Streamlined Integration: How to Get Your Business Software Communicating
Starting a business online is one of the biggest challenges any businessperson can face in this day and age. Online retailers are the new small business owners, and like any small manager, you’ll often find yourself wearing multiple hats. Accountant, inventory manager, and advertiser, designer: it all comes down to you, and it all happens electronically.
The good news: there’s a wealth of programs out there to help you manage your business and stay afloat in a tough-competition world. The bad news: it takes more than one program to keep everything running…and those programs don’t always like to talk to each other.
But there’s good news again: as management software branches out, a new breed of program has arisen to fill the niche, designed specifically to integrate all those different facets and let you control your business from a single hub.
Here are four things to consider as you get ready to integrate your business software.
1. How Customizable is Your Software?
You have a lot of options in accounting software, ranging from premium desktop programs to entirely online services like QuickBooks. There are factors to recommend any accounting software, but when it comes to a smooth integration with other programs, customizability is the king.
Many business owners shy away from online, cloud-based services, but they have a huge advantage when in it comes to integrating. Since integration is a necessity in modern business, they are often designed with that in mind, and come with great third party support. This means they encourage other developers to program apps that can be added to the existing program with the click of a button, ensuring that you get exactly what you need out of the software. They can also auto-sync with other online programs: enter your data once, and it will update anything else that needs to be updating, minimizing errors and lost information. If you’re using a desktop service, consider upgrading to an online version!
2. How Streamlined is Your Website?
The web design for an online store is your first, last and only impression: the only chance you have to interact with a customer, earn their business, and keep them coming back. And of course, your web design also has to work for you behind the scenes, allowing you to stay on top of revenue, stock, and orders both incoming and outgoing. It takes a professional expert to design a good online storefront…and a professional expert will take a huge chunk out of your startup budget.
Once again, the software you use to host and manage your website will make all the difference when it comes to easy inter-program communication. Consider hosting your store through a service that acts as a template – BigCommerce and Shopify are two of the most popular – to make sure you can accomplish everything you need. Like online accounting programs, these services also have integration in mind, and they can easily sync up information like customers, orders, and even help with tax reporting. They also offer that same third-party support: there’s a good chance you can find an accounting service and a website host that are already partnered and ready to help you streamline your operation.
3. What Do You Need to Integrate?
In the early days of online retail, most business management software was designed to run the entire operation. We’ve moved away from that now as management programs get more sophisticated, so it’s easy to find yourself spread thin between multiple different programs. This is where CRM comes in.
Customer Relationship Management (or CRM) programs act as a go-between for multiple databases: linking your online store to your website and your taxes, and allowing you to customize how they link and how they update.
CRMS available can be premium monthly packages or free open-source programs, depending on what your needs are. If you’ve got a coding or IT background, a freeware CRM may suit your needs just fine, although they can suffer from hard-to-learn interfaces and need a bit of knowhow before they can be customized. Once again, many CRM programmers have developed apps for services like QuickBooks that encourage third-party support and customization: look into a program like ZapStitch that has multiple partners in the business management world, and your integration may be as easy as installing a few add-ons.
The Final Step: Pick the Right CRM
Before you pick a CRM, be sure you’re familiar with the features they offer. Online services often have auto-syncing and automatic updates, and back up your customer and inventory data in a cloud. You can also find CRMs that let you generate a variety of analysis reports, making it easy to track information like cost of goods sold, gains and losses, and even tax information.
You may need to spend some time mapping your business flow: figuring out what software you need to integrate, so you can choose a CRM that already has third party support for your software. As mentioned earlier, ZapStitchsets upBigCommerceQuickBooks integration, or Shopify-Xero, or whatever your needs may be.