If you run a small or midsize company, you probably already realize you have some inherent advantages against larger competitors. For one, bigger players can be perceived as slower to respond – whether it’s a simple inquiry or addressing complex problems that emerge.

Nimble is good, right? Absolutely.

But large enterprises also can be perceived as “a safer bet,” with deeper resources or brand equity that implies greater staying power – until now. The advantages larger enterprises once had exclusively at their disposal have become more mainstream options for midmarket businesses, too.
Technologies that deliver value and address changing customer needs are finally attainable. At the same time, it can be challenging to know which solutions are right for your business today and for years to come.

Here is some information to help you get started.

How can business software support a small and midsize business?

In its most basic form, business software or business management software is computer technology that is used to satisfy the needs of the entire organization, not just a specific individual. The right software should guide employees with insights that provide visibility into the operations of every line of business, help increase efficiency, and gives a clear understanding of customer demands.

Critical capabilities of business software may support key business functions such as:

  • IT management: Data security, IT service management, and business application integration
  • Operations management: Business process management, enterprise resource planning, project management, and manufacturing execution
  • Human resources (HR) administration: Workforce management and occupational health and safety
  • Knowledge sharing: Content management, business intelligence analytics, collaboration, and business forms automation
  • Marketing and sales management: Customer relationship management

In addition, business software enhances the customer experience by running everything from e-commerce, product recommendations, catalog presentation, online payment processes, automated billing systems.

Some small and midsize companies think business software is too big for them.  However, this is a misperception. The technology provides an opportunity to connect the dots between the problem and a complicated web of outcomes, operational inefficiencies, employee and customer behaviors, and market dynamics.

Whether deployed on premise, in the cloud, or within a hybrid landscape, some business software solutions capture data and allow users to access that information anytime and anywhere. The technology supports active, community-based collaboration, which empowers users to work together to find the best solution. And with predictive capabilities, the business can forecast the short- and long-term impact of the resolution and assess next steps to protect the company from the same issue in the future.

How can all areas of a small and midsize company become connected with one software?

Integration is one of the most misunderstood IT terms. All too often, growing companies believe that this common initiative means linking various applications to form an IT landscape that is too complicated to update or add new technologies. However, when executed well, integration projects deliver a transparent, aligned view of the entire operation. Based on a connected chain of processes, this level of visibility optimizes the impact of everything from decisions to cost and efficiency savings and customer interactions.

A successful integration strategy starts with access to data across the company. Then comes the adoption of application tools that monitor the overall health of the IT landscape, weed out business process inefficiencies, and set the stage for the automation of redundant activities.

It’s tremendously critical that users can access the data they need and trust the insights they derive from that intelligence. The architecture in which this information resides must be organized to keep data secure, authorize access accurately, and respond to queries without delay. Plus, turning data into a tool for more strategic work – such as process automation or support for intelligent decision-making – allows small and midsize businesses to compete on par with their largest competitors.

What should small and midsize businesses consider when selecting business software?

Choosing the right business software is a matter of understanding your unique requirements, identifying related tasks, and knowing which risks should be mitigated. For example, what do your customers expect? Which aspects of the growing business and its products and services open new levels of differentiation? Will market dynamics and new regulations call for a shift in operations?

Answering these questions and many more helps small and midsize companies determine which software solutions can accelerate the right business outcomes. Furthermore, they can learn how to best lighten the load of traditionally manual processes, siloed information, limited collaboration, and operational redundancy. Options that alleviate those burdens may include the adoption of cloud or on-premise solutions, the assistance of a partner, and the ability to support mobile connectivity.

Other fundamental decisions that can be made during this time of self-assessment include:

  • Weighing the benefits of cloud-hosted solutions: One of the most significant choices made when planning an implementation is the deployment environment. On premise, in the cloud, or hybrid of the two – small and midsize business must consider how well these options influence critical growth factors. They include adding or removing capabilities as needs change; extending the technology to new areas after an expansion, merger, or acquisition; providing employees with undisrupted access to information; and acquiring more cost savings.
  • Setting the right digital foundation for future growth: No matter which technology is implemented, every digital investment must help the business run more efficiently, improve compliance, and seize new opportunities. For example, many companies choose to start enterprise resource planning software (ERP) to cover the basic needs of every area – from HR and finance to marketing and sales to manufacturing and supply chain.

It is also critical to select software that the business will never outgrow. Every solution purchased should serve as a building block for the next implementation.

Which best practices help small and midsize business transition to business software?

The best place to start a transition to business software, for many growing businesses, is at its core – finance. A common dilemma for most finance leaders at growing companies is knowing how to gain the visibility, speed, and insight necessary to run some of their most basic operations. To handle procure-to-pay and order-to-cash processes and manage vendors and cash flow, business software delivers flawless, fast, and efficient outcomes – without the risk of error, noncompliance, and unreasonable delays.

Another best practice is the use of third-party business and technical expertise. A partner that understands specific aspects of the business – such as regional challenges, local language, economic pressures, and industry-specific needs – can accelerate a digital strategy by applying lessons learned from a range of implementation projects.

What benefits does SAP software bring to small and midsize companies?

SAP offers a deep portfolio of industry and line-of-business solutions and services, a worldwide network of partners, and experience as an ERP innovation leader. For nearly five decades, we have helped many small and midsize companies blossom and grow into highly competitive and profitable global enterprises.

More than 250,000 small and midsize companies use our business software as a foundation for adding new digital capabilities gradually as requirements evolve, data volumes increase, customer interactions and transactions multiply, and market reach expands globally. Along every step of their transformation, these businesses have the freedom to choose from a wide variety of technology, deployment options, and consumption models. They can also leverage battle-tested expertise and proven best practices that guide the next steps toward their ultimate vision.

To learn more about SAP solutions for small and midsize companies, visit sap.com/sme or answer a few questions and our solution finder tool will provide a suggestion with resources to help you learn more.

Discover what specific digital technologies mean to small and midsize companies. Bookmark the Getting Started series page to keep up with the basics of analytics, HR, and people engagement solutions, digital platforms, procurement and expense management tools, as well as ERP and CRM applications.

Gary Erickson is global vice president of Channel Digital Enablement at SAP.