For those who geek out on Excel (myself included) the years of frustration with the limitations of the VLOOKUP function are nearly at an end. Microsoft is introducing a feature called XLOOKUP, which will bring new functions and make data lookup much easier. See link for the full story.
I originally became a fan of Dropbox back in 2010. For those who are not users of this clever software, its a cloud based file storage service which syncs across all your devices, Mac, PC, iOS and more.
One feature that really interested me in the early days was that you were able to share specific folders to other Dropbox users, wherever they happen to be. In this way, it became like a network ‘shared drive’ that’s always available and not dependent on all the users being on the same LAN.
After many years of development, Dropbox continues to get better and better. Its apps on iOS and Android are excellent, giving access to all your files from virtually anywhere. They also have a business solution designed to remove the need for servers and other storage devices in SME organisations.
The basic Dropbox service is free although this gets you a rather small 2gb of storage space. I use the ‘Plus’ version which is £79/year but users receive 1TB of space. There are many Business plans with higher storage and team functionality.
Follow the link below to learn more.
The use of Customer Relationship Management systems by SMEs varies widely. Often this is dependent on the industry or sector they are in but perhaps these days, all businesses should consider what they need in terms of tracking and maintaining their customer relationships.
Those who have a very small customer base often say that CRM is not needed as they have a close watch on all the interactions. However, particularly in the age of electronic communications, it is essential to have all the dialogue together and easily accessible. That’s where CRM comes in.
A huge range of software tools are available, usually fitting into easily defined categories and have clear target markets. For example, Salesforce.com is a high spec system covering sales, service and marketing for medium and large companies. It is a complete cloud platform on which other applications can be developed. This is typically used by companies with a high number of customer or prospect records.
At the other end of the scale are such as Zoho CRM, a much leaner cloud based system which is ideally suited to SMEs. The learning curve is low, deployment quick and can be accessed from virtually anywhere.
One key area for SMEs to consider is email integration. If the objective is that every email to and from a customer or prospect is logged or referenced in the CRM tool then this must be a critical area of functionality. Check to ensure that the system integrates with your preferred email platform.
In fact the way in which CRM links to other systems in the business is critical if we are to prevent multiple instances of the customer relationship appearing across the organisation. Anyone considering a CRM implementation should spend some time looking at this area and process mapping how the proposed solution will integrate with existing processes.
This is a vast topic with many good resources available online to gain a far better understanding of CRM before committing to a particular solution. My main point would be to ensure that you understand where it all fits into your business process.
For a long time I had been looking for a better financial accounting package. The Sage range of products are cumbersome to use for a non-accountant and used to have to be installed on a single PC. Multi-company and multi-user versions of Sage are expensive. What I needed was a simple cloud based system which could be accessed from anywhere and by other users who have the necessary permissions.
After an extensive search I settled on ‘Kashflow‘. It is an extremely easy to use, cost effective and built for small businesses who do their own accounts.
As a cloud based solution, the software can run on any platform with a browser and be accessed by anyone with permission. There is a separate accountants portal which enables you to give permission for your advisers to access the data when completing annual accounts.
Kashflow are a UK based organisation and seem to have an excellent community of users who push for new functionality and updates. Weekly backup files are sent via email which, while hopefully not really necessary, provide an element of reassurance for those who are not comfortable with no data on their local computer.
After several financial years of Kashflow I would never go back to Sage. I find it pitched just right for small business owners who would rather run their business than struggle to learn accounting software.
See their site www.kashflow.com for more details and give it a try.