Why Small and Medium Businesses need Better Tools to Scale their Business

Small and Medium businesses are usually neglected by Enterprise level application developers since the margins to be made from selling software licenses to them are not that great. A lot of SaaS products target Small and Medium businesses though and that is really helpful.

The average business need a lot of tooling to make life easy and scale up operations. These tools would need to also talk to other tools that are in use at other businesses, like at the vendor, supplier or client side. Managing a lot of applications might seem too much of work for more Small businesses in particular. A lot of the promised efficiency can be extracted only with teams of a certain minimum size. This makes pricing of applications even worse for Small businesses since it is a volume game, and to serve so many Small businesses, application developers need a large support team.

Given all this background, there is still no doubt in general that Small and Medium Businesses need Software applications to scale and operate with efficiency. Let's look at some broad segments of such applications and how a Small or Medium Business can benefit from them.

Inventory Management

This is perhaps the most common of application for manufacturing or online commerce businesses. Inventory can mean both sale side, as you see on an eCommerce platform, as well as supply side, which fits well with manufacturing companies. In that case vendor management would also be integrated into this.

Customer Relationship Management

This segment is perhaps the one with the biggest buzz and for good reasons. Businesses need to manage, understand, support their customers. The more in-depth knowledge about a customer we have the better we are able to support them. CRM tools vary is how deeply they connect with the sale process of the Business but any popular tool is a good place to start if you are not using one yet.

Content Creation

More and more businesses are looking at selling directly to consumers through the Internet. Even many B2B Businesses use the Internet to get leads. This requires multiple approaches to lead generation and one of these ways is to create content. This Blog is in fact a content based lead generation tool for dwata.

Document Management

Documents are important to all kinds of businesses and it can be vital for some specific type of businesses. Documents can range from presentations, manuals, product design or specifications to blueprints and legal documents. Some of these are very important in day to day operations while others are important for the existence of the company. It is usually the first type of Documents, the ones needed for day to day operations that we need to manage and share the most. Dropbox is perhaps one of the most well known document management software out there.

Team Collaboration

Unless a Business is a one of two person business, it will probably need some way to enable team members to collaborate with each other. Team collaboration tools can include simple WhatsApp chat group to Slack, task management tools, etc. Email also becomes very central to team who share access to the business email accounts. Teams may also want to collaborate on managing communication channels like support, social media marketing or supplier/vendor management, etc.

Project Management

What starts as simple task management (maybe under the label of Team Collaboration) might gradually need more attention and need its own set of tools. Project Management is needed across all sorts of Businesses but they become more important within businesses that are in manufacturing or are constantly evolving their own products.

Data Collection

This is perhaps a bit specific as a business tool but a lot of businesses need to gather important data from either their suppliers, customers, vendors or consumers. The data collection might look like one-on-one calls to gather insight or surveys sent out to much large audiences. These data points then need to be analysed and perhaps drilled down in order to understand what next steps could be for the Business.

What Options Exist to Host or Manage Business Software?

A modern day Business needs access to many critical Software Applications that help in managing the business. The tools are often available in two forms: SaaS and On-premise. SaaS, as many of us might be aware of is a business model for software developers to host their software solutions on their own hosting setup and give Business users access to it. Usually this access is charged on a monthly or yearly basis with a per user subscription. Basically a Business is charged per employee.

The On-premise option is one where the Business hosts the software application on servers that it has itself. These servers are then the responsibility of the Business and usually not the software developer (vendor). Actually on-premise hosting is divided into two ways of managing the server/hosting: Self-managed and Managed hosting.

With Self-managed hosting, all the responsibility of hosting the software, its database, backups and associated machinery are on the Business. Self hosting has been a well know option for many Small and Medium businesses or even individuals.

WordPress hosted on your own server is perhaps the most common example. Everything from setting up WordPress to taking backups and securing it is the responsibility of the owner of the blog. There are many web hosting companies which make this process really easy and so you could argue that it is not self managed hosting at all.

For software that is more complex than WordPress, Businesses usually do not wish to manage the hosting. This is not a core skill of most Businesses and all they really care about it

Internal Tools to Help Scale SaaS Business

A SaaS or Software as a Service Business is one where the developers of the software host and manage the software themselves on their hosting infrastructure of choice and share access with Businesses that want to use the software. Usually the Businesses are charged on a monthly or yearly basis and also per employee the Business has.

Building a SaaS Business has been one of the most common ways to a software oriented business for many years now. There are many benefits to building and managing a SaaS which include:

  • Ownership of the software deployment process
  • Rapid turn-around time since changes are near-instantly available to customers
  • Easier to serve clients since things are centralized
  • Usually higher gross revenues compared to on-premise software

SaaS businesses that reach product-market-fit can grow really fast. Reaching product-market-fit is not easy for any kind of business but there is benefit that SaaS businesses can monetize on their centralized nature. They can add infrastructure as a whole and benefit from the per user license model that they usually follow.

Introduction to Admin Application Software for Businesses

Most businesses that need custom software for data/content management and workflows usually build them using frameworks like (Python) Django, (Ruby) Rails, (PHP) Laravel, (NodeJS) Express, and similar. There are popular (Web) Frameworks in every programming language that is geared towards building consumer facing Internet applications.

The purpose of a good Web (Application) Framework is to reduce the friction to start building customer software for specific Business needs. In general they make it easy to:

  • Model the data required to manage the Business needs
  • Translate those Models (from the programming language) into a Relational Database
  • Create and manage Business logic to handle users' requests
  • Create views that the user sees and forms that users interacts with
  • Create APIs so other systems (even other Businesses) can interact with your services
  • Integrate other APIs to interact with existing services from other service providers
  • Administer Business data through internal tools
  • Handle complex Workflows by building multi-step views/forms for internal/external users

There are perhaps a lot more issues that Web Frameworks enable you to tackle efficiently, but the above list is a decent start. The main selling point of these frameworks is how rapidly you can develop your custom software and deploy that to your servers. Getting Business needs sorted rapidly and managed with ease is the long term aim here.