How To Choose Software for Small Business Management

By Chelsea Williams
Senior Copywriter
Jan 26 2024 read

New software can have a tremendous impact at any stage of business, from startup to established enterprise. But if you want the effects to be positive, you must be intentional about how you approach your decision.

Here, we’ll cover:

Address Your Fears

Adopting new technology comes with a range of risks and challenges. Your ability to overcome them depends on how well you can think long-term.

It’s normal to be worried about:

  • New tech temporarily increasing costs and disrupting processes. If you’ve chosen the right platform, the long-term ROI should outweigh these initial hurdles.
  • Experiencing data breaches because of a new platform. To mitigate this risk, look for software with robust security measures, including encryption and regular security audits.
  • Implementing a tool that’s incompatible with your workflows and systems. Software with advanced automation, plenty of integrations and an open API should rise to the top of your list.
  • Underutilizing your new technology and not reaping the full value. Plan for — or invest in — comprehensive training and choose a service that offers excellent customer support and user resources.

➡️ Read our advice for overcoming five common fears about adopting new business technology.

Prioritize Your Needs

Once you’ve addressed the mindset factor, take a step back and analyze your business needs.

Who will use the platform and how?

Knowing in what capacity the platform will be used is vital for ensuring user adoption and overall success. Different roles within your organization may have unique needs and ways they interact with the tool.

For instance, your sales team might need mobile access to customer data, while your project managers may require a way to keep track of tasks and detailed reporting features. Considering each use case will help you select a platform that includes as many functions as possible to enhance productivity across the board.

Which features can you not live without?

Identifying indispensable features is crucial for maintaining operational efficiency. These are the non-negotiables your business requires to function effectively.

If you have a remote team, a cloud-based platform might be necessary for visibility. If you’re in retail, robust inventory management could be critical. Recognizing these essential features will help you determine the minimum requirements to support your core activities.

What functionality would be nice to have?

It’s not too much to expect your software to go above and beyond the basics, but what does that look like?

Maybe there are additional features that would improve the user experience or give your team more flexibility, but they’re not must-haves. They might allow for future growth but don’t overshadow your primary needs.

Integration with some tools or advanced analytics might fall into this category.

➡️ Learn more about prioritizing features in our buyer’s guide.

How tech-savvy is your team?

The technological proficiency of your team is a significant consideration when choosing software. If your colleagues are not very tech-savvy, a platform with a steep learning curve might lead to resistance and underutilization. On the other hand, a team that’s comfortable with new tech might not need something super user-friendly and could benefit from more advanced capabilities.

How will you handle change management?

A critical (but often overlooked) aspect of software adoption is what things will look like after committing to a platform and undergoing any initial training.

You’re likely to encounter some growing pains. How you manage them will determine whether the new software has the impact you desire.

The following questions can help you set the foundation for a change management strategy:

  • Will you go with a phased implementation? Are you planning to invest in a full software implementation program to roll out a few features at a time?
  • What support methods work best for your team and processes: email, chat, online tutorials, webinars, a community forum?
  • How do you plan to establish a feedback loop for gauging your team’s response? 

Research Types of Business Management Software

Before searching for a specific platform, aim to understand the categories of business software available. Your options are nearly endless, so we’re walking through some of the most commonly used kinds of software and how businesses like yours might use each.

CRM software

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is designed for managing and improving your interactions with current and potential customers. Its primary purpose is usually contact management, which is crucial for making sure your team has access to organized client data.

The best CRMs for small- and medium-sized businesses can track interactions, store custom details about leads and integrate with social media platforms so that you can see the full picture of touchpoints an individual has had with your business.

How a consulting firm might use it:

  • Track new client inquiries
  • Manage follow-up communications
  • Collect critical data about current clients using custom fields
  • Store responses to post-project surveys

➡️ See our list of the best CRM platforms for consulting firms.

Marketing automation software

Marketing automation software can automate repetitive tasks like setup and audience segmentation for email marketing, allowing you to quickly target recipients and schedule personalized campaigns. Platforms like HubSpot also offer social media scheduling and file storage, helping you consolidate tools.

