by Stephanie Miles
Published on 1 April 2016
Small business owners are being pulled in all different directions. In an effort to cut down on the time they spend managing billing, project management, help desk, and business operations tasks, many have turned to single-purpose applications. According to a survey by AT&T, 94 percent of small business owners are now using smartphones to conduct business, while more than half feel that mobile technology is giving them a competitive advantage.
What many of these business owners don't yet realize is that the single-breed apps they're using could be doing just the opposite-impeding their chances of success and making it more difficult to accomplish the most basic business tasks.
Relying on too many single-purpose applications is a common mistake among small business owners. Slick sales pitches distilling the benefits of so-called "best of breed" apps can make it seem like using these tools is virtually a requirement for small business success. But the time and money that is spent using single-purpose apps quickly adds up, and before they know it, many business owners are overwhelmed by the very apps that should be saving them time and money.
In a vacuum, many best of breed solutions do offer features and benefits that could be valuable to businesses. But the time that users spend clicking from app to app each day can add up to hours over the course of a week or a month. If it takes just 20 extra seconds to open an application, then a business with 75 employees could easily be wasting more than 570 hours in a year. Depending on compensation models, businesses could lose thousands of dollars in productivity, as well.
The situation is further compounded when businesses use single-breed apps that do not integrate with one another. If an accounting app does not integrate with a time tracking app, for example, then the business owner suddenly has a new task on his or her hands, manually moving the data from one solution to another.
Single breed applications can offer a great benefit to those looking for single solutions. But when businesses start using too many of these services at once, chaos begins to set in. Using one application for CRM, another application for billing, and yet another for project management is a drain on resources that small businesses cannot afford. This is the point at which many savvy entrepreneurs start looking elsewhere for more integrated business management software.
One of the ways that businesses have started overcoming the challenges of using too many single-breed applications is by making the switch to all-in-one business management software. These solutions cut down on the time spent switching between apps and browser tabs each day. Business owners can also save resources by training staff on just one app.
After Austrian digital agency e-dialog switched to an all-in-one business management software called WORKetc, the company said it managed to save 10 admin hours per week, or 5,200 labor hours across just one process (an 11 percent efficiency gain.) The firm quadrupled the amount of projects and data it could keep in one place. In simpler terms, e-dialog determined that the productivity it gained from switching to an all-in-one platform was the equivalent of gaining one extra person on a 10-person team.
Enterprise businesses have traditionally held an advantage over smaller businesses, particularly when it comes to technology. Firms with greater financial resources have access to more advanced business management solutions-or at least they used to. Nowadays, cloud-based technology is leveling the playing field and giving smaller firms a greater competitive advantage.
| Best of Breed - Using Multiple Apps | All-in-One Business Management Suites | | Constant switching between different apps and browser tabs to get your job done. | No more switching between different apps and browser tabs to get your job done. | | Staff must be trained across multiple apps, taking up valuable time and resources. | Staff needs to be trained on only one app, saving you valuable time and resources. | | Subscription fees for many separate apps can stack up and become too expensive / hard to keep track of. | Subscribing to only one app means you pay only one bill per month. Cheaper and less hassle. | | Getting all apps to communicate with and share data between each other may not always be possible. Integration may require expert help or additional third-party apps which come with separate fees. | No integration hassles; all discrete modules already come connected to each other. | | The app ecosystem as well as the different business departments that use the apps become too segregated; quickly transferring data from one app / department to another can prove harder than usual. | Improved productivity and transparency in operations when all your departments are using just one business management platform. |
Consider this use case: A firm called TechHelp Idaho provides consulting services to manufacturers, and supplies everything from training and technical assistance to help clients be more competitive. But the firm itself was weak on the front end of client engagement, and employees had no visibility with clients until their engagements turned into billable projects.
Determined that they needed to change, TechHelp turned to the all-in-one small business CRM WORKetc to consolidate operations. Rather than picking from thousands of individual apps, and individually evaluating services for cost and suitability, TechHelp now uses a single cloud-based solution for end-to-end business management.
TechHelp's executives have found that they spend less using an all-in-one solution than they would on multiple subscriptions to single-breed applications. They've also found that the new system prevents them from having to move data from one system to another. With all business information stored in a centralized place, TechHelp is better able to efficiently move to the next stage of each client engagement.
Consolidating data into a centralized, all-in-one platform affords small businesses with the opportunity to connect the dots between departments. Accounting is no longer a silo, separated from the business' operations or marketing team by physical distance and technology that doesn't connect. Instead, by switching to all-in-one systems, businesses have found that they're better able to collect information from across different departments. For example, a manager can quickly query his or her software to pinpoint any customers in Maine purchasing blue widgets from the company's US sales team.
Business owners who've tried digging down to find this type of detailed customer information within multiple single breed applications understand the implications, and they understand how combining data from different departments in all-in-one business management software benefits the company as a whole.
If you'd like to know more about which all-in-one apps are right for your company, check out our ranking of the top 25 business management software.