You don’t have to be a big cutting-edge company or a trendy startup to take advantage of technology. The benefits of digital transformation are available for every business, regardless of size. Whether you’re a new operation keen to grow, working with a small, tight-knit team, or a sole practitioner doing everything yourself, there is a whole world of technology out there to take your business to the next level.
With the proper use of technology, small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) can:
- Save time to focus on more meaningful tasks.
- Reduce spending by consolidating functionality or removing redundancies.
- Identify new opportunities and maximize value from each business relationship.
- Enhance business operations and support post-pandemic work arrangements such as remote or hybrid staff.
A study by Deloitte analyzing US companies with less than 250 employees laid bare the benefits of using digital tools. Compared to those with low digital engagement, digitally advanced operations earned twice as much revenue per employee and experienced almost four times the revenue growth. Despite the benefits of using digital tools, 80% of US companies fail to take full advantage of them.
So, what technology does your small business need to boost its potential? Listed below are a range of SME tech options that generate revenue or save time, potentially paying for themselves.
Accounts payable software
Every business has bills to pay, and whether it’s supplies, rent, utilities, loan repayments, or something completely different, managing your outgoings can quickly spiral into a time-consuming task.
Thankfully, an accounts payable software is now available to streamline the entire process from approval and ordering to collection, invoicing, and payment. With dedicated bill-paying software, your team has a single source of information for each transaction. You can:
- Add users and assign spending approval privileges.
- Quickly add bill and invoice information by uploading files or photographing paper copies.
- Stick to a single payment method, such as bank transfer or credit card, even if the vendor doesn’t accept it (the accounts payable software charges your preferred payment method and sends a compatible payment method, such as a check, to the vendor.
- Optimize your cash flow through successful accounts payable management, for example, by setting reminders to take advantage of early payment savings or changing to a credit card payment to defer payment and keep cash on hand.
- Sync with broader accounting software so every part of the company is on the same page.
Accounting software simplifies:
- Tracking cash flow.
- Sending invoices.
- Organizing expenses.
- Generating financial reports.
- Overseeing payroll.
- Preparing for and completing your tax return.
With modern accounting software, you can accurately track your finances, reduce errors, and sync all of your data into a single platform. Remove tedious, repetitive accounting tasks and let your finance team work on bringing value to the company. Alternatively, with the help of these tools, smaller operations can do without an accounting department or bookkeeper, tracking all the data they need and hiring a freelancer to get through tax season.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM software organizes a business’s interactions with its customers and potential leads. It aims to streamline the sales process, so you can increase revenue while also improving customer service.
CRM software can take many forms, acting as a central repository for all customer information (i.e., preferences, contact channels, communications, etc.) and capturing insights to ensure a great experience regardless of which member of the staff is interacting with the customer.
Modern CRMs come with a range of functionality, including tracking the leads opening or responding to your outbound marketing material. They help sales staff focus their attention where it is most effective, targeting potential customers with a higher chance of conversion.
Generative AI Assistants
Since the release of ChatGPT, the world has gone wild for AI. With OpenAI and other companies opening up their generative AI models to the developer community, we’re seeing a wave of new AI use cases across almost every industry.
A number of startups are looking to build customized AI assistants trained on company data. Imagine an AI model like ChatGPT with a text box interface for prompts but trained on all of your company’s data. Virtual, customized AI assistants have the potential to transform business operations from onboarding new clients and corporate training to managing customer information and identifying future customers.
Other SME digital tools to consider
While the above are four popular digital tools all SMEs should investigate, there is so much more on offer, including:
- Project management platforms: Efficiently oversee project deliverables and deadlines and adapt to new situations.
- Inventory management software: Track all of your business’s resources in a single platform so you always meet customer demand.
- HR software: Dedicated tools covering all HR functionality, including L&D, payroll management, hiring, etc.
- Social media automation tools: Set up automatic social media posts across multiple platforms.
- Email marketing platforms: Create and manage email marketing campaigns, including personalized emails and cart abandonment emails.
- Password managers: Prevent employees from using easy-to-guess passwords or reusing passwords from personal accounts that may become compromised.
- E-signature software: Remove the need to send and sign physical contracts and agreements.
- Team calendar apps: Get team members synced up with a shared calendar to better manage meetings and deadlines.
As you can see, there’s a lot of enterprise technology for SMEs, and it is unlikely you’ll be employing every one listed above. But depending on the size of your operation, your budget, and the industry you operate within, a number of these tools could bring significant value to your company.
Much of the value businesses gain from technology is through automating or streamlining previously time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks. They aren’t there to replace employees but rather to work with them, removing the mundane tasks so they can focus on areas that require human creativity and thought.
When getting started, narrow down this list to the tools that would make the biggest difference to your operations and hunt around for free trials so you can play around with the software before committing. Start slow, see what works best for you, and take an analytical approach. Determine the time and money you’re saving to learn which tools pay for themselves and which aren’t for you.