Not bothered about business technology trends?
In an era characterised by financial uncertainty, small and medium sized businesses need to be careful and selective about where they should spend their money and where they economise. A common misconception held by company directors is that there is no need to spend big on establishing a strong IT infrastructure for their business, and many choose to break the bank for other expansion related endeavours not realising that the acquisition of efficient and modern technology can often go hand in hand with increased business levels.
Larger companies choose to address this area right from the outset of trading, and incorporate new technological advancements into the way their business runs so that efficiency is optimised and they stay ahead of their competitors. There is no reason why this shouldn’t apply to British businesses as well, because they stand to gain a comparatively far larger return on investment from purchasing and incorporating modern technology into the infrastructure of their business.
The key is being selective about which technological advancements to break the bank for and this can often be difficult due to the plethora of new offerings released on the market each year. However, 2014 has seen a number of pieces of technology rise in prominence; many of which can start to be used by SMEs with little to zero outlay. The following are the new pieces of technology that we believe should be regarded as essential acquisitions for SMEs, who should strive to adopt them into their infrastructure as soon as possible, to bolster the efficiency of their businesses, raise global awareness of their brand and improve their export levels.
Almost all SMEs will benefit from the acquisition of a Customer Resource Management Tool (CRM) this year and moreover they can enjoy a vast array of benefits without having to spend big at all. CRM tools enable employees to administrate leads, contacts, accounts and calls far easier, and this will only serve to make your business more efficient and effective. Unlike in the past, CRM systems are now no longer expensive to acquire, and that difficult choice between getting one or an enterprise roll-out no longer needs to be made- if you search round the market you will find a number of competitively priced systems that will pay for themselves within months of the initial purchase.
Cloud products and services
Whilst cloud services are in no way new to the world of business, they are rapidly ascending to the forefront of business administration and are now used by companies of all sizes around the globe. If you have ever had your business lap-top or PC crash and all customer sales, invoicing and communications data has been lost then you will appreciate ‘the cloud’. There are so many merits to adopting cloud products into your company infrastructure, namely that by storing data and managing services on the web you are getting access to business data all across the globe. This means that you can communicate easier with foreign parties, conduct business in a more efficient manner and enhance your growth potentialities moving forward in the future. Moreover, using the cloud for your company bookkeeping and invoicing will significantly bolster your prospects of keeping the account books in the black and getting paid on time, which is integral to maintaining a stable cash flow situation. This could also help cut costs as your accountant may have easier access to reports and business critical data.
In particular, the ReadSoft Online software address supplier invoices is a great way to improve your business practice and, essentially, utilising the software can considerably reduce the time it takes to process invoices, speed up financial reporting and make it easier for you and your accountant to create accurate cash flow forecasts for the future. The software is hosted within the Cloud, and is simply an automated invoice service which gathers all the important information from an invoice and then places them into almost all contemporary accounting programmes such as Sage 50, Exchequer and Netsuite. It makes the accounts payable function far simpler than usual and will read and upload information of all formats. It will also automatically correct any administrative errors by cross referencing supplier invoices with order documents to assess whether there are any differences. As it works on a digital landscape, the likelihood of receiving incorrect billing is very low, and you should use this to negotiate early repayment discounts and avoiding late payment fees in future.
Other recommended cloud programmes include QuickBooks and Xero, which I find very useful for smaller businesses for recording information, highlighting late payments to your staff, applying late fees to clients who have defaulted on their payments, keep the account books in order and analysing all financial data relevant to your business. You can also use the products to get paid quicker by your clients and send warnings out when their payment due dates are getting closer, which will reflect positively on your company finances and keep your cash flow in the black.
If you are in online sales, logistics, warehouse management/large-scale stock management then recent improvements in sensors, technologies, devices and display are making it easier for businesses to analyse behavioural trends of their customers, monitor the activity of businesses, keep track of major events in the business world and optimise their business by constantly gauging the performance of all aspects of it. The reality is that by investing in analytics systems, your business will be able to utilise the constantly updated information to formulate new analytic and statistical fact based views of your business model.
Many larger companies are aware of the huge advantages that come with investing in analytical software including productivity enhancement, customer experience improvement and customer loyalty incurrence through lower costs. There is no reason why SMEs shouldn’t follow suit and beginning investing in this area now, rate of data to insight and should result in you and your staff making superior business decisions that garner a higher level of profit.
Online exporting and website localisation
The government has made it clear that they are seeking to raise the level of exports made by UK businesses, and this will mean that SMEs will need to improve their credit ratings or be given greater access to credit facilities in the future. However, with China being identified as the UK’s next major exporting partner, and government politicians advising that businesses start promoting that product and services across the globe, it is of paramount importance that company directors begin considering website localisation now, so that they can establish committed business partners from abroad at an early stage.
If you are a manufacturer or sales for example then you may want to consider investing more into your website and expand the foreign appeal. Essentially, Website localisation involves changing a site into foreign linguistic and cultural context but it is far more complicated that merely translating the text into another language. The configuration procedure must be done so that the new appearance, design and content of your businesses site reflect certain language and cultural preferences, without comprising the integrity of your company. Sites that are adapted like this are far easier to comprehend by foreign audiences and will make the user experience of your site far simpler than before. Moreover, due to the adapted structure, foreign viewers will understand what you are selling better and will view your product more favourably, making the chance of a conversion more likely.
Website localisation is set to become a common trend in the future, and ensuring that you adopt it into your own online site will ensure that global expansion is made easier and foreign interest in your product rises considerably. You will need to work with web designers and marketing experts in order to create the optimal strategy for your website localisation procedure, but doing so will have an immeasurable amount of long term benefits, namely that you can expose your business and your product to the entire world; on your terms, in their way.
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