The importance of collaboration - and the technology that empowers it - has never been clearer. Rushed into rolling out remote working practices during successive lockdowns, many small businesses have been forced to try and make their existing applications work in a distributed environment.
This has exposed the limitations of both software and processes, as well as the inefficiencies that they cause.
A no-win choice (apparently)
With limited time, budget and experience, SMEs face a seemingly impossible choice. “Off the shelf” software is extremely attractive because it works straight out of the box. But there is a trade-off; there will probably be features and functions you don’t need for instance. The software is also quite rigid in operation, which means that you have to adapt your processes to work around it, a major inconvenience that is likely to limit your business growth.
The other obvious option is to choose something simple and powerful like spreadsheets, either locally or in the cloud. Spreadsheets are deceptively simple to set-up and offer a lot of functionality, but they can quickly spiral out of control and become difficult to manage. Disastrous results often ensue, including financial and data losses. Worse still, they are not really designed for use in distributed collaboration, which makes them doubly unsuited to today’s remote working practices.
Tools like G Suite from Google and Microsoft 365 have made it possible to collaborate on spreadsheets in real time. However, this does not to address the reality; the documents themselves are not the right tool for a growing business. On top of that, manual error and a lack of control remain a severe risk to operations.
All you need and nothing more
Choosing good software for your business boils down to a single principle – all that you need and nothing more. Off-the-shelf software fails this test because it usually includes features you don’t need and ways of working that don’t fit.
Spreadsheets on the other hand are simple, effective and deliver the basics that a small business needs to get started. However, your needs will change as the business grows; this is where spreadsheets will quickly become an efficiency and risk issue.
It is not unusual to have one spreadsheet dedicated to each task – accounts, HR, sales and marketing, stock management etc. It is almost impossible to gain a complete overview of your operations, especially when you have multiple users entering and updating information simultaneously.
The solution is to choose a system that delivers spreadsheet-like simplicity with the ability to scale and change as your needs do. Something capable of delivering all you need and nothing more.
What am I looking for?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for your software needs, hence the problems with off-the-shelf packages. However, there are several common factors that will help boost collaboration in your business:
Your needs will certainly change over time, so a suitable platform will need to adapt accordingly.
Your business processes are unique, so you want a package that works the way you do. Customisation allows you to build the features and functions that you need.
Spending days and weeks learning how to use new software is a poor use of your time. You are looking for a tool that you can use and customise as easily as a spreadsheet.
Configuring secure access to server-based software is a significant technical challenge for SMEs. Choosing a cloud-hosted platform solves those problems immediately, allowing your dispersed team to begin working together quickly.
No-Code: a worthy alternative
As the world adjusts to post-pandemic remote working and the demand for collaborative work tools grows, it is time to seriously consider the effect your choice of software will have on operations and profitability. No code platforms are quickly becoming a popular choice among businesses globally, with Gartner estimating that an estimated 75% of enterprises will be using four or more no code development tools by 2024.
And for good reasons too. Unlike off-the-shelf packages, which can be difficult to adapt and customise, no-code can be integrated into your operations. Existing platforms can be easily integrated into one single framework, with cross-device applications enabling teams to stay connected wherever and whenever.
With their cloud-based backups and thorough audit trails provided alongside any changes that are made to a project, no-code platforms also alleviate the risk associated with spreadsheets. Not only do these platforms enable you to store information securely, they also provide increased accessibility to all projects, which allows you to get a more complete overview of your operations – across teams, departments and customers.
Choosing software is a potential minefield, which is why so many firms have been trapped using spreadsheets for so long. The reality is that spreadsheets are not up to the task, particularly in the age of collaborative working, and off-the-shelf solutions aren’t flexible to your business strategy and operations.
This is where no-code platforms like Gridfox come in. If you are looking for a solution that is secure, accessible and scalable in line with your business strategy, then a no-code platform could be the answer to your software debate.
Want to find out more? Get started with Gridfox free here.