From fundraising to automating emails, modern business apps offer entrepreneurs more than a helping hand -- they manage business as usual and free you to focus on rapid growth.
These integrated, cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions work on desktops, tablets and smartphones to handle project management, internal communication, video conferencing and so much more.
The SaaS revolution has also helped budding entrepreneurs get off the ground quickly. Instead of coding your own internal platforms to take care of the mundane, you have a spread of ready-made options to choose from,
Here are four ways SaaS is helping startups become more efficient and competitive:
1. Scale based on demand.
Part of staying agile is keeping money flexible. SaaS offers levels of service that can easily scale to match users’ needs. Don’t invest five figures now for server capacity that might be needed in a year or two. That isn’t nimble. Keep that money liquid, and upgrade Dropbox or other SaaS-based storage capacities when -- and only when -- it’s critical.
Groupon applied this strategy, which allowed it to quickly scale up from a local Chicago coupon site to a national heavyweight.
2. Connect from anywhere.
Again, this boils down to flexibility. Flexibility is the birthright of startups. Don’t give it away by using software that lives only on office computers and shackles employees to their desks. SaaS apps can connect far-flung team members, whether they’re working from home, the corner coffee shop or the airport terminal in Jakarta, Indonesia. This helps work get done faster.
Real-time connectivity and mobility also make it easier to communicate with clients. McRally Accountants & Advisors, a Calgary, Canada-based accounting firm (disclosure: I do have a relationship with the company), uses the SaaS program Xero to collaborate with clients in real time, sharing information seamlessly over the cloud.
3. Build a customized, integrated business workflow system.
Enterprise application systems can be helpful but these all-in-one software packages can become frustrating if all the components don't work well in your startup environment.
For example, if you’re not comfortable using SaaS for sensitive data, you can choose an on-site server for your financials and a cloud app for team collaboration. By integrating multiple SaaS tools, startups can customize their workflow systems using nothing but proven, effective programs.
Some popular SaaS solutions have already recognized valuable partnership opportunities to enhance their existing platforms. Wunderlist, for example, recently announced plans to integrate the communication app Slack so users can create tasks while chatting with colleagues.
4. Stay on the cutting edge.SaaS programs are constantly innovating and streamlining operations in entirely new ways. No example better illustrates this truth than Slack’s assault on email. The communication platform works across devices and essentially replaces internal email. What would make Monday morning more efficient than getting rid of that overgrown email inbox? Acting fast to embrace these kinds of new applications can keep startups miles ahead of lumbering corporate giants.
Putting your SaaS plans into action
With hundreds of cloud services available for small businesses, don’t just jump on the next buzzworthy SaaS solution. Diagnose your business’s needs, and consider working with a qualified information technology provider that can prescribe the right SaaS solutions.
The great thing about SaaS apps is they generally charge monthly fees, so you can try a service with the option to back out at any time.
Flexibility will be your best defense in the volatile startup landscape. And armed with robust SaaS solutions, your startup will be equipped to hit the ground running.