-distance brainstorm and idea development.
#3: Productivity, Organization, and Time-use Tools
These tools are designed to keep your work as efficient as possible. Pushover organizes messages and notifications from devices into one common space, for all your team members, thereby working as an alternative Customer Relationship Management tool. OmniFocus merges together and maintains your to-do lists, while RescueTime and My Minutes are great tools for keeping track of work time, maximizing billable hours, and minimizing impacts of digital time sucks (Facebookitis).
#4: Customer Engagement Tools
These are great tools for keeping customers informed, while also building their trust. Paypal’s efficiency and instantly-familiar brand make it a great payment option with a stand-out trust badge. MailChimp remains the most popular e-marketing option, allowing businesses to create and send newsletter directly to customers. Event management and booking coordination tools, like Bookinglive’s Online Booking Software, let you engage all types of clientele, and ensure available rooms and services are used to the greatest possible degree.
Last but not at all least is the administration software tools that, especially for small business operations use AI to keep essential business functions ticking over smoothly, and thereby free up time for creative work. Tripit is a marvelous tool for organizing travel plans – absolutely vital if your work often takes you on the road. Proven helps to organize hiring, allowing you to sort through applications quickly and minimize HR pains. Boxmeup and Expensify are top logistics tools, handling postage coordination, and expense reporting/receipt management, respectively.
Over to you!
The above is our take on the best business software going into 2018, with the natural expectation that new interesting tools will come onto the scene over the coming year. In the comments, we would be interested to hear what software you think businesses should be aware of!