Today’s competitive business landscape has companies looking to technology to find some advantage. Many are compelled to undergo digital transformation to become more efficient in their business processes. But even newer companies often struggle to determine what components ought to comprise their “tech stacks.”
For smaller ventures, this process can be especially overwhelming. With limited resources, leaders and IT officers of these smaller operations have to effectively manage how they adopt and implement various digital solutions. This forces some to keep things analog or make do with the limited functionalities of traditional on-premises and offline solutions.
Fortunately, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud computing have lowered the barriers to powerful features previously found only in enterprise-grade, custom-developed software. Today, the maturity of the SaaS ecosystem allows businesses to simply subscribe online and get immediate access to apps, instead of having to invest significant capital upfront, purchasing the necessary infrastructure, software licenses and setup services.
For legacy SMBs that are especially strapped for resources, or that are especially skeptical about the value of these tools, it’s also possible to incrementally and selectively migrate processes to SaaS. The diversity and functional specialization of the apps available allows companies to experiment with and get accustomed to digital workflows, one operational aspect at a time. This also enables them to identify and cherry pick the business areas where these solutions have the potential for the most dramatic immediate impact.
Here are four areas where SMBs can use SaaS and feel the benefits right away.
Financial technology (fintech) has revolutionized the way money is handled these days. People are now interested in convenient online and digital options to manage their accounts. Because of this, businesses should be able to catch on to this cashless trend and even accommodate a variety of payment methods.
SaaS payment solutions like Vend can now turn mobile devices such as tablets into point-of-sale (POS) machines. The service can process traditional card-based payments and even integrate with digital wallets and online payment providers. This not only enables merchants to process a variety of payment methods but also effectively lowers the costs of implementing digital cashier systems.
Digitized bookkeeping can also help small ventures be more efficient. Accounting software like QuickBooks and Xero now have SaaS versions that offer convenient remote access. Decision makers can even readily access dashboards and reports through mobile apps.
For small businesses, even the task of invoicing can be quite the chore. Working on recurring invoices for 100 clients on a monthly basis can already be a time sink when done manually. Since SaaS solutions don’t have to shut off, such tasks can simply be configured and queued for execution. The system generates and emails customers their invoices even after office hours.
2. Document management
Depending on hard copies of files can be problematic, but 82 percent of small businesses still do so. Paper documents can be physically damaged by mold, pests, water and even spilled coffee. In addition to volatility concerns, keeping physical documents organized accessibly and compactly can be a challenge.
Even local area network-based digital file sharing has major downsides. Shared folders and storage on the network often lack essential functionalities such as automated backups, cybersecurity and useful indexing. Cloud-based SaaS solutions not only take away the need to manage the infrastructure, but also include many of the above functionalities as standard.
Some have more sophisticated features, such as advanced organization and search, or collaboration modules. ContractZen, for instance, implements a metadata-driven service that organizes documents according to as many parameters as admins like. Documents can be tagged by type, parties, expiration dates, subject, or whether they’re for HR, finance, projects, or legal. This makes locating files more efficient. The service also features virtual data rooms, where collaborators can access collections of documents via a handy resource-hub interface.
3. Sales and marketing
Companies have to be proactive when connecting with prospects. With digital natives coming of age and filling buyers’ roles, the market is also starting to prefer digital channels for communication, which means that businesses need tools to help them optimize activity for the business opportunities to be found via social media, email automation and conversational messaging.
Marketing automation apps like ActiveCampaign and Marketo comprehensively cover the various stages of the online funnel, from site visitor tracking to experimenting with nurture messaging. These services even allow users to create and launch customized campaigns, depending on a prospect’s profile. They also have customer-relationship management (CRM) functionalities that help better manage each customer. Data-collection tools like Rivery, which integrates with dozens of third-party platforms, can be extremely useful for measuring and analyzing marketing and sales success across channels.
With the job of modern sales and marketing requiring timely action, SaaS solutions enable staff to retrieve and relay key information regarding their customer engagement activities, which is especially important if they work from the field.
4. Supply chain and inventory
Supply-chain management systems used to be exclusive to big businesses. This isn’t the case anymore, as SaaS-based solutions have made even these capabilities accessible for to companies of all sizes.
Radio frequency (RF) trackers have the power to dramatically simplify inventory management. Businesses are able to tell in real time where their equipment, products, and materials are. For instance, those engaged in manufacturing can use systems like these to reduce costs and run lean, just-in-time processes.
SaaS solutions are also finding synergies with this type of hardware. AssetWorx and Terso, for example, offer cloud-based RF identification tracking services that minimize the costs in implementing these technologies, which typically involve infrastructure and additional computing hardware.
Investing in efficiency
Digital transformation elevates businesses to become more efficient and competitive. SaaS solutions can clearly help them through enterprise-grade functionalities at more accessible costs. The uptime and connectivity provided by SaaS also allows companies and staff to securely access information and be able to work on critical tasks, no matter where they are.
SaaS also provides flexibility. Since there is no long-term commitment or extended time to value, businesses also have the luxury of testing which solutions truly improve their processes most. The subscription model also allows IT spending to become an operational expense. Small businesses can then leverage the financial flexibility for other efforts and prioritize their spending.
Efficiency typically leads to better customer satisfaction, better sales, and profitability. As the market continues to move towards a digital-first landscape, small businesses find that shifting processes over to SaaS is the way to go.