The economy is hitting EVERYONE very hard.
Those businesses that are on the brink of closing their doors, firing customers and looking like GM - but on a smaller level - your needs and the solutions to get out of your dilemma are clearly going to be different than those businesses that are doing relatively well in these challenging times.
To the later types of businesses, let your relatively strong position give you time to think about what technology you should consider and what technology you should NOT consider for your business.
Wasp Barcode has seen its share of revenue decrease. According to a recent press release, the company’s first-quarter sales were off 24 percent compared to the same period last year.
However, revenue steadily improved during the quarter, with March showing 15 percent sales growth over February, which likewise had increased over January.
Alone, Wasp Barcode is not a barometer of small business purchases, however, its bar code solutions are an interesting indicator of what small businesses are investing in.
Wasp's general manager, Tom O'Shea, expressed one growth area for many small businesses, especially those that are struggling and looking for ways to do more, with less.
He said, "There is a huge opportunity for us to reach the millions of small businesses that still rely on time-consuming, manual methods to manage inventory, track assets, tally timesheets and more."
Lesson One: For those businesses still doing a lot of work using manual labor (such as having a secretary collate incoming faxes!), it's time to automate as many steps as you can.
Why not set up easy to use forms (I use Google Docs) wherein the end user enters their own data - for example?
Lesson Two: Technology with the best ROI is often affordable, easy to use and quick to implement. You should not ignore important technologies that don't meet this criteria, but this is a good rule to follow, especially when your budget is tight.
Remember: Is it affordable? Is it easy to use? Is it fast to implement?
Integrated Hosted Software Suite: Pros and Cons - Street Smart Offers A Lot For A Little
You all know that "hosted applications", "software as a service (SaaS)", or cloud computing (however you wish to call it) is increasingly being used by more small (and large) businesses.
Installing software on a server, rolling it out to dozens of computers and worrying about how to keep the data synchronized is a thing of the past with hosted applications.
One of the frustrations with hosted applications is that one often has to use various applications throughout they day, with various logons. One of the benefits of a service like Infostreet's Street Smart 7 is that it offers you 12 applications for one fee ($10) per month, per user.
The application, although not revolutionary and certainly not "hip", but quite functional and useful for day to day operations of a small business include: address book, calendar, CRM, email, email archiving, employee directory, file sharing, knowledge base, portal, sync, tasks and web site publisher. (The $10 per month does not include CRM or email archiving).
Street Smart reminds me of Zoho's quite extensive suite of online software, almost 19 in fact and competitively priced as well.
When comparing online software suites, or any technology, don't just shop for it comparing the number of features and cost. What you need to consider is what software do you need to productively manage and run your business. No software will give you 100% of what you need. However, when you find the software that has most of what you need, consider that software for you.
The other thing to consider is how easy (or not) the software is to work with. Imagine two cars. At the outset both cars look good and seem to operate the same. However, when you start using them on a day to day basis you find that adjusting the driver's seat is a 30 minute process.
If adjusting the driver's seat is important to you, then this feature (seat adjustment) although seemingly small, could be a deciding factor in which software you'll choose.
If you're annoyed with going through 2 or 6 hosted applications throughout the day, an integrated suite of services, such as offered by InfoStreet's Street Smart could be quite useful and certainly economical.
One downside to the integrated approach is that while each of Street Smart's applications has the most basic functionality it can't compete with a company selling ONE of these applications as it's main offering.
For example, while Infostreet has a task feature, it can't compete with a task solution offered by Attask, 37 Signal's Basecamp or one of dozens of other task solutions.
Ramon Ray is the editor & technology evangelist for Smallboztechnology.com.