Today, there are enough technology solutions to make any small business owner's head spin. Add to that the many vendors competing for your business — and the varying services and pricing plans they offer — and selecting one solution becomes harder than ever. Furthermore, you will likely have to stick to the decision you make for a very long time, while making any changes will have a significant impact on your business and bottom line. As a business owner, choosing any new technology means you stand at a crossroads. The direction you choose, however, must put your employees' and customers' needs foremost.
"Business ownership can be both rewarding and challenging, especially when it comes to running a small business," said Jeremy Durham, senior manager of product and technology strategy at business solutions provider Paychex. "Small business owners find themselves balancing the requirements of day-to-day business operations against their own innate entrepreneurial spirit."
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"From payroll to workforce-management software, business owners can accomplish even more than ever before, and with ease," he said. The challenge is in choosing the right solution that both resolves current needs and adjusts for anticipated business needs and growth, he said. "With so many technology products on the market, choosing the right solution often requires diligent research."
To get the most out of their investments, Durham said businesses should consider the five following factors when choosing any new software or technology solution:
1. A rich user experience
Business owners should have the option to do what they want, where they want, when they want and how they want, without any interruptions in the processes. When it comes to technology, the best way to achieve this is by implementing a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that offers an intuitive user interface across a range of devices based on consistency, simplicity and intelligence. It aims to drive increased user productivity and streamline the tasks at hand.
2. Evolving capabilities
In the ever-evolving workplace, it's important to have technology that can evolve as quickly as your business. Cloud-based platforms are designed for scalability to meet growing customer demands. As a company grows and needs to add additional services from the technology vendor, the new features and functionality can be easily and seamlessly integrated with little to no disruption to the business owner. With cloud-based platforms, the vendor manages regular system updates, ensuring that the platform is running smoothly. That way, the business owner can stay focused on business goals, rather than the system.
One of the major benefits of a SaaS platform is that users can access it from anywhere at any time. Not only does this make it easier for business owners to do what they want, when they want, but it also allows them to grant secure access to employees and partners on their own devices. Additionally, mobile solutions enable business owners to manage their enterprises when on the go, while configurable desktops can help create easy-to-use actions and workflows for improved productivity.
When it comes to a company's financial data, employees' personally identifiable information or other proprietary information, security is a top priority for business owners. Often, a company's business information can be better protected in a SaaS solution than in traditional software. SaaS vendors take extra steps to keep their clients' data protected, and have access to top-rated data centers and technologies that most small- and medium-sized business owners don't.
5. Customer service
The vendor-client relationship can make or a break the success of a SaaS platform. Questions will inevitably arise during the implementation period, and day-to-day use of the system, so it's always a good idea to research vendors' service models to ensure live help will be available when you need it. Business owners should fully research the vendor's expertise and ensure the platform meets the needs of their business.
[Read our guide to learn more about cloud based CRM solutions for small business]