Business owners need every advantage. They wear multiple hats and often face grueling task lists with many demands competing for their time. Increasingly, entrepreneurs and small business owners are turning to technology to help get more done. For the more than 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. today, the right technology plays a key role in supporting growth, conquering task lists, and balancing it all. As Business News Daily highlights, women small business owners face unique challenges: less access to funding than male peers, difficulty accessing support and knowledge resources, and often balancing business and family obligations. In order to help you navigate these challenges, we’ve put together a list of five technology investments that can help you get more done.
- Invest in Mobility
The realities of business today mean that you’re always on the go. Whether you’re checking email in the evenings, responding to an emergency over the weekend, or staying in the loop of a major project during vacation, many business owners can’t disconnect completely.
The next best thing is having the right technology available to drive a mobile, agile workflow. Having the right technology on hand makes it easy to work where you want, when you want. It’s helpful to think of mobility as a core component of your everyday technology stack. Having the right hardware is important, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. But today’s mobility strategies don’t stop there. Smart ways to use technology to support mobility include:
- Investing in cloud computing: Shifting your key applications and storage to cloud systems offers a key advantage—the ability to access your critical systems and information anywhere you need to work. Look at ways to develop this infrastructure to support your access on the go. Cloud-based solutions can also help save you money, which is another benefit to consider.
- Use collaboration systems: When you’re at the helm of a team, it’s important to stay connected. Working with vendors, partners, and freelance talent can help you expand the capabilities of your business, while keeping overhead costs and other expenses down. Support collaboration and communication by evaluating when collaboration suites can help you stay connected and make it easier to give input into the work colleagues are doing around the globe.
- Consider a co-working space: Technologies such as printers and scanners can be useful in key situations, but when you’re working in a smaller space or on the go, they are simply not practical. Consider looking for options such as co-working spaces that offer access to amenities such as technology, conference rooms, and workspace.
Software as a solution (SaaS) tools offer a cost-effective option to help busy women business owners get more done. With SaaS solutions, your applications and data are stored in the cloud. That means they’re easy to access from anywhere and can be implemented without expensive hardware and ongoing IT management costs. For example, many business owners have shifted from desktop Microsoft products to Office 365, which offers access to key features in an integrated package. SaaS products are managed and updated by the provider, eliminating a significant amount of cost and IT management—yet ensuring you’re always using the latest version of the solution.
The right SaaS solutions can also increase productivity and automation. Consider solutions with features that let you automate tasks, such as an accounting system that automates payroll or a project management system that creates and sends invoices as soon as you complete a project. Productivity-increasing tools help business owners deliver more, which can expand the bottom line and your client base. By exploring how automation factors in, you’ll free up more time to focus on high-value activities and increase your outputs without needing to add more staff to your organization.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a cornerstone technology that can help you become more effective. A good CRM system helps you track customers, their purchase data, and the interactions that you have with them over time. However, a CRM system is more than just a repository of customer data. It helps ensure that every person in your organization has the same information available during customer interactions, from your sales team to customer service. Interactions become more targeted and personalized, making it easier to convert sales and build stronger relationships.
There are many CRM systems on the market to consider, such as Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce. When choosing a CRM system, keep a few key aspects in mind. First, look for a solution that not only fits your budget and needs today, but can scale as you grow. Switching CRM systems can be expensive and labor intensive, so understanding your long-term projections and choosing systems with that in mind can help maximize your investment over the life of the purchase. Second, select a CRM with a robust set of features that can inform different business functions. Many solutions include options for sales, marketing, customer service, account management and more. Finally, look for value-add technologies that can help you get more from the software. Salesforce, for example, offers its AI Einstein tool that automatically processes your data and uses these insights to offer strategies for more effective sales reach.
Project management software is a helpful tool for organization and communication. When you’re managing a large team or simply keeping your own workflow streamlined, consider investing in a project management tool. Busy women small business owners can benefit by looking at three features in particular:
- Task tracking: Keeping track of a to-do list can quickly become a job in itself, and that only becomes more challenging when you’re dealing with complex projects. Look for a solution that makes it easy to track tasks, including work in progress and dependencies across a project.
- Communication: Many project management software suites are more than just project plans. They offer collaborative features that let you assign tasks, share resources, offer feedback, and chat. If you have a team with multiple contributors, collaboration and communication features make it easy to work together seamlessly.
- Status updates: As a business owner, it’s critical to know where projects stand—for everything from providing customer updates to deciding if you need to hire new team members. The best project management software solutions offer features such as notifications when something is overdue, high-level status overviews, and custom reporting to meet your unique needs.
In today’s busy world, it’s critical to always be on. If a virus, hacker, or other disaster takes key systems offline, it can hurt client relationships and employee productivity. So it’s imperative to prepare. Scams and attacks are running rampant and many are targeting small business. The Ponemon Institute reports that 58% of small businesses have been targeted with malware, for example. The consequences can be devastating: Inc notes that 60% of small businesses don’t rebound after a serious cyber attack. Make sure your small business has a plan in place for security, such as a virus protection program that’s always up to date.
Having a strong security plan in place is the first step toward protecting your business. However, to keep your small business truly resilient, it’s important to also protect your business with backups. Cloud-based backups are constantly monitoring your devices for new files and making sure they’re stored in the cloud. No matter what happens—from computer hardware that breaks to a hack that takes you offline—you’ll know that you have your most important information protected. Women business owners already have a full plate; preventing data and cyber security disasters eliminates the need to worry and lets you focus on your most important tasks.
Running your own business means constantly contending with a major to-do list. The right technology can go a long way toward keeping you connected, productive, and in-the-know. If you’re looking for the right resources to get more done, evaluate your current technology foundation and explore whether an upgrade could eliminate roadblocks in your workflow, and position your business for future growth.