How an architecture firm might use it:

  • Schedule regular email newsletters with partnership updates and industry news
  • Use email templates to send campaigns to residential and commercial client groups
  • Showcase projects on social media by pre-scheduling posts
  • Develop lead nurturing sequences for clients who have shown interest in specific services

Sales pipeline management software

A sales pipeline management software solution is crucial for tracking and managing each stage of the sales process. It helps you organize leads, forecast sales and identify opportunities for upselling or cross-selling. This type of software provides a clear overview of where potential deals stand and what actions you need to take to move them forward.

How an agency might use it:

  • Monitor contact with potential new clients from first request through proposal acceptance
  • Predict future sales and revenue by analyzing deals in the pipeline
  • Record interactions with current clients to tailor communication and future offers
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of sales strategies and individuals based on conversion rates

Collaboration tools

Team collaboration software, including messaging tools like Slack, give you an easy and intuitive way to share information, ask questions and work on tasks together. These platforms are essential for maintaining cohesion, especially if your team is remote or hybrid.

How an MSP might use them:

  • Streamline team discussions and resolve issues quickly through group channels
  • Collaborate on client support tickets
  • Facilitate communication across teams and geographic locations
  • Share and co-edit documents, such as technical guides

Task management software

A task management business app can be as straightforward as a to-do list or as complex as a complete workflow management solution. These tools, such as Trello and Asana, can help with time management, keep track of deadlines and ensure that your team members aren’t managing work in silos.

How an accounting firm might use it:

  • Assign and track progress on tasks such as audits and consultations
  • Ensure all regulatory deadlines are met
  • Assign staff or freelancers to tasks based on workload and availability
  • Identify bottlenecks to improve efficiency

➡️ Review the top task management software platforms for service businesses.

Project management software

With built-in tools like Gantt charts and Kanban boards, project management software enables you to execute tasks with control. Many have detailed project planning features that help you break down projects into milestones.

Some even include time tracking to carry billable time logs over to invoices. The most effective of these tools have resource management features such as auto-scheduling and capacity planning to optimize employee utilization.

How an engineering firm might use it:

  • Edit Gantt charts to make changes to projects on the spot
  • Identify potential project risks and track mitigation strategies
  • Allocate manpower, materials and equipment effectively
  • Give regular updates to engineers, designers and other stakeholders

➡️ Find the right project management software for your engineering firm.

Ticketing software

Software designed for managing and tracking customer queries isn’t just for IT businesses. Even if you don’t have a dedicated help desk, it can help you log customer issues and ensure they’re resolved promptly.

How a human resources consulting firm might use it:

  • Track and respond to client questions about HR policies and compliance
  • Assign tasks (such as doc reviews) associated with a client request
  • Keep track of ongoing client requests for a specific type of project
  • Create standard resolutions and protocols for repeating issues

Accounting software

An accounting platform like QuickBooks automates bookkeeping, cash flow and expense tracking, financial management and more. Depending on the depth of its features, this kind of software can often be used to manage invoices, process payments and stay on top of business expenses.

How a software development firm might use it:

  • Integrate time logged on different projects and tasks for accurate billing
  • Monitor operational expenses, such as software licenses and hardware purchases
  • Generate financial reports for internal analysis and decision-making
  • Confidently keep financial records for tax purposes

Reporting software

As a more effective alternative to spreadsheets, reporting software is key, especially for small business owners. Having accurate and current data is how you improve efficiency and respond to your clients’ needs.

Ultimately, it can be the one tool that determines whether you align with your business strategy and meet your goals — because it’s the one that helps you clearly see what’s going on in your business at any given time.

