No matter where you look these days, people are talking about the benefits of “using the cloud” including:
- Saving time;
- Saving money; and
- Avoiding the hassle of managing technology yourself.
While that sounds great, it can often be hard to figure out where to start. That’s especially true if you’re a busy small business owner who, for some reason, is now also the IT guru.
If this sounds like you, then you’re going to love this list of 25 business tasks you could do better using the cloud. To get the most from the list:
- First scan the headings to find the tasks that cost you the most to manage, take the most time to manage, and are a hassle to manage.
- Then, head on over to your favorite search engine and type the category name followed by the word software to find online tools to help you do that task better using the cloud. Failing that, just give us a call and we'll point you in the right direction.
1. Appointment Scheduling
Nothing can eat up more time than scheduling client appointments. Nothing that is except for canceling and changing client appointments.
Happily, there are a number of cloud tools that take the task out of your hands by empowering your clients to manage the whole process either by adding something to your site or by using their site to host your scheduling.
Our Favourite: Timely
2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Creating a relationship with your customers takes time and effort, including a ton of tracking. It’s so much more efficient however, if you have the right cloud tool backing you up.
CRM solutions abound in the cloud so if you want to cut the amount of time you spend nurturing customers without sacrificing current and future relationships, then go take a look.
Our Favourite: Capsule
Of course, the whole goal of building relationships is to make sales. Making sure that you have tasks set and deadlines to remind you to chase clients can be so valuable. They also help you to see how much your 'pipeline' is worth.
Our Favourite: Pipedrive
4. Customer Support
Once you land a client, you’ll need to support them. Helpdesk solutions such as Zendesk help you coordinate and manage customer complaints, suggestions or tickets.
They even let customers help themselves and other customers via a knowledge base and community, saving you both time and money.
Our Favourite: Zendesk
5. Recruiting and Hiring
Recruiting and hiring is a complex, time-intensive process. That’s why you should look at the latest online tools for doing both.
These systems can handle everything for you from posting to several job sites at once to tracking the hiring process, and making the final offer to the winning candidate.
Our Favourite: JobAdder
6. Hiring Freelancers
It seems that more small businesses are hiring freelancers these days than full-time employees. If you’re looking to jump into the gig economy, then you should check out the freelance marketplaces, such as Upwork, Guru, and Fiverr, online.
Not only do these cloud solutions help you find and hire the right freelancer, they also offer project management and communication tools as well as payment options.
Our Favourite: Fiverr
7. Workforce Management
Once you have your employees and freelancers onboard, you need to manage the team. Cloud-based workforce management solutions can help you manage everything from onboarding to training, professional development, reviews, and even shift scheduling for hourly employees.
Our Favourite: Deputy / CharlieHR
Paying your employees and freelancers is a complex process, fraught with regulations and tax laws. Online payroll solutions often have all those rules built-in so you can rest assured that all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.
Our Favourite: Xero / Geniac
Getting paid yourself is always a challenge. Cloud-based invoicing takes away some of the hassle by enabling your clients to pay directly from their email, automatically alerting clients when their bill is past due, and providing end-of-year reporting that makes tax preparation that much easier.
Our Favourite: Xero
Unless you’re an accountant, you probably did not go into business because you wanted to keep the books. Happily, there are tons of online options for bookkeeping, many of which enable you to give access directly to your accountant so they can handle the work.
In addition, these solutions are typically up-to-date with the latest compliance and tax regulations to you can rest easy knowing that you didn’t miss something that can cost you lots down the road.
Our Favourite: Xero (It does a few things very well)
11. Time Management
Let’s face it, you’re busy and it’s easy to lose track of what you should be working on, when. Online time management apps help you plan well, become more productive, and more importantly stay focused on your core business operations.
Our Favourite: Team Week / Asana
12. Task List Management
Aside from managing your time, you also need to manage your to-do list. Cloud-based task list tools will help you do just that with reminders, repeating tasks, and even re-usable checklists.
