- THE MAGAZINE
In the business world of the 21st century, computers have become very important, if not essential, tools for efficient operation. Selecting the appropriate software programs for the various business functions where computers are used is critical to getting the maximum benefit from this valuable equipment.
The key to getting the proper software packages for your business is to start with the realization that the software and the computer it runs on are tools for you to use, like your cleaning machine. And before you can select any tool you must first know what you need it to do. Don't make the mistake of purchasing a software package and then trying to restructure your business to fit the program. Instead, define the job you need done and locate the software that fits your need.
Yet business owners sometimes shy away from adapting and using "new" technology, not because they are afraid of it but because the salespeople are too busy telling them what a software program can do as opposed to what it can do for them.
There are many areas of the typical cleaning and restoration business where software selection is critical. I'm sure with a little careful thought you could extend the list for your specific business, but this might serve to get things started.
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Many of these functions might be performed by a single software program, while others might require specific, specialized programs. When multiple programs are needed, it is important to make sure the programs selected are compatible and can "talk" to each other. For example, a desktop publishing program that you might purchase to develop newsletters or flyers should be able to integrate with your customer mailing list. Your financial accounting program needs to "talk" to your scheduling, invoicing, and spreadsheet programs. For example, the popular accounting program Quickbooks from Intuit can send and print reports in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format.
One way to help insure this compatibility is to purchase software "suites," such as Microsoft Office, where you can get word processing, desktop publishing, spread sheet, data base management, scheduling and calendar, e-mail, and presentation programs in one integrated package, with options available for money management (accounting) and/or Web site design if needed.
Other factors to consider in selecting the right software include ease of use, available technical support and budget. Some software packages may appear very expensive when you first look at the price tag, but are really pretty reasonable when you consider the labor and contractor expenses that can be saved.
Software is one of the tools necessary for a modern business to succeed; the same considerations must be applied in selecting it as with any other important piece of equipment. Ask these important questions: will it do what you want better than the way you do it now? Can it be used by the people I currently have on staff? Is maintenance and support available should something go wrong? Does it do a lot of things that I don't anticipate ever needing? Can I afford it?
Good software can make your business many times more efficient, but bad software can be a nightmare. Talk with other professionals and find out what programs they are using, how they have impacted their business and what they would recommend. Do your homework before you purchase to be sure you get the tool you need.