How a PR firm might use it:

  • Assess the effectiveness of campaigns with metrics like audience reach
  • Create detailed reports for clients on outcomes
  • Identify industry trends and media opportunities
  • Track mentions of clients in the media and use them to analyze sentiment

Map Out Your Business Processes

Team mapping out small business software needs

While software can help you define and automate processes, you should have some sense of what you want — and need — to achieve with any new program. Consider the following elements before you start researching:

  1. Begin by scrutinizing your current workflows. Are they documented? Are they efficient? What about bottlenecks that need to be addressed? Know these answers early on so you can select software that can either adapt to your processes or help you create them.
  2. Figure out how much customization you’ll need. Are your processes similar to those of other businesses in your industry, or are they unique? There may be existing software built just for how you work, or you may need to take the time to adapt it.
  3. Determine your short-term and long-term objectives. What target do you need to hit in the next quarter or half-year to make this software worth the investment? Where do you hope it will take you in two years?
  4. Ask yourself and your team: What are the top opportunities to streamline our business operations? The ultimate goal of any business management software is to make your operations smoother and more efficient. Be prepared to dive deep into each potential platform’s ability to reduce manual labor and improve overall productivity.

Understand Features and Pricing

While features shouldn’t be the only thing you’re concerned about when vetting software, they are one of the first elements that will help you narrow down the field of possibilities. Think about features in a few layers, or categories.

  • Core features: Each software type has a few core features that define its functionality. For example, CRM software should offer robust contact management, while task management software should provide clear assignment and tracking capabilities. These are the basic reasons you’re choosing this type of platform. As covered above, some of them may count as tools you can’t live without.
  • Advanced features: These tend to be the features that not every software platform in the category has. They might include things like real-time reporting, proposal or invoice templates or customizable trigger automations.
  • Integrations: Integrating with other platforms creates another layer of functionality. Software that can seamlessly connect with tools you already use (like email and calendars) can be useful in ways you may not initially predict.
  • Mobile apps: A mobile version is almost a necessity for any type of business software you’ll use regularly. For your team to stay productive on the go, they need to be able to make important updates and get notifications about status changes. But apps vary in terms of usability and compatibility, so consider how important this is for you.

Budget considerations also play a significant role in your software selection, so they should be something you think about before looking into individual solutions. A SaaS subscription for a single-function tool might have a minimal monthly cost, whereas a complete business management system can require a significant initial investment.

Get a general sense of where you want to land with money, but stay open to the idea that you might need to spend a bit more (or less) for the right fit.


TIP: In your analysis of what you want and can afford, don’t forget to factor in the hidden costs you might have by not obtaining the software right now.

For example, if your finance team spends 30 hours completing monthly invoicing and you could cut that down to one hour with the right software, the total costs of paying your team for those other 29 hours are part of what you’d recover.


Investigate Each Software Provider

Person evaluating software to better manage their small business

Choosing a software provider isn’t just about the product; it’s about entering into a long-term partnership. The right software team will be committed to supporting your business growth over time.

Look for a company that views its relationship with you as a two-way street. They should be interested in how their software can help grow and improve your business, not just making a sale.

Dedicated customer support is a must. Whether it’s through email, live chat, an extensive knowledge base or dedicated account managers, having reliable product experts to reach out to can make a significant difference in your experience.

Watch out for signs of how often each provider updates their platform and how they communicate about those updates.

Combine Facts With Instinct To Decide

Making a final decision about business management tools requires balancing analysis and instinct.

A beautiful user interface might be nice, but if your team doesn’t use it very often because it doesn’t offer the right mix of features, it’s null. And if it’s too complex or doesn’t align with your workflows, you won’t get the full potential out of it.

It’s also possible to be overwhelmed by the range of platforms out there. It can be tempting to go all-in and adopt multiple tools at once, but this can lead to complications and underutilization. Stay focused on your goals.

Finally, don’t be swayed by the blanket marketing tactics and sales pitches saying you need what everyone else’s business does. You know your business best.

While it’s best to make logic-driven decisions, there’s a strong argument for when something just feels right.

Choose an All-in-One Platform for a Greater ROI

Many leaders of SMBs have had the experience of “just knowing” a software platform was right when they came across Accelo. They’ve achieved results like reduced overhead, increased utilization and a jump in recurring work.

As the only client work management platform that provides an end-to-end solution for the quote-to-cash journey, Accelo supports tens of thousands of users worldwide in driving productivity and profitability for their businesses.

Book a demo to find out why so many industry leaders have chosen Accelo as their business management software.


About the Author


Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.

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