Few successful companies do not use technology to improve productivity, communicate more efficiently and track customers and goods. In fact, most successful organizations rely on technology for almost every aspect of their business. Although there are many types of technology available, going digital doesn’t have to intimidate business owners. It can all be broken down into understandable chunks of functionality.
For most companies, the most useful piece of equipment is also the most understood. Desktop computers loaded with office and productivity software packages allow workers to write letters, analyze financial information, send and receive emails, and design sales presentations. The computer itself could be a desktop model with a separate monitor and keyboard, or a mobile laptop. There are two main types of computers. Personal computers (PCs) operate using Microsoft Windows are the most common, and Macintosh Computers using Apple Computer's operating system are popular among creative professionals.
Software is loaded onto a computer to provide specific types of functionality. Productivity tools, such as Microsoft Word, a word processing package, and Microsoft Excel, a financial spreadsheet system, can perform many of the most common tasks a small business requires. Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote allow users to prepare professional-looking sales presentations quickly and easily. Millions of other titles are available, each developed to perform specific tasks.
Computers are often linked to form a network. This can allow people within an organization to share documents or information, provide a central repository to store documents, or for people to communicate using email within an office. They also allow several computers to share a printer or storage device. A network can be limited to computers within a shared office, or span across multiple offices and locations.
Although you might not consider an office telephone to be a piece of technology, today's business phone systems are quite complex. The most common type of phone system consists of a hardware unit that uses software to split the phone company's line among individual handsets. These systems often include an auto attendant that helps callers find the employee they are seeking and most also include a voice mail system for messages. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phones are becoming more popular. VOIP phones do not require a telephone line, but instead route all traffic over the Internet to a special handset.
Although technically software, accounting systems deserve their own mention because of their mission-critical role in any business. Accounting systems keep track of every dollar a company spends along with every dollar of revenue. One popular choice for smaller companies is Quickbooks by Intuit, which is simple to set up and maintain. Larger companies may want to consider SAP Business One or Sage Accpac, both of which allow for more customization and more integration with other systems. When trying to decide which software is right for you, ask your accountant for their recommendation.
Inventory Control System
If your business sells goods, you may want to explore an inventory control system. These systems keep track of every item in your inventory, ensuring you do not run out of stock, nor you order too much. When new inventory arrives, the system is updated to reflect the additions and when it is sold, it is deducted from the totals.
Customer Relationship Management Systems
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System tracks a customer throughout his experience with your company. From the moment you obtain information about the customer, the CRM system will track their interactions with you. If a customer calls to order a product or service, or calls for help or a technical question, the CRM system will tell the service representative when the items were shipped, what is back-ordered and any other conversations the customer may have had with your company. CRM systems help build relationships with a customer by assembling all the information your company collects from the customer in one place for use, review and proactive response.
By: Chris MacKechnie (smallbusiness.chron.com)