Data management tools for your business

OXYGEN is to humans as data is to business. Businesses that do an excellent job producing, protecting, and analysing data for decision-making have a greater chance of success than those that do not. While companies operate in different industries with different models, processes, and cultures, you can find similarities in their tools.

Before we go into digital tools, it is essential to note some concepts as you will come across them in your research, open-source and closed-source software. OSS is free of copyright and is generally made available for modification or distribution under its terms of use, such as Mozilla Firefox, GIMP, LibreOffice, Linux and WordPress. A company or individual owns closed-source or proprietary software. It is copyrighted and available under user licences such as Google Chrome, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Windows, or Wix.

Now that you are one step closer to selecting a digital tool, you will be happy to know that free software is available with adequate features for MSMEs. However, make no mistake by thinking pirated or "crack" software is free. "Cracking" includes unauthorised modification of software that is illegal and unsafe.

Another consideration is to use a service provided via the Internet (Cloud), usually as a subscription. This is a great way to access powerful tools when you want it on a pay-as-you-grow or pay-as-you-go model, eliminating the traditional overheads of maintaining software, for example with upgrades and security.

The most popular tools in use in Jamaica and areas of the Caribbean include ones which handle bookkeeping since all stages of business will need this critical business function for compliance, reporting, and planning. The leading tools include Excel, QuickBooks, Zoho Books, FreshBooks, Wave Accounting, or Sage 50 Accounting.

There is an inextricable link between human resource management (HRM) and payroll, therefore your payroll software should have the functionality to communicate among them. When shopping for payroll software remember that Jamaica's payroll laws and calculations differ from the United States. Therefore, if you are reviewing software from the US ensure that it can be customised to meet our requirements. Local companies do, however, provide support of software packages such as SmartPay, TurboPay, BizPay Central, OASys, or OrangeHRM.

At some point you will find yourself producing thousands of documents and will need a tool to manage and engage with them; file storage and syncing options include OneDrive, Google Drive, or DropBox.

Now that we have management of the books, employees, and documents, let us look at the management of customers and communication. E-mail is still the most popular communication between business-to-business (B2B) and busines- to-customer (B2C).

A custom domain and an email service are must-haves, eg name@yourdomain.com via Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. Note that these tools offer more than email as they provide productivity tools for word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and file syncing, to name a few.

You will also need an email marketing app such as MailChimp, or Constant Contact to send on-demand and scheduled emails/newsletters and to sign up to your database. However, you may get email marketing as a feature within a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. A CRM is a comprehensive service for managing your interactions with customers and prospects. Some examples of these are Salesforce, ZohoCRM, and HubSpot.

You should also consider software for file management. Syncing services are excellent but are not a substitute for a back-up as syncing replaces the destination storage with its source files. Back-up tools are like Azure Backup, Acronis Cloud, or Veeam. You will also need antivirus protection such as Bitdefender, Microsoft Defender, Sophos, Avast, or Kaspersky.

When selecting your essential tools, consider your growth potential and the tool's limitation. You can avoid costly migration by ensuring that the software you buy today is compatible with others you use.

Almando Cox is the CEO of ResolveIT Limited and a member of the Jamaica Technology and Digital Alliance. Send your feedback to marketing@jtda.org.

Almando Cox

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