By some accounts, I am a dinosaur. I remember a simpler time with respect to technology and the workplace. I started my big corporate career in the mid-1990s, the halcyon era from tech stalwarts IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and other blue chip brands. Sure, they were back office, CRM, and productivity apps designed for the small business. However, those apps were generally less powerful and contained less functionality than the ones used by large companies. In short, small could just not compete with big.

Fast forward to today: the landscape could not be more different. In this post, I discuss some of those options.

Options Abound

For small businesses across the board, the days of having to settle for inferior technology have long since passed. Consider CRM for a moment. In the mid 1990s, many small businesses used CRM apps such as Act or Goldmine. Yes these are still around, but they’re hardly the only viable options for small businesses. Just off the top of my head, Zoho CRM, NetSuite, Salesforce.com are three popular and powerful tools allowing companies to manage their customers, sales, contacts, and leads.

Now, I’m a big believer that it’s silly to reinvent the wheel. If an application meets 90 percent of your company’s needs out of the box, why spend significant money on the other 10 percent? Typically, it’s more efficient to change your business practice or invest in some training than to get tweak-happy.

Building from Scratch

For whatever reason, some people don’t like the SaaS model or existing mainstream alternatives. There are loads of options, especially for the more technically minded. Open source applications such as SugarCRM are free and completely customizable. Caution: you just need to know what you’re doing–or want to work with those who do.

Without getting too technical here, it’s much, much easier these days to build from scratch. Many software companies have embraced open application programming interfaces (APIs), although much faster and complete integration of services and offerings.

A Middle Ground

Consider what Colin Hickey and his business partner did. Hickey’s company,PeerPoint, has created a platform that enables easy and powerful collaboration. In creating the company’s core product, Hickey outsourced development to Macronimous, anoverseas company. Using collaborative tools such as Video Skype, the company created a robust product in a fraction of the time and cost that one would have expected even five years ago.

Simon Says

Of course, with all of these choices, it’s easy for one to be intimidated. In large part, that’s why I wrote The New Small. By telling the stories of how companies navigated the sea of available alternatives, I hoped to show that this isn’t rocket science. What’s more, based on the freemium model, it’s quite easy to test drive an app to see if you like it and it makes sense for your little company. Again, this just wasn’t possible back in the day.

Brass tacks: If you feel that your company could do more with emerging technologies, you’re probably right. Whether you buy The New Small or not, rest assured that there is simply no reason to suffer with deficient apps and technologies. Those that fight change and cling to antiquated systems and processes are bound to fail behind. Don’t make that mistake.

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