Do you have the software blues? That’s when you are trying to leverage technology to operate your business — but finding that software isn’t helping meet your goals. In fact, technology gets in the way.
You’re looking for efficiency, speed and money savings. What you get instead is more complexity.
This is the precise problem that Zoho Corporation set out to solve with its all-in-one platform called Zoho One . The company calls it the “operating system for business.” That was the message at the recent Zoholics conference for Zoho users, in Austin, Texas the week of April 8, 2019.
CEO Sridhar Vembu in his keynote address said that a business system should cover the entire flow of work, foster cooperation within departments, and cost less doing it.
Zoho’s integrated Zoho One suite consists of around 45 different software apps that come bundled for one price. For example, one small manufacturer at Zoholics I spoke with said that moving to an integrated system saved him more than $7000.
But an integrated system  offers advantages other than a price break.
The idea behind an all-in-one system like Zoho One is that the various software programs you use “talk” to each other. You are able to enter data once and use it across applications without typing it in multiple times. Everyone in your company has access to the right information, without data being siloed. There’s no downloading data into spreadsheets because it’s the only way to move it around.
In short, the software works for your company, instead of your company working on the software.
Top 10 Advantages of An All-in-One Software Platform for a Small Business
Let’s take a look at the advantages of an all-in-one software platform.
Avoid Duplicate Data Entry
When you have multiple programs from different software vendors, employees often end up entering the same data in different systems. For instance, you may have to enter the same customer information into your CRM and also into your accounting system. That’s wasted effort. You pay for it in higher labor costs, not to mention lost productivity.
A single integrated platform eliminates this wasteful duplicated activity.
Eliminate “Fall Through the Cracks” Errors
Missed deadlines! Customer deliverables forgotten! Neglecting to invoice!
Have you ever had this happen? For many small businesses errors like these occur too often. Today, the right software can help you avoid these issues — provided the software apps communicate with one another without human intervention.
This is where integration is key. And a single platform makes seamless integration easier.
Exchange Data Between Software Apps
How often have you had to manually move data from one system to another through spreadsheets or copy and pasting? Or, discover your workers in one department don’t have access to data because it resides in a system used by another department? Or, even worse, you run a report and someone else runs the same report, but the information is different?
This is incredibly frustrating and time consuming. It is caused by systems that don’t “talk” with one another. And it often results in incomplete or inaccurate information, leading to costly mistakes.
An all-in-one Integrated business system makes sure that everyone is looking at the same information. And that means no more wasted time moving data around.
Slash the Need for Tech Expertise
API? What the heck is an API? Have you ever had that reaction when a vendor says, “everything integrates — just use our API”?
Too many software systems require the assistance of a tech person to customize integrations using APIs. That can get expensive. And, you find yourself managing tech projects instead of managing your business.
Running your business shouldn’t require executing complicated tech projects. Using an all-in-one business system assures that all of the applications work together out of the box.
Activities that you do day in and day out eat up staff time and resources. And the tedium is mind-numbingly boring. What if you could automate some or all of those repetitive activities?
Automation can help you move faster, be more productive and gain efficiencies. Creating a streamlined workflow is much easier to achieve with an integrated all-in-one system. Data and transactions are automatically passed between apps making it easy to see and map out your processes, and apply automation.
Make Smarter Business Decisions
You’re feeling uncertain about that big business decision. Your gut says one thing, but everyone on your team is saying something else. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had the data to answer your questions?
When all your data is in one integrated system, it’s easier to get access to information for analytics and reports. You can even have a dashboard with real-time intelligence showing key performance indicators (KPIs) about your business.
Access to integrated data reports makes working ON your business instead of IN your business  a reality.
Cut Your Total Cost of Software
A small monthly fee for one software app sounds great. But when your business needs grow and one app turns into 10 or 20, costs add up. Before you know it, you’re spending hundreds or thousands of dollars per month on software with overlapping features.
Using a single software platform can reduce your total cost and reduce duplicate features. Plus, having a single point of invoicing makes bookkeeping a breeze.
Use Fewer Vendors
Sure, your different apps can be connected. But when one vendor updates or changes something, it breaks the connection creating a domino effect of troubleshooting that can take hours or days to fix. No business can afford that kind of time waster.
Using integrated software eliminates the frustration that comes from the inevitable finger-pointing when unrelated apps are linked together. With a single software vendor, updates are automatically incorporated across the entire suite of applications.
Achieve Single Point Security
Recently a software integration breakup was in the news. Turns out, Mailchimp and Shopify are getting a divorce  from their integration. Why? Each side is pointing the finger, but according to Mailchimp it’s partly due to concerns over Shopify’s data privacy approach.
Regardless of who is right, the situation highlights issues inherent in sharing data across different integrated vendors. What if one party no longer wants to continue with the integration? And even if they continue, do you know where your data will end up and who’s responsible for keeping it secure?
With an all-in-one system, these sorts of cross-vendor security and privacy concerns are much less of an issue. You know who you’re dealing with and there are fewer security risks to consider.
Scale Your Business to Grow
When businesses are very small, using a few software applications isn’t that hard to manage. But as a business grows and the number of software applications grows, the cross-integration issues multiply.
“Integration spaghetti is what happens when all of your business data lives on different platforms,” says Zoho Evangelist Dylan Mahood. You find you have to move data and transactions among different apps, each requiring an individual effort. This slows your company down, and the problem only gets worse as needs grow. An integrated platform is more scalable eliminating errors while maintaining history and data integrity.
As Raju Vegesna, Zoho’s chief evangelist puts it when describing an all-in-one system: “Think of your business tools the same way as you would for tools you use in your house. You can buy each tool separately or you can get them all inside of a single toolbox. A single toolbox is faster, easier and gives you the most accurate information about your business.”
Brent Leary, CRM industry expert says it best, “An integrated business system not only allows you to work smarter and more efficiently, it gives you more information that could help you extend the relationship with your customer.”
And in the end, that’s what you’re in business to do.
Image: DepositPhotos, remixed by Small Business Trends