Down to business - PC Retail

Down to business

PCR finds out how business software can boost productivity
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The recession created an unexpected boon for the business software market. While many other industries anticipated a decline in consumer spending and shrinking margins, the IT sector was able to stand in a slightly more secure position. The main reason for this is the fact that prudent investment in technology and software can actually improve margins and efficiency.

“Business software can cover a range of functions,” says Mamut’s UK country manager Bryan Richter. “This includes accounting, CRM, inventory, logistics, timesheets, project management, payroll, e-commerce, personnel register and management reporting. Wherever there’s an opportunity to streamline or improve efficiency, the right software can do just that.”

In the current market, efficiency is the goal to aim for. Although the previous Government claimed that we are in a post-recession economy, declining consumer spending and footfall tells a different story. With the current Government implementing austerity cuts, smart businesses are looking to technology to reduce their operational costs.

MAXIMISING RESOURCES
“We’ve gone through a recession and if it hasn’t taught businesses to prepare for a rainy day, then the business doesn’t deserve to be there,” states SoThin’s MD James Dempsey.

“I liken it to the end of the Second World War. At the end of the war, gluttony didn’t take over because people still had that wartime attitude – they’d been through the hard times, they knew how to prepare and what to do. And what organisation doesn’t want to save money, save time and better use their resources?

“So even after the recession – if we can be so bold as to put it that way – companies still need to maximise their resources, whether it’s people, time or money.”

It’s worth noting that even for a company that has held rock steady during the recession, efficiency savings can afford a streamlined company the chance to grow its business, creating jobs in the process.

“The latest trends in business software show increasing use of tools to both track prospects and create sales funnels that give businesses the ability to push their sales even higher,” notes Accountz’ founder and chairman Quentin Pain.

This a view shared by the general manager of Sage’s business partner and retail business Steve Attwell: “In a recession, businesses absolutely need to manage their costs and the efficiency of their operations. But this software can also be used to create a loyal customer base through features like automated reminders, order tracking and customer recommendation management. All these tools can not only help a business stay competitive, but also help create a core of satisfied customers.”

As well as this, the benefits of the right software infrastructure can be brought to all levels of enterprise, enhancing the productivity of businesses of all sizes, as in many cases a minimum of staff training is required.

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS
“Software is becoming increasingly user friendly and much easier to operate, which users, especially SMBs who have limited IT resources, can really benefit from,” notes Acronis’ general manager for Northern Europe, David Blackman.

“As technology continues to evolve, many new software solutions come with additional functionality which is becoming easier to use at an affordable price that enables a business of any size to run more smoothly and efficiently.”

As well as providing simple and effective solutions, many suppliers and resellers are able to offer additional options for their customers. Technical support and management can be handled remotely, allowing a company to reduce its overheads, or supplementary hardware can be offered especially where a cost saving has been generated elsewhere.

“VARs and channel partners can charge for consultancy and training,” suggests Richter. “Many of our VARs make extra revenue by selling additional licenses as their clients grow. If their client’s hardware is out of date, there may be opportunities to sell in hardware systems.”

Blackman also feels that software sales can create a relationship from which other sales opportunities can arise: “As software helps complement hardware, hardware can also complement software. When selling software solutions such as backup and recovery, there is an opportunity for add-on sales for retailers that also stock hardware in the form of portable hard drives devices and DVDs that go hand in hand with this type of software.

“Software vendors often offer add-on functionality for an extra cost that enhances the core product and provides resellers with the opportunity to cross-sell.”

At this point in time, there are very few companies that still insist on working in the old-fashioned pen and paper format – the vast majority of businesses out there have all switched to digital format in one way or another. In many ways, this has not only helped to improve the efficiency of the business, but has also indirectly improved their green credentials.

“Something that’s quite fashionable at the moment is green computing,” observes Dempsey. “So anything that can reduce power, reduce resource, traveling time, hardware refresh can score some green credentials. Certainly with local authorities, Government and public sector, they must have these credentials.

“The public sector will be big on green computing; for commercial there’s going to be a wish list. There’s going to be a lot of noise made about this in future.”

The business world has also been further revolutionised by the arrival of cloud-based computing and energy efficiency.

CLOUD CONTROL
“There is much talk about Software as a Service (SaaS) and the cloud in recent years,” says Pain. “Many software houses have jumped on this as the next big thing. Current research shows about one new service starting a month, and that’s just in the UK. There are some great advantages of SaaS and the cloud. The main one being the ability to access data from anywhere, provided there is internet access.”

In such an environment, one employee need not be tied to one desk and computer; in fact that employee might not need to go in to the office at all. This can create further savings in terms of hardware, space, time and business continuity. In addition to this, where a business might once have needed a team of IT staff to implement software updates or security measures, the whole process can be managed by one person.

“Companies will start to make big moves towards virtualisation and cloud computing,” continues Dempsey.

“Microsoft with their current and future systems, Citrix and VMware releasing even more modern and functional products. I think this whole back-end centralised computing model is going to continue to be pushed. Certainly in our experience, the majority of our clients have either moved to it or are asking how they can move to it.

“They’re the two big things to watch out for. I don’t think anything big will be happening with hardware, I think it’s more about the whole centralized computing model, whether it’s our Thin Client, virtualisation, cloud-based; they’re all the same thing, it’s just a different name for a different back-end.”

