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Whether you are a small business operating from a single location or an enterprise spread in multiple locations, you may be running several activities simultaneously. For small businesses, the biggest challenge is having to handle too many tasks without letting things get out of control.
This is why business management software suits small businesses as it keeps their operations up and running despite all the hurdles they have to face.
But before investing in software, run a deep analysis of the features, deployment options, integrations, etc., so that you choose the right one. The software vendor you choose should be able to meet all your needs at the price that fits your budget.
In this buyer's guide, we’ve defined the core features of business management software, looked at the deployment options, highlighted some emerging trends, and listed the critical questions that you must ask potential vendors before purchasing a solution.
Jump to the following sections for a quick look:
Business management software is software that automates, supports, and improves the daily tasks, activities, and processes at an organization. It lets you eliminate operational errors, report activities, complete business tasks, as well as enhance your overall efficiency and effectiveness.
The software automates daily administrative tasks at your small business such as:
Billing and invoicing
Task and time tracking
Client contact management
In a nutshell, business management software is designed to meet all the requirements of your small business.
To select the right solution for your small business, you need to understand the types of business management software. Here are the two major types of business management solutions in the market:
Dedicated, stand-alone business management software: This software addresses a specific, single aspect of your business operation such as accounting, human resources (HR), or customer relationship management (CRM). Each standalone tool delivers focused and in-depth reporting capabilities to address a specific business function.
Single, integrated business management software: This software stores all the data from all your departments on a single platform. It’s designed to integrate the add-ons and plugins of other software and work seamlessly with those. This software makes it easier to generate different reports about the working of your entire business.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Is your business management software suitable for my business size and for the kind of business I do?
After you’ve decided the type of business management software you need, the next step is to choose the deployment option.
GetApp’s website focuses on cloud-based software options, which we typically recommend as the best option for small businesses. Cloud-based tools generally come with lower up-front costs, faster implementation time, and automatic updates; they also better support remote use, scale more easily, and minimize the need for IT staff and real estate.
However, it’s valuable for buyers to understand both types of deployment.
On-premise deployment: Such solutions are hosted on an organization’s in-house servers and accessible on the office network. On-premise solutions typically incur a one-time investment and have a per user license charge. Also, users must pay for any future software upgrades (e.g., new feature releases).
Cloud-based deployment: This option lets you access the software on a web browser or native mobile app. Cloud-based solutions offer subscription pricing, where the vendor’s pricing plans are based on a “per month” or “per user per month” charge.
Key questions to ask your vendor before you buy: What deployment options do you offer? What’s the pricing plan for each option?
It’s essential to choose a solution with features that meet your specific needs. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the common business management software features that you should know about when making a selection:
Accounting: Allows users to manage their organization’s general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, billing, sales receipts, and invoicing. It also helps you handle other financial reports such as balance sheet, profit and loss statements, and cash flow statement.
Invoicing management in QuickBooks
Content management: Lets users upload and securely store various business documents such as sales orders, purchase orders, client contact details, product listings, and performance details.
Product listing management in Agiliron
Customer relationship management: Manages customer-centric tasks such as customer contacts details, customer service and support, help desk, customer feedback, customer tracking, and targeted marketing. This is an important feature, especially for sales and service businesses.
Customer contacts management in Zoho One
Human resources: Allows users to manage core HR functions such as payroll, personnel tracking, benefits administration, learning management, employee scheduling, employee time and attendance, talent management, performance review, and applicant tracking.
Personnel tracking in kpi.com
Inventory management: Lets users automatically order, store, and track inventory. They can also track the available raw materials and manage the different stocked items. The feature includes electronic item scanning, sales and purchase orders management, product categorization, and automatic reordering.
Inventory management in Brightpearl
Reporting and analytics: Tracks your organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and enhances performance across different business functions using actionable insights. The feature includes dashboards, scorecards, and data visualization tools.
Key performance indicators in Hubble
Marketing and sales management: Allows users to build and promote their brand, attract new customers, and manage leads through the sales funnel. The feature includes social media management, lead generation and management, email marketing, and marketing automation.
Lead management in Scoro
Scheduling: Allows users to create and manage employee schedules, track employee attendance, and assign workers to different shifts. The feature includes time-clock management, automatic reminders, and calendar management.
Schedule employee assignments in Workfront
Workflow management: Lets users define, control, and automate different business process workflows. It includes automatic notifications, role-based access, as well as task and time tracking.
Workflow automatic notifications in AllProWebTools
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Does your product offer features that are relevant to my business needs?
*Note: The applications shown above are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.
To make the best use of a business management solution, select a product that integrates with the apps you already use. Integration allows real-time data flow between different applications, eliminating the need for manual data transfer.
Here are some integrations you should ask for when selecting business management software.
Procurement software: The business management software must seamlessly integrate with your procurement software (or purchasing management software) to better manage the purchasing process, control organizational budgets, and ensure transparency in the spending process.
Online payment software: The software should integrate with your online payment software to ensure accurate, efficient, and secure financial transactions through various modes such as credit or debit cards, online banking, mobile payments, and digital wallets.
ERP software: The business management solution should seamlessly integrate with your ERP software to let you track information from all your departments and teams.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Does your product integrate seamlessly with the existing software used in my business?
Now that you've understood the common features of business management software and the necessary integrations, the next step is to evaluate the software’s advanced features. We haven't labeled these features as “common”, but some of these could be vital to you based on your specific business type.
Here are some of the advanced features that you could consider when selecting business management software:
IP restriction. Restrict your account usage to just a few IP addresses and avoid unauthorized access to your account. This feature keeps all your data safe and secure.
Live chat. Allow your teams to use an official chat tool to communicate effectively among themselves, with clients, or stakeholders located across different regions.
Multilingual interface. Convert the user interface to a language of your choice and eliminate any language-related barriers at work.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: How many of your advanced features are relevant to my business?
You want the business management software you choose to last for as long as possible. That’s precisely why you should watch out for some of the top business management software trends to remain competitive. Here are two of the current trends:
AI will revolutionize business management. As a business grows, it needs several software and social media platforms, such as Shopify and Facebook. Business management software vendors who are integrating AI modules into their workflow, are able to consolidate data from all sources into a single cloud-based dashboard. This consolidated data can be used to get actionable insights in the form of visual reports.
Increase in connected devices to boost IoT in business management. Devices that connect to the internet and share data with each other, such as sensors or gadgets, form an IoT network. By 2020, nearly 20 billion connected devices are expected to be in use globally.
This access to real-time data for employees, along with lower human intervention in repetitive tasks holds great potential for small businesses. By combining IoT and business management, they can better actionable insights and accurate forecasts.
We referenced the following documents while creating this guide:
GetApp business management software catalog (Date accessed: 1/6/2019)
Business Management Software, Capterra (Date accessed: 1/6/2019)
*Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations, obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.