Tools that can Help You Automate & Streamline Business Workflows
Consider these areas where automated solutions can completely revolutionize the way you do business.
An overwhelming majority of small business owners aren't using the software tools that they should be using when it comes to workflow automation. In fact, many people who run slick modern online companies still do many things by hand in spite of their otherwise digital business models.
Whether you already have at least some of your workflows automated or are just starting out, you'll want to consider these areas where new solutions can completely revolutionize the way you do business.
Tools to Solve Logistical Problems
A shockingly high percentage of small business owners say that in spite of how integrated their companies are with the global economy, shipping problems continue to be one of their biggest issues. As businesses grow, the number of shipments they need to deal with on a daily basis grows until the percentage of packages that don't reach their final destination starts to jump exponentially.
Tracking software is the easiest way to solve this issue. You're probably familiar with the serial numbers every single package you order or send get assigned. If you're not already leveraging this, then you need to start as soon as possible. Companies that are dealing with huge numbers of shipments can invest in a solution that will aggregate these numbers and display expected arrival times automatically.
Firms that manage their own pool of drivers will want to invest in a GPS tracking client, so they can see exactly where their own vehicles are headed. For instance, some businesses have installed a GPSWOX module into each company car they have in their fleet. If drivers are stuck in traffic, then they know right away and can plan for delays.
These systems are also good for those who are concerned with security problems. Should a vehicle be stolen, it wouldn't be difficult to trace the direction that the suspects were taking it. While one might hope that would never be a possibility, it's useful to have some contingency plan when trying to deal with every potential scenario.
Sales & Inventory Management Tools
Judging by surveys, inventory management software has been one of the most sought-after categories by those who run any kind of retail sales operation. As companies continue to try and compete with larger firms, they need more inventory information so they won't run out of stock.
When looking for an inventory automation platform, don't forget that it's possible to be overstocked as well. While this might not be an issue for drop-shippers that sell goods fulfilled by other dealers, it's a problem for anyone who has to do their own warehousing.
Don't forget about investing in some sales management programs either. Multi-channel apps are quickly taking the retail scene by storm, and the reason for this should be obvious to anyone who has a booth at trade shows or flea markets. It's nice to be able to take customer orders in different places and have them stored in the same ledger.
Some business owners have started to use point of sale platforms like Poster, which allows them to take customer orders online as well as in a store and at remote locations. Those that travel quite a bit should find that this kind of software drastically reduces the amount of work they have to do to get their books in order.
A few programs are designed to automate the online sales process, so you won't even have to worry about putting together invoices or shipping labels. This kind of software integrates with Amazon, eBay and other popular retailers so you can accept orders from multiple sites and then fulfill them from the same supply.
Retailers who sell from their own eCommerce site or who manage a physical business that also has a presence on the web will also want to consider using some website management tools to keep their sites fresh and up-to-date.
Website Management Software for All Businesses
At one point, a majority of developers tried to sell their website management packages to a very specific type of clientele. You'd see some that were geared toward bloggers while others were designed solely for those who needed to update an RSS feed and keep people downloading their podcasts. These programs were popular among those who hosted webinars and taught online real estate courses, but they didn't make much inroads into the world of retail.
General purpose apps are much more popular today. Developers don't gear their solutions to any one single industry, which makes them more flexible. Whether you need to keep blog content constantly fresh or need to automatically update sales headlines on your site's main landing page, pretty much any modern bundle of lightweight programs would work.
Don't feel that you need to invest in a solution that has more features than you feel comfortable with, however. A simple content management system might be all that you need (sNews is rather simple and lightweight). In order to try and penetrate the crowded market, quite a few companies have attempted to make their apps buzzword-compliant by shoving every single feature into them.
You probably won't use most of these, so just pick an app that's easy enough to use and works with the platform you're invested in. For instance, you might be able to find a plugin if you work with a WordPress blog. Those who primarily post to popular social media sites can more than likely find an efficient integration for their preferred platform.
Once you have these things sorted out, you'll want to also consider legal compliance and document management. Automation software can help you tackle these issues as well.
Streamlining Office Workflows with Software
Legal compliance is getting more difficult than ever. Even the smallest businesses often have to adhere to very complex terms that aren't always necessarily clear. Reading multiple contracts and then comparing terms isn't feasible even for those who are qualified to handle this kind of a task.
As a result, some companies are at risk for falling afoul of their obligations. Others outsource to third-party vendors, who then proceed to charge them an unreasonable amount for their services.
Contract lifecycle management apps can tackle most problems related to staying legally compliant for you at a fraction of the cost. You might want to consider investing in some kind of document repository as well.
Some apps can automate the filing of forms and even agree to terms for you as long as certain conditions are met. The adoption of sophisticated machine learning algorithms have helped to ensure the accuracy of these types of programs. Since non-compliance can cost even more than third-party contracts, the small price managers have paid for their software packages isn't usually frowned upon.
Generalized macro recorders and scripting apps might even help to further automate tasks you wouldn't have even thought of.
Streamlining Every Repetitive Workflow
Mainstream media pundits have focused on how computers are slowly replacing people in many workplaces. What they've missed, however, is the fact that many small business owners often don't have the staff to spare when it comes to handling certain routine tasks. Automating some workflows can free up human staffers to tackle more demanding chores.
Since this can increase the profitability of each project that your company works on, it might actually help you to keep an additional number of people on staff.