The article from last week revolved around the issue of finding the appropriate technological foundation for your business. A solid technological infrastructure is imperative to businesses that are just starting up, as well as small businesses that are already established. This is why building a solid technological infrastructure requires your full attention. There is no such thing as a standardized solution.
In today’s article I am going to show you a way of finding tools that will work best for your specific needs.
If you are presently building your business from scratch, you are actually in a more comfortable position then someone who already has their structures in place. Most small business owners already have a combination of apps, platforms and systems in place. And although it is not impossible, this makes the straightening process a bit more difficult.
In the previous article I discussed something called anchor apps.
Anchor apps are cloud-based applications that enable a user to execute a multitude of tasks for various different purposes. It is best described as the multi-purpose Swiss army knife of apps.
Choosing an anchor app is an excellent strategy for a business that is in the startup phase. But it is also an excellent approach for an already existing business.
The Crux with Technology
Technological infrastructure isn’t a static thing. Choosing the technology that works best for your business, doesn’t mean you have to commit to it forever.
As your business grows, and new demands and opportunities arise, you may find yourself needing to adapt to new technologies. You may have to switch a platform to take advantage of automation opportunities. Switching a platform can sometimes be a challenging task for a small business.
The costs of making big changes in your technological infrastructure could quickly become overwhelming, and even ruin your small business. This is why I recommend putting good thought into the platform, the app selection, and integration of your technological foundation. The future success of your business may depend on it.
Another possible risk that is important to look out for is an increase in staff. As your business grows and more employees come aboard, new demands for management and collaboration will become obvious.
Are you familiar with the term Digital Darwinism?
It describes the phenomenon of when technology and society evolve faster than an organization can adapt. It is a fate that threatens most organizations in almost every industry, today.
Digital Transformation is the use of technology and methodology to address shifts in behavior, by upgrading internal processes and systems.
So, the first step to digitally transforming your business is to find out about what tools are available that can possibly fulfill all of your business needs in all aspects. Technology is continually evolving, and staying on top is a never-ending challenge.
In some way, technology will always accelerate and we will all need to learn how to deal with it.
“Every single industry has been massively disrupted by technology.
Change is the name of the game.
If you want to take part in that game, you got to learn how to deal with technology.”
– Marie Forleo
To help move you forward, I am going to share a list of tool resources. These resources are great to consult if you need an idea for a new tool you may need regarding accounting, social media marketing, CRM, or project management, other fields.
I am not associated with any of the creators on this list. Therefore, I cannot guarantee that these lists will be regularly updated. But I will do my best to update the list as I become aware of any new developments, or better resources.
- Tools of the Trade – One excellent resource are the Tools of the Trade. That’s a list curated from Chris Barber that can be downloaded from his GitHub account. You can also find the 2015 edition as a PDF here for download.
- DiRT – Digital Research Tools
- Startup Tools
After you have found what looks like a few promising options, you will want to have a closer look at each tool. To learn the basics about a product, or even to identify competitive products, you can use software review sites like G2Crowd.com and TrustRadius.com.
It’s also advisable to sign up for free trials and check whether a software’s user interface and general setup works for you at all.
Tools for Automations
If there was ever a rule of thumb for choosing a tool, it would be this one:
The big topic is business automation.
How do you find tools that satisfy your needs AND are capable to integrate with others?
In this phase of your search I recommend an application called CloudWork, which is a discovery platform designed for the best integrations between business apps. It focuses on identifying the most popular integrations between web applications, in order to automate various tasks. Such as sharing data between collaboration, CRM, marketing, helpdesk, finance or storage software, and more.
In CloudWork’s list, you will find about 100 of the most popular web applications. When you select one, the next screen will show you what integration applications already exist. One click further, and you can immediately see what kind of integrations between two applications can be established.
Let’s say you are looking for a tool that will take care of your accounting, your invoices, time tracking, and even payments and expenses. Remember that an anchor app can take care of a multitude of tasks! FreshBooks is a hot candidate in this field, so let’s have a look at how it eventually integrates with other tools.
Click on the FreshBooks icon and in the next screen you will see all of the tools FreshBooks can currently be integrated with.
For instance, FreshBooks would be able to communicate with Base CRM in these ways:
With GoToWebinar, a popular tool for hosting and viewing online webinars, FreshBooks could setup automations like this:
Or, with the event management tool EventBrite, FreshBooks would integrate this way:
From a technological point of view, building one’s business processes around anchor apps almost always guarantees that the processes are scalable, and business growth can happen without much headache. However it is admittedly, not always the best approach.
For established businesses, switching a proven software or web app to something new can be a hassle. There is lots of work involved here, and if you are happy with the tools you are using but are on the lookout for ways to streamline your workflow, you may be better off using an integration platform instead.
Integration platforms are web services that specialize in providing connectors for external applications. There has been a steady development in this branch in the last few years, but it’s obvious now that their services are in high demand due to the missing links they offer. These missing links help businesses to automate tedious tasks and increase productivity.
Which way to go
In order for your business to flourish and benefit from the fantastic tools that are available today, what do you think the best way for you to go is?
Do you like the concept of using an anchor app? You can build your business processes around one, or a few anchor applications.
But eventually, you think you are better off with integration platforms, which provide more flexibility and adjustability.