Online business tools can offer you greater flexibility and the ability to collaborate more efficiently.
It is easy to get caught up in the hype of online and cloud computing services that promise to revolutionise how you do business. Unfortunately, it is just as easy to get bogged down by the wide choice of options.
It is therefore best to approach online tools with a strategy in mind. Without some idea of what tools you need, how you will use them, their benefits and cost it is likely you could end up with a collection of tools that only partially meet your needs.
Here are key questions you should ask yourself in order to create a clear online service strategy:
What tools do I need?
Online services are available to help you with a wide variety of business operations - from productivity tools like Microsoft Word and Excel, accounting and payroll to customer management. Determine which of these services are critical to the efficient running of your business, and which you can confidently consume online.
How easy is it to roll this out to staff and other collaborators?
Ease of use and access by your staff members as well as customers and suppliers are critical if online tools are going to streamline your business. It is of little use if a tool requires time-consuming training or is more complex than solutions you already use.
What tools are my suppliers and clients using?
This principle applies especially if you need to collaborate with customers or suppliers. Find out from key partners which tools they use, or would be willing to use to simplify cross-company collaboration.
What level of mobile device integration is available?
A streamlined business is one that allows employees to work as efficiently outside the office than when at their desk. Determine the level of mobile device compatibility before committing to an online service.
How scalable is the service?
One of the advantages of online services is the ability to scale up or down the level of services and functionality consumed. Be sure to check the service’s terms and conditions as they relate to adding more services or users, or scaling them back.
How do the costs compare to other software solutions?
As much as online services offer flexibility and monthly subscription fees, it is always wise to compare prices between the different providers as well as how these stack up against buying a software tool outright.
Key take-away: Online business tools can offer you greater flexibility and the ability to collaborate more efficiently. It is best, however, to properly assess all your options before committing to a system that does not meet your needs.