How much software do I need to buy for the company

Small company (1 — 100 people)

My first company was just a model of how to choose the right software and at the same time not spend a lot. The CEO was a big fan of Google and bought G suite.

As a result, we had the necessary office software package, mail, and even a wiki. To store and share data, we first used Box, and then Google released its Drive – and we quickly switched to it. We would have spent much more money on licenses from microsoft, and there was no Office365 with the ability to edit online then.

But how did we manage without any CRM, HRM, ERP and other things? Google Apps Script has become our secret weapon. We created spreadsheets, added custom forms to them and wrote event handlers that generated reports for us, sent letters, created new docks from templates.

But still, other software began to appear – for example, for sending emails. At first we tried UniSender, but the low price affected the quality of services and reliability of this service. Perhaps now it is a top tool, but then in 2012 there were enough jambs (letters did not reach, duplicate campaigns were created, there were restrictions on the number of recipients). All this imposed great risks, and the director reluctantly paid for Mailchimp. The design, functionality, and capacities were completely different there.

We also needed a tool for project management and planning. At first, we used several table templates, but somehow it didn’t stick – it was difficult to see the big picture. According to tradition, we started with a domestic Megaplan, then we had few functions and we tried Bitrix24. Then it was quite a revolutionary software, they called themselves a “social intranet” – there was a chat, and tasochki, and a calendar, then CRM still appeared. Some time after I left, the company traded Bitrix for a super combo of Trello + Slack. Of course – these color cards with the possibility of dragging and custom emojis for posts immediately won the hearts of millions of users.

A separate epic was with the choice of software for customer management and sales, CRM. The boss first gave each of the managers a task to test 3 pieces from the list of the most popular CRM, but somehow this approach did not take off – it is difficult to test such an aircraft alone. Then the whole team looked at comparative reviews and chose a Zoho solution with suitable functions. In fact, Zoho turned out to be somewhat cumbersome, with a million settings, but we figured it out: we tweaked the templates, imported contacts, statuses – and it went. Later, the director told me that he hired a cool sales team who said they would only work with Close.

Google Apps Script is certainly a powerful thing, but it is designed mainly for its ecosystem, plus programming skills are needed to use it. But I really want to do full codeless automation, for example, such as an automatic message to Slack about a new completed transaction or an auto-update of the mailing list. Zapier was perfect for linking existing applications into one process. As an alternative, you can also consider MS Power Automate or some of the RPA bodies.

A funny case happened with obtaining “free” licenses for HAT (Help Authoring Tools). I researched about six of the most popular tools for creating reference documentation, and then the director suggested that I write to each company and ask for a free license in exchange for mentioning their product on our website and in the newsletter. Two small companies DrExplain and Help+Manual agreed. Later they became our clients, for whom we created videos, translations, and even user documentation.

And here is an instructive story about shareware YouTube. We created a channel and posted advertising and training videos about various products there. One day we were blocked by a complaint from competitors, and the recovery took about a month. I had to buy a spare Vimeo channel for such cases. Later I learned about more advanced video hosting services that also allow you to create and personalize videos, for example Vidyard.

My next place of work was an office that sat tightly on Microsoft Tula. In terms of cost and functionality, everything was very right there, but people suffered. What it cost to use TFS (Team Foundation Server) and Sharepoint in 2013 – then Ballmer didn’t think much about usability. I once asked the director to buy a convenient screenshot for our documentation, and he advised me to just take the Windows Snipping Tool.

Then I was brought to an American startup with a development center in Minsk (30 + 40 people). That’s where the extravagance was right there: on the one hand Atlassian stack (JIRA, Confluence, Bitbucket, Bamboo), and on the other G Suite. But the mail was Outlook. For charting, Americans used Lucidchart, architects and BI used Enterprise Architect, and everyone else used free without integration with jira.

The result was a babel of pandemonium: the requirements were smeared across Google docs, confluence and gira tickets, the source diagrams were all in different formats, the mail worked with glitches. And to manage the tasks of such a small team, jira was too cumbersome.

P.S. Guess what happened to this startup…

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