Software Selection for SMEs: How to select the best software for your business

A series of articles helping you to improve your business performance through technology

Office 365, the answer to your problems?

System selection is a monumental task; made harder for small-to-medium-enterprises (SMEs) with the over saturation of the market and the wealth of marketing which is poured out by companies. Depending on your requirements there are a huge range of products which may fit your criteria – and sometimes it may feel that there are none at all. After all, there is a lot of moving parts to consider. Through this series we will look at three key points;

  • The common problems SMEs face when trying to select business software

  • Detail the key points any business should consider before selection

  • Provide some insight on the solutions you likely already have at your fingertips, with Office 365.

So, what would we recommend?

Of course, our first recommendation is that you have considered your business requirements and these four other notable factors. Before you buy anything, it is important to consider utilising the tools you already have at your disposal. Does this software meet any of your requirements?

We'd always recommend using sites with Capterra or GetApp to assess the software options which are available.

Although there will always be an attraction to the ‘shiny new toys’, it’s likely you can save considerable effort, time and money by looking to software you have already invested in first, such as Microsoft’s Office 365.

So, why would we recommend Office 365 so highly?

1. You probably already have Office 365

A key factor in our championing of the Microsoft Office suite is that many businesses already have the suite deployed within their business, or components of it. Excel, Outlook, Word and PowerPoint are the most often used and the capabilities of other apps provided by Microsoft are sometimes overlooked.

All of Microsoft’s apps are integrated with each other to provide a seamless transition between them. Beyond this, this means that the user experience of the apps is generally fairly similar and thus means that the UX is easy to navigate and quick to learn. Prior knowledge of systems can make employees feel much more comfortable with onboarding new processes or apps.

Additionally, Microsoft provides the opportunity to adapt key features to your business practices with add-ons such as Dynamics 365 which can work as your sole CRM tool, personalized to your business. Many of the Microsoft add-ons are free, so you can continue to extend its use.

2. Pricing

With Office 365 you pay for what you get, so when your organisation starts to scale you can pay for any additional services or data storage you need. Options are affordable, particularly data storage, which operates on an additional low-cost subscription model. The rest of the Microsoft suite can be purchased as different editions with simplified per-user licensing – with up to 5 devices per user. Licenses can vary between users, dependent on which applications they need, which can help to cut costs.

Unlike some other retailers, Microsoft doesn’t require an expensive upfront cost nor does it require any installation or set-up fees. Once purchased, the suite is almost immediately able to be deployed across your organisation. Additionally, any upgrades are automatic, ensuring you will always have the most up-to-date versions of the applications.

3. Cloud-based service provides enterprise-level security

Described as Microsoft as “Worry-Free IT” the Office suite provides enterprise-grade security for SMEs, built into all of their applications. The suite is compliant with independent industry standards, including ISO 27001, EU Model clauses, HIPAA BAA and FISMA and it is clear that security is taken very seriously from the top level.

Office 365 offers a range of security measures including data prevention, encrypted emails and advanced threat analytics which you can manage through a single, web-based admin centre.

Importantly, Office 365 does not scan emails or documents for data mining, analytics or advertising – not even to improve their service. Your data belongs to you and you can easily access information on the uses of your data by Microsoft.

If security is an aspect which you find difficult to grasp, Microsoft offer an extensive support system for setting up small businesses on Office 365 which answers a range of questions you may have.

4. Reporting

Generally regarded as our company’s favourite aspect of the Office suite is the reporting capabilities which are on offer through Microsoft’s Power BI. The potential of the service are second to none. Power BI gives users the opportunity to pull data from hundreds of sources, ranging from your own Excel spreadsheets to almost any external channel such as Twitter or Sage 50.

Once you have the data in Power BI, it is easy to manipulate and adapt, to then create visuals, reports and dashboards. Visualisations of data provide a fantastic opportunity to share insights in a readily digestible form for any level of your organisation.

Additionally, Microsoft is currently devoting a lot of focus towards their PowerApps service, which is set to transform the way apps are created.

We could wax lyrical about the pros of the Microsoft Power suite, but you can find more information here.

5. Accessibility

The beauty of the cloud is, in part, it’s accessibility. Office 365 can be accessed on almost any device, at anytime, anywhere. Many apps work offline too, so your organisation can operate remotely and out of office. Files, information, settings and applications aren’t stuck on any single device – allowing teams to work globally if need be.

The integration of the Office 365 suite means that collaboration is simple and easy. Your team can be more efficient and productive through applications like Teams, Planner and OneNote – all of which can be connected to allow users personal and group settings.

Additionally, Microsoft can help you to collaborate with your clients, through apps such as Skype for conferencing calls or Dynamics for creating client portals.

So, what now?

If you have, like us, been enticed by the properties of Office 365 we’d recommend taking an internal assessment of your business, considering which key features you need from the Microsoft stack – and getting started with your new tools!

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