Collaboration tools has changed the way businesses share ideas and information over the past few years. We now live in a world where remote workers and contractors have become the norm for small businesses. It is therefore easy to justify the rise and popularity of collaboration tools to connect people and share information when it’s needed most.
It is not just communication, collaboration tools also help in improving project management and facilitate better workflow and better management of invoicing. But when it comes to functionality, small businesses find cloud collaboration systems more suitable to their needs, thanks to their convenient integration.
Cloud Collaboration vs. Traditional Project Management Software
According to a 2014 research by Software Advice, 87 percent of the businesses that participated in the study preferred cloud solutions. In comparison, 88 percent of businesses preferred on-premise solutions in 2008. Other key findings of the study include:
- 64 percent of buyers have no deployment preference as of 2014, although the number was only 20 percent in 2008.
- The study also revealed that preference of buyers varies by industry. Cloud preference increased from 42 percent in 2012 to 54 percent in 2013 for CRM buyers. On the contrary, it reduced from 11 to 5 percent within the same period for construction buyers.
The businesses interviewed by Software Advice were using various methods for project management at the time of this research. The report shows that 46 percent of businesses relied on manual tools like Excel spreadsheets and emails, while 35 percent of participants used project management software. The remaining 19 percent used either multiple software applications, non-project-management packages, or nothing at all.
The study revealed uncovered some interesting patterns. It indicated that a significant number of businesses want a solution that offers beyond the generic project management systems.
Small Businesses Prefer Cloud
Another study by Software Advice also indicated that businesses with a deployment preference favored web-based solutions over on-premise deployment. This means that their preferences are moving away from “self-hosted project management” systems to cloud-hosted solutions.
Almost 88 percent of businesses were interested in “integrated suites” that incorporate two or more applications rather than in “best-of-breed” or “stand-alone” solutions. Some of the most popular integrated suites combine essential applications such as document management, time tracking, invoicing and reporting etc.
Businesses preferring such integrated suites said that it is rather difficult to manage projects across multiple best-of-breed platforms and therefore want to consolidate within a single integrated system.
While the core requirement of these businesses is to have a proper project management system in place, what they are actually looking for is an integrated solution that will give them access to a wide variety of additional functions.
Some of the top requested application according to the study include:
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- Project management
- Time tracking
- Task management
- Resource management
- Document management
- Project collaboration
- Project portfolio management
- Issue management
The report indicated that almost 98 percent businesses wanted ‘project management’ as a part of the integrated suites whereas 66 percent requested time tracking applications. This signals that the top-requested applications are directly relevant to the projects’ business case, the likes of which include project profitability and revenue.
Small businesses, for example, will be highly benefitted by an integrated time tracking application that helps them to track revenue for billable projects. Besides, it help small business owners and team leaders with project planning, which again plays a great role in determining profitability.
Task management applications, which was requested by 52 percent of participants and resource management applications, requested by 41 percent, help small businesses ensure that they are using company resources efficiently by properly distributing tasks.
It was also noticed that demand for document management and project collaboration tools were far less, accounting for 19 and 12 percent respectively. While these applications are vital to information sharing and team communication, they are less immediate when it comes to profits or revenue.
It is also important to notice that these application requests are no way unique to small businesses. Rather, they reflect the larger market trend in ensuring profitable projects. Furthermore, all these applications play key role in successful project delivery. Some of these requested applications are unlikely to be offered in the traditional project management packages.
How Cloud Collaboration Helps
It is true that businesses need various functionality to manage projects successfully. Unfortunately, not all are aware of the fact that they can choose suitable systems that integrate tools for project management, document management, time tracking, resource management, issue management, reporting and other activities.
One reason behind such ignorance could be that the expectations of these businesses are being shaped largely by the functionality packages usually promoted as “project management systems”. But there is a far better way for small business owners to source software. All they need to do is list down all the functionalities they are looking for and/or need in the future. They should then look for an integrated solution based on their list.
This is where cloud collaboration helps. These web-based systems integrate various functions and application within a single interface, making the whole process much more seamless.
What Should You Look for in a Good Cloud Collaboration System?
A good cloud-based collaboration software should have the following key characteristics:
- Usability: The system must be easy to implement and learn. At the same time it must be efficient, effective and engaging, delivering what it promised and satisfying the users’ needs.
- Availability: The integrated suite must be available round-the-clock so that you can access it whenever you need it and from any device. Besides, updates must show up in real-time. It must also allow team members to communicate and collaborate in real-time.
- Simplicity: While many believe that usability and simplicity are the same things, certain user-centric software contain features that businesses of any size don’t really need. Rather, these unnecessary inclusions consume a lot of bandwidth and as a result slow down the loading process.
- Flexibility: The system must be flexible enough to keep up with the users’ requirements and change when those needs change.
- Support: Finally, the vendor must provide immediate support, should you get stuck with the system’s intricacies.
Cloud-based collaboration solutions work wonders for small businesses. They are both efficient and cost-effective. But make sure your cloud-based project management system integrates all application essential to your address your particular needs, and at the same time is user-friendly and easy to implement, something that sorts out your project management issues with a mere click of a button.
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