These days, we all have our head in the Cloud – and it turns out, that’s a good thing.
The rise of cloud computing has opened up incredible potential for businesses to grow faster than ever before, with fewer overheads and hardware requirements, and now even small and medium-sized enterprises can take advantage of world-class technology to streamline business activities, gain vital insights and, ultimately, boost revenue and expand.
With such a huge explosion of new innovations targeting every niche and nuance of your business, how do you wade through to find the most essential enterprise software tools for the digital age?
Here’s our guide to the top enterprise apps you can’t – or at least, shouldn’t – do without.
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
Don’t you hate it when you’re so busy that a potential client slips through your fingers?
Unless you possess superhuman organizational skills and the memory of an elephant, there will be times that you let communication dwindle, missing opportunities to close a deal, upsell, cross-sell, or market new products to existing customers.
As PC World puts it beautifully, “Customer relationship management software is a contact list with a brain.” This type of enterprise software works by giving you an invaluable overview of where you are with each client, pulling together customer contact information and details of when and how you’ve been in touch.
This includes interactions in person, through social media, over phone and email and possibly even calls to customer support, and notes on where you left things with them – helping you to make sure a valuable customer never falls off your radar again.
Typically, the best CRM services include features like workflow automation, dedicated document libraries, role-based user access, multi-currency support, email integration and tracking, and lead capture from websites and custom reporting.
2. Project Management Tools
Among the most accessible enterprise apps (especially if you have secret technophobic / traditionalist tendencies!) are those geared towards better project management for teams.
These are designed to help your collaborate more effectively, even if your team is scattered all over the globe. They make sure everyone involved has clearly defined targets and deadlines, and can drop in at any time to check on progress and make sure they have what they need from their colleagues to get their own work done.
Usually, tools like these give an overview of all active projects, but allow you to dive into each one to check every milestone, every detail, and every upcoming task you need to complete to keep your progress on schedule.
Used right, these apps are an amazing way to visualize shared workflows, maximize productivity, keep up the momentum – and make sure no task gets forgotten.
3. Marketing Automation
As your company expands, there is just no way to perform all of your day-to-day marketing activities on a manual basis. You can’t handle correspondence with every individual person on a sprawling mailing list, personally reply to every Facebook message or new inquiry, or even to post every Tweet or LinkedIn update in real time, yourself. There is just too much to do, and too little time.
This is why enterprise software for marketing automation is so handy. These apps and tools allow you to automate communication with your audience via email, SMS, social media and/or digital ads; quickly and easily segment your list to create targeted marketing campaigns; and set things up so you contact targets after a specified action or an optimal period of time.
This technology can drastically improve efficiency, keep campaigns on schedule and improve accuracy, allowing marketing teams to focus on creating great content or developing big, ambitious strategies and campaigns.
4. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software
If a company was a sentient being with a brain, that brain would be an ERP. An ERP system basically takes all the different modules of the business, digitizes them, and creates complex networks between them that mean everyone is working from the same core records and up-to-date information.
The system also integrates with other important enterprise software tools, including CRM, BI, financial information, inventories, asset and supply chain management technology, materials resource management, point of sale data, and sometimes even project management apps.
Implementing an ERP can drastically clean up the way larger organizations operate by making activities and workflows more cohesive and transparent. They also offer up important insights that help identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies and improve planning for the future.
5. Treasury Management System (TMS)
The purpose of a TMS is to provide a single version of truth where all things financial in your business are concerned. It gives you a complete overview of where the money is in the organization, helping you to track and predict cash flow, manage debt, mitigate FX risk, free up money for investments, ensure you’re always on the right side of relevant compliance regulations – and handle pretty much any other tasks that come under the broad umbrella of corporate finance.
Due to some obvious overlaps, some organizations that have already splurged on an ERP don’t see the point of a dedicated TMS, and for smaller enterprises that’s probably fair.
On the other hand, if you’re a large company juggling all kinds of investments, you deal with several different currencies and/or you have multiple locations and bank accounts spread across the world, you’ll struggle to find an ERP that has the full functionality you need to manage your money in the most effective and agile way. Seeking out a top system that integrates seamlessly with your ERP will most likely be a better shot.
6. Business Intelligence (BI)
Ah, you didn’t think we’d let this one slip through the net, did you?
In all seriousness though, in this rapidly changing corporate landscape, high quality data analytics and the ability to understand where your business is, how it got there, and where it’s going next is supremely important. This means that having a reliable, accurate, and powerful BI tool in place is crucial.
In essence, BI software works by pulling in data from all your data sources, harmonizing and combining this, and allowing you to run queries that extract actionable insights from these disparate sources. Typically, these insights are presented in dashboards that tell you in a glance how the business is doing and how much progress you’re making on hitting your KPIs.
As with all types of enterprise software applications, though, not all BI platforms are created equal. In particular, many BI vendors claim that their software is self-service, but definitions of self-service cloud BI vary depending on who you talk to. Ideally, you should be looking for a system that allows non-technical users to manipulate dashboards and query data without IT getting involved, but without losing the all-important granularity that help you understand exactly what’s going on, and why.
Leading the way: Well, we hate to toot our own horn, but…
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