London, United Kingdom (PressExposure) November 17, 2009 -- Financial planning
Few businesses can do without finance and accounting software. It provides a way of recording and measuring sales, costs and profits. It can also be used to automatically generate invoices and formal business correspondence. What's more, some accounting software allows you to carry out analysis on your figures, to see trends and patterns in your business' performance.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that if you plan to use your accounting package to submit statutory accounts, it needs to meet the relevant legal requirements and defined accountancy standards.
Office sweet spots
Most businesses use Microsoft Office for their office productivity applications, because it provides word processing, spreadsheet, communication, database and presentation tools. But suites other than Microsoft are also worth considering, such as OpenOffice.org, or Sun's StarOffice. These are compatible with Microsoft's applications and also carry a low-cost price tag.
Groupware and collaboration is another level of office productivity software, and can help employees to work together by sharing information. Although not suitable for all businesses, this type of software has its merits and can facilitate teamwork and increase business process efficiencies, enabling staff to send messages, files, data or documents. The sorts of functions that the software can bring are:
â¢ Online conferencing â¢ Electronic faxing â¢ Interactive voice mail â¢ Wikis (online resource libraries) â¢ Web publishing â¢ Revision control of documents
Groupware and collaboration software can also help teams to share information in a more interactive way. Examples include:
â¢ Internet forums (also known as message or discussion boards) â¢ Online chat (a virtual discussion platform to facilitate and manage real-time text messages) â¢ Instant messaging to share expertise or knowledge between employees in different locations â¢ Telephony tools which say where other users are and what their status is - for example, in a meeting â¢ Video conferencing, to limit physical travel and related costs â¢ Use of a common online whiteboard that each user can write or draw on â¢ Application sharing, where users can simultaneously access a shared document or application
Groupware and collaboration software has also given rise to a whole host of network-centric applications, which are termed collaborative management tools. These enable people to work together more easily. Examples include shared electronic calendars; project management systems, whereby teams have access to the same status reports, charts, timing plans, and so on; online spreadsheets, again to facilitate efficient group work.
When it comes to other sorts of business software, the sky seems to be the limit. The meatier business tools tend to be favoured by larger businesses, and examples include:
1. Customer relationship management - for recording customer information and assessing trends in buying habits 2. Sales force automation - helpful for organising and managing sales teams and leads 3. Human resources software 4. Business intelligence tools 5. Database management systems 6. Supply chain management tools
However, like groupware and collaboration, these may not be for everyone. When it comes down to it, they can add cost and complexity to small businesses' IT systems, and could be surplus to requirements, so take a good look at what you really need and do plenty of research before you buy.