7 lifehacks for getting the most from small business management software

7 lifehacks for getting the most of small business management softwareBefore we were a maker of small business management software tools ourselves, we were users of apps developed by other companies, and we still use dozens of productivity apps besides our beloved Planning Pod. In fact, we built Planning Pod because we simply never could find a small business management program that fit our needs … but that’s a whole other story.

Today we wanted to share with you our lifehacks and tricks for getting the most out of the business management software tools you buy.

1. Purchase only what you need (but with the ability to expand)
Often when I’m evaluating software I always find several options that go beyond what I really need and, of course, cost much more. This is often the case with lots of enterprise-based software, which has loads of functionality and is built for expansion.

On those occasions when I have opted for a software app that is overkill for my needs, I honestly end up never getting around to using all that extra functionality that I’ve paid for and then kick myself for buying it. So to avoid buyer’s remorse, I would recommend getting the business management program that fits your current needs but that can be upgraded later when you need more. No need to pay for more or have to learn more than is absolutely necessary.

2. Spend an hour “surfing” the app
When you’re house shopping, you walk through every room of a potential home to assess it properly. When you’re buying a car, you sit in the seats, open the hood and take it for a test drive before you consider buying it. Same goes with software. You should browse around the navigation, get used to the interface, set up some test accounts, put in some dummy information. This gets you familiar with the landscape and makes it less intimidating.

3. Map out ahead of time how you will use the system
You may have certain critical tasks or processes that you want to accomplish using the software. For example, you may want to use small business management software to track all the tasks, files and time associated for each job, and you may want to put dates on all these things so that you know what is getting done when. So when you are getting acclimated to the app, you should map out which functions you will use and how you will use them. This ensures that the information you save with each function is consistent and aligns with how you operate your business.

4. Train your employees on how they should use it
By mapping out how you are going to use the app, you not only give yourself a blueprint of how you are going to use the software but you give one to your employees as well. More than one business has given up on a business management program because of poor adoption among employees, and this usually happens when employees either don’t know how to use the app or don’t see the bigger picture of why using the app is so important to the business.

This can be avoided by simply providing an orientation session for the employees on how to properly use the functions that you have mapped out and how to store and retrieve information properly.

5. Visit the support center and read relevant tutorials
This may seem like a “no-duh” statement, but we get support requests all the time from people asking us how a particular function works, and most of the time we refer them directly to our support center, where we have devoted hundreds of hours coming up with in-depth tutorials on every area of our app.

Granted, not all support or help centers are alike, but a good software company will want to minimize their support tickets by providing a thorough help section, and so any good piece of software should have a reasonably decent help area. Honestly, the support center should become your good friend in becoming adept at using small business management software.

6. Ask very targeted questions when you contact support
Call me anal-retentive, but I have pretty much contacted support for practically every software application I have every purchased. It’s not that I find lots of bugs or am a complainer, but usually I simply want to know more about a particular function or tool and can’t find the details I’m looking for in the help area.

What I have found that streamlines the customer support contact process is to be very specific in my requests and provide as much detailed information upfront as I can. This eliminates lots of back-and-forth between me and the customer support rep and gets me my answer much faster so I can move on.

7. Provide recommendations to the software manufacturer
When I don’t see a feature that I’m looking for or if I see a way that the software could do something better or more efficiently, I often shoot off a quick email to the manufacturer to give them my feedback.

As a builder of small business management tools myself, I absolutely love it when people make suggestions and recommendations for improvements, mainly because you are telling me what will keep you happy and what will make my product better. And you would be surprised at the number of features that get added to apps that have their genesis in customer feedback.