Running an online business is seldom easy. Competing demands on your time, managing staff, looking after customers and juggling the many threats to your productivity can all add to the challenge. Add in the fact that much of this may also have to be done remotely, and it can seem like an uphill struggle.
This is where having the right tool stack can make all the difference. Advances in technology mean that there is now an abundance of tools that can help you to be more productive, establish strong communication system, manage your team more effectively and make your business increasingly efficient.
But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which tools will move your business closer to success, and which will sit on the proverbial shelf gathering dust? Follow these simple steps to help you identify what you need in your tool stack, and then take a look at our pick of the best apps available in 2018.
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Start with the needs of your business
Choosing the right tool stack for your online business is really a case of matching the features and benefits of the tools available, to the individual requirements of your organization. Consider the following points to help you identify what your business needs:
? How big is your business in terms of customers and employees? A small business is unlikely to need enterprise grade solutions.
? What are the pain points in your business? Speak to employees to get a better view.
? What are the key processes for your business? Knowing will help you to prioritize which tools you need.
? What tools and systems do you currently use? New tools should integrate seamlessly with existing systems.
? What are the costs associated with implementing new tools? Use this to compare tools.
Find the best tools for the job
Once you know the areas of your business that need some attention, it's time to select the right tool for the job. Here, we have rounded up our pick of the best tools available in 2018.
Get on top of time and project management
Knowing exactly where your time goes can help you make better use of it, while good project management tools are invaluable for keeping your team and customers in the loop and on track.
? Toggl makes logging hours a breeze with a simple start and stop button. You can then analyze your time with a variety of reports, which is especially useful if you bill clients based on hours worked.
? Asana arranges a project's tasks, conversations and time management into one dashboard, giving you a complete overview of how everything is progressing and letting you stay organized. Asana is well-suited to project- and client-focused businesses.
? Trello is an electronic version of your team's workflow, replacing post-it notes and whiteboards. This flexible system allows users to create boards, lists and move notes around, while also facilitating communication.
Take the pain out of managing business finances
Taking care of the finances is an evil necessary for many business owners. These apps make it as painless as possible, freeing up more time to focus on strategic business issues.
? Xero takes all the tools you need, and combines them in one platform. Use it to take care of invoices, expenses, inventory, payroll and payment services, plus the associated reporting. Xero integrates seamlessly with other third-party extensions such as Shopify, Magento and PayPal.
? Expensify integrates with accounting platforms such as Xero, Oracle and Quickbooks, to automate the processing of expenses. It includes every part of the process from scanning receipts to reimbursing employees.
? Freshbooks is a straightforward billing and reporting platform that takes care of invoicing, time tracking, expensing and the associated reports, as well as payment services.
Make the most of the cloud
Businesses on the whole seem to be moving more and more towards cloud-based systems. For online businesses, however, being able to store, access and share documents from virtually anywhere is a necessity.
? Dropbox has been around for some time now, but it is still the gold standard for securely storing and sharing large files.
? Google Drive is a file creation, storage and backup system that is part of the G Suite of applications. Use it to easily collaborate with your team on spreadsheets, presentations and documents.
? Microsoft OneDrive comes preinstalled with Windows 10 and is similar to Google Drive. If your systems are Windows based, you and your team can use it to access and edit documents on any device, through Office 365.
With so many great tools on the market promising multiple benefits, deciding which to use can be a daunting task. Keep in mind that the key to choosing the right tool stack for your online business is meeting your company's unique requirements. Start by assessing your current situation and find out where change is needed. Once you have this information, you can start to match the features of the various tools available to the specific needs of your business, and choose a tool stack that works for you.