By Karl Bickmore, CEO

The ever-accelerating world of computers, applications and cloud solutions for IT evolves so fast, it’s hard to keep up with all the new tools available to help your small business operations—so many, in fact, you might not be aware of all of them. Because we support a wide range of customers in different geographical locations, we’re exposed to the latest IT tools trends you may have missed.

We’re always on the lookout for tools that will make a real difference in your ability to make your business more efficient, so you can better meet your customer’s needs. Before we recommend a tool, we make sure it is easy to use, reasonably priced and available anytime, anywhere.

Additionally, it should be suited for small- to medium-size businesses.

By category, our top four picks for must-have IT tools for small business operations are:

Business Operations: SOP/Documentation Business Case:

Many small businesses rely heavily on the management of a single individual. This is often the business owner. Without this person’s constant oversight and guidance, managing day-to-day operations are a struggle.

Although it’s hard work, creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) and good internal documentation is the way to fix a situation. We’ve noticed, however, that many small business owners simply don’t know where to start.

To reduce the chaos and empower all staff to properly perform their duties and responsibilities with far less oversight, we recommend using a tool that centrally locates all SOPs and documentation. This is usually a good step toward creating a fast-growth company.

Tools we recommend include:

Video conferencing: As our ability to serve customers in any geography has grown, so has our need to communicate. From interoffice calls to customer support, video conferencing is today’s go-to solution.

But nothing is more frustrating for you or your staff than using a low-grade or poorly functioning video conferencing solution. Luckily, we’ve found an assortment of new options on the market. Here are our favorites:

Zoom is an inexpensive cloud-based video conferencing platform with fairly good quality and functionality.

If you want more than the low-end solution offer, there are lots of options. But the costs increase quickly as features are added.

As most people complain about audio/video quality of the low-cost options, we recommend just upgrading the webcam by investing in a top-of-the-line camera/mic solution. While they are worth the investment, these high-end solutions can cost thousands of dollars. We’ve found Lifesize to be the most value for your dollar.

Collaboration Utility:

Did you know you can cut your email flow by more than half if you implement a true collaboration tool?

While the ability to work anytime from anywhere is a big perk of the modern workplace, it makes collaboration a challenge. Even when we’re all in the same office together, we still struggle with working collaboratively. We tend to overuse email, which doesn’t lend itself to collaboration. We end up with long, useless email threads with far too many cc: recipients.

Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack are all the rage, and after using them, it’s easy to see why. Also, both these tools have highly functioning free versions. However, many of our clients are still unaware of them.

Task Tracking:

We see a lot of spreadsheets and Word documents used in meetings and team huddles as a way to track open to-do’s and tasks. There are some great new tools that are easy to access and can help make sure the job gets done. We are big fans of the Microsoft Planner solution that is included free with Office 365. It is a great way to create a “planner” per regular meeting, per department, or per project to manage high-level tasks.