Technology has, in many ways, become the great equalizer, giving small businesses a competitive edge with some of the largest corporations on the planet. From social media marketing to e-commerce and even subscription services that give them access to more robust software, technology is allowing even the smallest of businesses to go head-to-head and toe-to-toe with corporate giants.

While larger corporations may have bigger marketing budgets and a broader reach, they can also be hampered by corporate waste and inefficiency. Smaller businesses have a greater capacity for leaner operations, which can help them offer better services at competitive prices and even work on tighter deadlines.

Communication and productivity apps, in particular, are one of the best tools to help small businesses maximize their advantages. Here are three types of apps that can help small businesses run efficiently

Communication

From personal relationships to business to even global conflicts, there is possibly no greater necessity than effective communication. Just having the means to communicate, however, does not ensure that communication will actually be effective.

What is important for all businesses to understand is that effective communication depends on finding a balance of different types of communication. Some people are wordier, while others communicate better in pictures, gifs or images than words, and there are also those that will just hit you with a “kk.” Good teamwork often depends on adapting to each other’s communication styles. No matter how your team communicates best, however, here are some apps to help them do it better.

  1. Slack:

    It would be hard to find a more robust communications app that offers more features than Slack. With Slack, any number of individual chat channels can be created to discuss any number of topics or projects. Private chat channels can also be quickly created, and powerful search features can help you find information throughout all the many channels. You can also send YouTube videos, make calls or video conference, share your screen and even share files. You can add more features from through compatible apps and integrations. This should also make it readily apparent why some find Slack to be more time consuming than productive. Sometimes, fewer options are preferable.
  2. Chanty:

    For a slightly more streamlined but still robust chat app, you might try Chanty. Chanty offers many of the same features as Slack, such as unlimited chat channels and the ability to ping other users, but with a cleaner interface and fewer additional features. If you have a highly active and communicative team, particularly one that is largely comprised of extroverted Millennials, then you may want to stick with Slack. For everyone else, there is Chanty.
  3. GoToMeeting

    Good communication does not necessarily have to be constant. While some teams may function best utilizing the immediacy of chat apps, other teams function better only having a weekly, monthly or bi-weekly meeting. GoToMeeting is an online video conferencing service that offers useful features to get the most from your meetings. Whether you need to meet with your team, clients across the country, vendors or support staff, GoToMeeting can ensure your conferences and meetings always go smoothly with no technical difficulties. 

Sharing and Storage

Whether it is sharing photos or videos for inspiration or important documents and spreadsheets, teams can’t function well without access to the same information. By placing documents in file sharing systems, you also save yourself a great deal of time having to search and e-mail them individually when they are needed. In addition, team members can share checklists, to-do lists or other documents they have created themselves to help make their job easier. If they need someone else to take over a project, for the day or permanently, all the tools they use are located in one place to make the hand-off smooth and seamless. Here are three file sharing services to consider.

  1. OneDrive

    Perhaps the main benefit of OneDrive is that it is readily available with software that many businesses already use. OneDrive is a feature of Microsoft Office and works seamlessly with all the apps and products Microsoft offers. With OneDrive, you can scan whiteboards or receipts on your phone and drop the information into a spreadsheet on your laptop. You can easily save, share and access all the data you put there on the go. As a Microsoft product it offers the same level of security that all Microsoft products offer as well as the ability to collaborate live on spreadsheets, documents and other project files.
  2. Google Drive

    Much like OneDrive, Google Drive works seamlessly with businesses that prefer to use G-Suite products. Perhaps one of the best features that Google Drive has to offer, however, is the ability to upload files as large as 5 TB, and share files up to 10GB in size with anyone, even if they don’t have a Google account. While many businesses may not ever need to share such large files, some might. In addition, the ability to share files with people that don’t have a subscription to the service might also be of benefit to many businesses. With Google Drive, you can not only share files with your employees, but also with clients or customers as well.
  3. SugarSync

    SugarSync is a standalone file storage and sharing service. Perhaps one of the best benefits of SugarSync is that it stores information in your existing file system. Not only does this save you a great deal of time not having to recreate your file system in your drive service, but it also helps keep files from getting lost in the wrong folder. Wherever it is on your computer is exactly where you can find it on your drive.

Project Management

For any business to succeed, it can’t just be treading water or making ends meet, it needs to be moving forward. That is where project management apps come in. They help you quickly asses where roadblocks are happening, where progress is getting stalled or even in some cases, when certain aspects of a project are getting done too quickly while others are lagging.

  1. Asana

    If you mostly just need to assign tasks and see where your team stands on accomplishing them, then Asana might be just right for you. Asana is a full-featured to-do list that can help you keep an eye on numerous projects and even incorporate personal tasks into one streamlined, easy-to-assess dashboard. While Asana may not be as full-featured as some project management apps, sometimes less is more.
  2. SwiftKanban

    The Kanban technique was developed in the automotive industry and it is a highly visual style of project management. SwiftKanban is a particularly useful tool if you have multiple projects running at once in various stages of development. The Kanban system color codes each project, so you can see at a glance where each project stands in development. If you have a number of tasks bottlenecking at a particular point in the process, color coding makes it easy to spot and deal with.
  3. ProofHub

    While ProofHub can work for a number of different businesses, where it really shines is in the creative and design fields. If you regularly need to send content to clients or multiple teams for approval, ProofHub is your jam. In addition, ProofHub also combines some of the best features of some of the top communication apps, allowing you to use one program to accomplish a number of tasks.

Small businesses actually have a number of advantages over larger businesses. They can move much more quickly to offer new products, services or features as well as offering far more custom products tailored to their individual clients. They can also offer a level of personal service that giant corporations just can’t touch. To do all that, however, they need teams that work together smoothly and seamlessly to offer them. These programs can help.

Eric Gordon
Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon