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Going remote: How to choose the right software for your service business

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Rohan Reid

Aug 27, 2020

Xero App Partner Guest Blog – written by Koren Wines, Global General Manager at WorkflowMax.

Having the right cloud-based tools is essential to successfully running a team and a business remotely

We’re now in a world where we can’t rely on in-person meetings and shared office space. So it’s even more important than ever that our technology enables us to collaborate and share information easily. As well as provide visibility into how our team and business is performing. 

If your service business is new to using cloud software, or if you’re looking to fine-tune your existing cloud technology stack, it’s so important to have a good understanding of the tools you need to run your business remotely. It’s also important to make sure those tools are working for you, rather than against you.

Here’s an overview of some of the software that service businesses can consider adding to their ‘toolkit’ to successfully operate remotely, plus some tips to help choose the software that’s right for you.

Building your toolkit: Software for your service business

There are cloud-based tools to support every area of your business, from estimating and quoting to resource management, recruiting and marketing the list goes on. In fact, Xero’s app marketplace includes over 800 apps for improving efficiency and unlocking greater success. So where to begin?

Below is a list of some of the  software you can consider for running a services business remotely. It can help you identify which areas of your business are already being managed by software, and which areas could benefit from additional support:

  • Office suite for communication and collaboration: The collection of software applications you can use for basic business needs, such as email, calendar, daily communication, video calling, video meeting scheduling, and so on (such as Microsoft Office 365, G Suite by Google).
  • Job management: Job management software (such as WorkflowMax) will help you manage, track and execute all stages of the job cycle, from the moment a lead comes through the virtual door, to providing in-depth insights on the profitability of the job, and productivity of your team at the end of the job. A good job management tool will collect valuable business data across all stages of your workflow. This includes employee time and job costs, to inform other parts of the workflow. You should only need a single tool to help you better understand productivity and performance from end-to-end of your workflow. 
  • Client management and collaboration: Many jobs and projects require close collaboration with clients. This category of software is vast and there are many types of solutions depending on your needs. You can choose from robust customer relationship management (CRM) tools (such as Pipedrive or Hubspot) to task management and project tools designed for collaboration (such as Projectworks). Some job management systems (such as WorkflowMax) even have CRM features so you can better manage the entire client lifecycle within your Job Management solution. 
  • Industry / practice management / specialty tools: Most professional services businesses will need specialty tools that allow them to complete their work. These include Adobe Suite for design and creative agencies or Re-leased for property Management, and so on. 
  • File sharing: Sharing large files (for example, design files orCAD files) can be challenging, especially when working with variable Internet connections. A file sharing system such as Dropbox, GoogleDrive, or SmartVault can make life much easier, not to mention faster and more secure.
  • Accounting: Cloud-based accounting software such as Xero, is critical for remote work. It enables you to manage invoices, accept payments, pay bills, complete bank reconciliation, manage payroll, connect with your Accountant or Bookkeeper and more. It also connects with over 800 third party apps, available in the Xero app marketplace, including WorkflowMax.
  • People insights: While the right processes and technology help you operate remotely, it’s so important to keep your people top of mind while you can’t connect face to face. People insights software (such as Everperform) gives you key people measures like wellbeing and performance to help your people remain productive and effective through change. 
  • Business intelligence: With many applications across your business, the need to connect these sources in one place to derive broader and deeper analysis is paramount. Business intelligence platforms (such as Microsoft Power BI and BeanBox) enable you to connect key data sources together and provide insightful dashboards and analytics.

Different businesses will prioritise implementing different types of software depending on their familiarity and experience with using cloud software for their business operations. Read on for a few tips to help you choose the software that’s right for you. 

Tips for choosing the right tools for your business 

Given the vast suite of available solutions and the unique needs of your business, determining your software needs can be challenging and can feel overwhelming. Consider the following tips to help you determine which technology your business should look at implementing next:

  • Document your processes: Before you can implement any technology, you need to have a thorough understanding of your business needs. Try documenting your processes and workflows using paper, a whiteboard or a spreadsheet, to understand potential areas of improvement. You can then seek technology that can optimise those areas. 
  • Start with your core business needs: Today, there’s an app that can solve almost any business pain point, and it can be tempting to try them all. If you’re brand new to the cloud, start with your core business activities. These tend to take up most of your time, have the greatest margin for error and the most opportunity for efficiency gains, such as end-to-end job tracking and timesheets.
  • Create an evaluation framework: Before diving into potential solutions that will suit your need(s), first build a ‘must have’ list of features, functionality, and compatibilities. Then assign a weight to the importance of each of these ‘must haves’. Creating this list upfront will make decision-making much easier. Use this template from our remote working guide to get started.
  • Test the app: Most software tools have a free trial period – use this to run a simplified version of two to three projects or items from end-to-end. This helps to make sure that the software will work for your core use cases. 
  • Consult an expert: Consider bringing in a Software implementation expert who specialise in workflow optimisation, technology consultation, and software implementation.  They can help you and your team get set up for success, so you can focus on running your business.

For additional tips and best practices on how to improve the way you work remotely – from collecting employee feedback to measuring productivity – check out our free guide for professional services businesses.

About WorkflowMax

WorkflowMax job management software helps service businesses run projects from end-to-end – from lead management, to time tracking, to reporting, and everything in between. Manage your jobs securely in the cloud and keep your team on track while you’re working remotely. Try it for your business today with a 14-day free trial.

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