Check off a task never felt so good.
Our Favourite: Asana (sub-tasks are so helpful)
13. Video Conferencing
While face-to-face meetings are the ideal, geographically dispersed clients and employees often make that nonviable.
Online video conferencing is the answer. Long past the days when meeting online was a frame-by-frame experience, today’s solutions offer smooth video, clear audio, and all sorts of collaborative and interactive tools.
Our Favourite: Join.me / Skype
Speaking of collaborating, there’s no better place to work together than in the cloud. Whether you collaborate in real time or jump in and out to exchange comments and updates, you and your team will never feel more connected, even if they’re geographically separate.
Our Favourite: iCloud (works on a PC via a web browser) / Dropbox Paper
With the growth of tools like such as Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Project, it’s never been easier to stay in touch with your team. Online instant messaging has long been a favorite way for businesses to connect, and it’s still an efficient way to quickly communicate.
Our Favourite: Slack
16. Cloud Storage
Your business produces a lot of digital documents. That’s why you need a place to store it all. Cloud-based storage solutions are the go-to tools when you need a virtual file cabinet.
In addition to storing, some tools also enable you to index and search more easily and even share your documents selectively.
Our Favourite: Dropbox Business (not to be confused with the free 'personal' versions)
And speaking of sharing, even if you don’t have a cloud storage solution in place, you can still share your files, especially those that are too big for email, using online sharing tools.
Our Favourite: Dropbox / WeTransfer
18. Marketing Automation
Marketing is a essential to every business, but it can also be time consuming. Cloud-based marketing automation tools enable you to well, automate a lot of the tasks associated with your marketing campaigns so you can focus on the rest of your business.
Our Favourite: Mail Chimp / CrowdFire
19. Social Media Management
Talk about time consuming, social media can suck your whole day away. To avoid that pitfall, make use of online social media management solutions. These tools enable you to schedule updates far in advance, track your mentions on social networks, and get alerts when you need to respond to someone.
Our Favourite: Commun.it / hootsuite
20. Email Marketing
Email marketing is alive and well, supported by a number of cloud-based solutions. You can use these tools to build a list of customers who are interested in your product, send emails manually or automatically, and track every detail like open, click-throughs, and conversions.
Our Favourite: Mail Chimp
21. Project Management
The collaborative nature of the cloud makes it a perfect spot to manage projects. You can get the whole team on board with solutions like Microsoft Planner for Office 365 and track every step so you always know the status of a project in real time.
Our Favourite: Pipedrive / Team Week
22. Business Intelligence
If you like numbers, then you will love cloud-based dashboards. Many of these solutions collect data related to your business, even from your own systems, and present it in colorful and easy-to-interpret charts and reports. These tools really help you stay on top of your business.
Our Favourite: Neatly.io
23. Automated Integration
In the old days, you used to need a team of programmers to make two solutions work together. Not any more. Most of the cloud solutions we've suggested have direct connections that require you only to authorise the other apps. If not you can use another service to link them.
Our Favourite: Zapier
24. Website Design
You no longer need to hire a web designer or developer to put up a good-looking, well-functioning website with eCommerce functionality. Cloud-based website creation tools such as Squarespace can be used to build and manage your site more easily and much less expensively. Plus they usually have mobile apps to help with commerce, analytics or for writing blogs (like I'm using right now).
Our Favourite: Squarespace
25. Back Office Management
Everything from logistics to supplies, shipping, and fleet management can be handled using online software. No matter what you need to run your business, there’s likely an online solution that will keep your back office purring along smoothly.
Our Favourite: Unleashed
Ther are a bunch of others we could add too. There is almost nothing you can't do with a cloud based bit of kit, from a POS system, payment gateways, email, shipping, phone systems, portfolios, mobile device management, app testing, vehicle tracking, quoting etc.
if you've got a system that's getting a bit tired and you want to explore what option might be out there or you want a hand inplemting something we've mentioned above, get in touch. We'd love to help.