The feeling that enterprise IT is moving towards a more centralized model is one shared by Blackman. “Organisations are increasingly looking for solutions that will help maintain optimum employee productivity,” he says. “UK firms want tools that keep their business operations up and running at all times, across both physical and virtual environments.

“Adoption of new technologies such as data de-duplication, virtualisation and cloud services is rising as the amount of digital data stored continues to grow. SMBs are becoming quick to recognise their ability to reduce storage space requirements and costs as well as improve storage systems performance.

“Expect to see organisations implementing backup strategies that ensure business continuity while meeting increasingly strict recovery time objectives.”

SoThin Thin Package
SRP:
By quote
Distributor: Direct

They say: A download is all that’s required for any remote user to access their corporate network or stand alone PC, quickly, securely and without having to make an installation.

Features: 128 bit encryption and Windows authentication, compatible with all Microsoft versions, download from web with no restart required, prevents unauthorised access

Mamut AccountEdge
SRP:
£301.98
Distributor: Gem, Softline

They say: If you are looking for easy-to-use accounting software that offers rich functionality at a competitive price, you have come to the right place. Mamut AccountEdge automates, organises, and processes all business tasks and financial information

Features:
Basic accounting package, processes sales and purchases, tracks debts, creditors and VAT, sends quotes and invoices via email, business insights, profit calculations, three versions available

Sage ACT!
SRP:
£183.91
Distributor: Gem, SJ Software

They say: A simple but powerful contact management system. Act! by Sage 2010 centralises your contact information, organises your diary, tracks sales leads and can organise marketing campaigns. You will also learn how to keep your current customers on your side, and ensure that you’ll never miss a new opportunity

Features:
SMB productivity tool, manage customer relationships, target sales, track marketing performance, track, manage and identify good customers, track and create sales opportunities

Sage Instant Business Package
SRP:
£252.62
Distributor: Gem, SJ Software

They say:
Sage Instant Accounts is designed to make managing your money, including VAT and end of year accounts as quick and easy as possible. Sage Instant Payroll helps ensure the people you work with get paid correctly and on time. And the world’s best-selling contact management software, ACT! by Sage helps you build relationships with your customers and target sales opportunities

Features:
Comprehensive accounting package, manage customers and suppliers, instant quotes and invoices, audit preparations, processes card payments, records till takings, prepare and submit VAT returns, create P&L sheets, manage payroll and employee records

Business Accountz Enterprise
SRP:
£469.99
Distributor: Computers Unlimited, Koch

They say: Ideal for companies selling services, this is the easiest small business package on any platform. Business Accountz deals perfectly with VAT registered businesses. At the end of the year, the software will produce Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet reports. Users needing to exchange data with an accountant won’t be disappointed, as transactions can be exported as a CSV file

Features: Manage suppliers, design and print purchase orders, track bills, automatic transactions, send quotes and estimates, track unpaid invoices, pronominal ledger, platform independent, hardware independent

Sage Instant Accounts Plus v16
SRP:
£199.75
Distributor: Gem, SJ Software

They say: All the functionality of Sage Instant Accounts, plus tools to help you manage stock and see sales performance summaries – helping you to spot opportunities to take your business forward

Features: Manage supplier and customer contacts, instant quotes and invoices, flexible discounts, tracks debts, record till takings, electronically share information with an accountant, prepare and submit VAT returns, create P&L sheets, export files to Microsoft Office

Business Accountz Basic
SRP:
£99.99
Distributor: Computers Unlimited, Koch

They say: Business Accountz Basic is a multi platform software offering a solution for all customers. You can move files from one platform to another and the software is also compatible with netbooks. The software offers free lifetime email and forum support, plus optional telephone support

Features: Fast bookkeeping, fully editable, instant VAT returns, exports to spreadsheets, accountant ready reports, lifetime forum support, optional licence add-ons

Mamut Accounting Standard
SRP:
£301.98
Distributor: Gem, Softline

They say: Mamut Accounting Standard gives your business a professional solution for journal entry, a user-friendly nominal ledger with drill-down facilities and wellarranged ledger management. It also includes effective solutions for factoring, reminders/debt collection, remittance and budgeting

Features:
User-friendly journal, simplified book keeping, nominal ledger with optional analysis, customer and supplier ledgers, VAT wizard, efficient ledger management, advanced budgeting, reporting and analysis

Business Accountz Professional
SRP:
£279.99
Distributor: Koch, Computers Unlimited

They say: Business Accountz Professional has all the features of the Basic edition plus full customer tracking. It includes the designer so you can create invoices, estimates, quotations, credit notes and delivery notes using your own logo and other graphics

Features: Manage customers, design and print invoices, send quotes and estimates, fast bookkeeping, fully editable, instant VAT returns, accountant ready reports

Acronis Backup and Recovery Advanced Workstation
SRP:
From £41 per licence
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 simplifies and automates backup and disaster recovery processes of workstations and servers in Windows and Linux environments, across physical and virtual platforms. They provide medium to large organisations a simple solution to centrally manage all backup

Features: Fast and easy recovery, centralized management, advanced reporting, enhanced support for virtual environments, data deduplication, fully scalable, monitoring, advanced scheduling capabilities, secure encryption and transmission

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