Operations management is the process of running the day-to-day functions of your business. Although these functions tend to be the main activities of a business, most small-business owners tend to slip into a routine and rarely examine these tasks to form an operations strategy. Taking just a little time to consider these things will enable you to identify operational weaknesses in your organization and start to think about what tools could assist you in improving the efficiency of your business processes.
New, cloud-based services can help any business save money and improve efficiency through proper operations management. You don’t have to be an online business to benefit from these online tools for operations. Take a look at this list of the latest tools for operations, and see whether any of these would fit your business’s needs.
“Collaboration” is a buzzword in business at the moment. Basically, it means keeping team members informed. In the old days, managers would send endless streams of memos to keep everyone informed. The most recent method of collaboration is based on email systems. Yammer is a business collaboration platform that mimics social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Yammer is a cloud-based service, so your employees out in the field, such as the sales team, can access the network on their smartphones. You can also integrate the applications you use in your day-to-day operations. As Yammer is all about business collaboration, very small businesses would probably not find a social network like Yammer suitable for their operations strategy.
One service that no business should overlook is data backup. If your laptop gets stolen or your hard drive crashes, the loss of data could ruin your business. Carbonite is one of many cloud-based services specializing in data storage. A major benefit of Carbonite is that it is affordable and scalable. It is not one of those tools for operations that suit only multi-employee businesses. Sole traders and small businesses also need to build data recovery into their operations strategy, and Carbonite has a range of plans to suit all business sizes.
Trello is a business collaboration tool that could also be used by a sole trader for operation organization. The user assembles all the information for a project onto a board, which can then be accessed by others; it is a way of allocating tasks to a team or just gathering all your thoughts in one place. Because Trello is a cloud-based service, the boards you create can be accessed from any other device, including a tablet or a smartphone. So, if you are a decorator or a handyman, you can compose a library of guides and checklists at home or at the office and then access that information when you are out on site. Trello combines many tools for operations, such as a calendar for scheduling and a method for centralizing project documentation.
NetSuite is a big system that covers all operations management for a company. Its tools for operations include an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that covers financial functions, such as accounting, financial planning, order management, invoicing, and bill paying. The NetSuite ERP system is the world’s most implemented cloud-based service for operations management. It enables you to track inventory, order supplies, and write sales orders. The system also helps you ship packages and issue invoices to customers. The company also offers a customer relationship management (CRM) module that controls the customer contact aspects of operations management. NetSuite isn’t designed for small businesses—the NetSuite website only mentions midsize businesses and enterprises—so the product is less suitable for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Deputy is one of the tools for operations in this list that focuses on the workforce management aspects of your operations strategy. This is a cloud-based service, so information you post in your Deputy system can be accessed from mobile devices—making it a business collaboration platform as well as a scheduling and task allocation system. The operations management functions of Deputy are comprehensive. Nevertheless, sole traders or small partnerships probably wouldn’t benefit from the team management and business collaboration aspects of the system enough to justify Deputy’s expense. Consultancies and agencies, however, would find this a useful tool for operation organization.
AOMi stands for Active Operations Management International, but you don’t need to be a multinational to run your operations management through this system. The “international” part of the name just refers to the fact that the company is active in many different countries. AOMi is probably the most targeted of the tools for operations in this list in that it doesn’t focus on business collaboration or form part of an ERP system. It is specifically targeted at supporting operations management. The AOM methodology focuses on staff allocation and goal setting. Many businesses overlook the concept of capacity when planning their operations strategy. AOMi starts with HR capacity, including the availability of in-house skills and outsourced services. If your business has many employees, or if you operate with independent contractors to fulfill your orders, you would benefit from the performance and resource utilization capabilities of this system.
As you work through this list of reviews of tools for operations, you will probably see immediately which of these systems match the needs of your business. If you are a sole trader or a small business with very few employees, you probably wouldn’t need the business collaboration features of some of the products in this list. Some of the systems reviewed here, such as NetSuite and AOMi, are better suited to midsized companies with a number of employees and sales activities to track. Other services, such as Trello or Carbonite, fulfill operations management needs of all sizes of businesses.
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