Cloud-based HR software platforms have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering a cost-effective and convenient business tool for SMEs. Used in the right way, they can free up resources and provide companies with a wider market reach without any significant outlay.
Simon Bradshaw, a Senior Developer at WorkSmarter, considers the merits of online software services for SMEs at this uniquely challenging time.
Software-as-a-Service, also known as SaaS, is where a 3rd-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers over the internet — made possible by recent advances in cloud computing.
Integration with other platforms becomes easier and this means that a vast range of on-demand computing services can be delivered and scaled to businesses without the need to invest in specialist staff, hardware, infrastructure and maintenance.
Figures from the start of 2020 showed that SMEs made up more than 99% of all UK private sector businesses. More than 95% were micro-businesses employing fewer than 10 staff; less than 4% were classed as a small business with under 50 employees. Only 0.6% were medium-sized businesses, employing between 50 and 249 workers.
By their very nature, the vast majority of SMEs will have a flexible workforce that may include freelancers, contractors and self-employed working from different locations, often remotely. The advantages that come from being so versatile necessitates resilient, reliable systems which are fit for purpose and provide effective communication right across the business.
Creating brand awareness and attracting customers in a crowded and increasingly tech-based market is already one of the biggest concerns for UK SMEs, but the additional and exceptional challenges caused by the current crisis now mean that ever-more enterprising, agile and financially canny strategies are required to remain competitive and viable.
Using a cloud-based supplier to add capability or increase capacity may prove to be a game changer in these difficult times. Allowing a specialist provider to meet some of your online business needs can provide unprecedented opportunities to help grow and evolve with less risk, and so provide more value for customers and staff.
A subscription or pay-per-use service can be economical and help to keep costs down. Contracts are often flexible, or increasingly are not required (as is the case with us here at WorkSmarter), therefore reducing commitment in uncertain times. It’s clear what you’re paying for and what you get in return.
Responsibility for the software and servers is passed over to your provider which means investment, maintenance, security and compliance is taken care of for you. The software is updated centrally so your daily business isn’t interrupted.
As cloud computing has innovated, we’ve seen a huge rise in the numbers of cloud service providers covering many different areas of business such as accounting, invoicing and payments, email management, HR tools and services, analytics and reports, and website builders. If you need it — you can probably find it!
Affordability and choice are no longer the barriers they once were but sourcing the right partner may be trickier, so if you’re considering making the move you’ll need to prepare carefully.
Determine what you need and why, so you can directly compare your requirements to the features and functionality being offered.
First consider your needs:
- Custom branding to match your company
- Data security
- Data reporting and analytics
- Speed and ease of implementation and deployment
- Levels of training and support — not just at set up, but ongoing
- Software that supports your remote and mobile users, and operates across all platforms and systems
- Intuitive system that’s easy to use
- Free trial to evaluate the service before committing
Next, consider what you need from your partner:
- Suitable level of experience and expertise
- Trusted security processes
- Control of data and data retention
- Usability and ease-of-use
- Arrangements for data backups
- High availability and uptime levels
- Compliance with current legislation and best practices
- Whether they are using the latest technologies
- Payment options and any additional/hidden costs
- Customer support
- Do they communicate well, are they responsive and transparent
Choosing the right partner relies on being really well informed and having enough knowledge, so only start your research once you’ve taken everything into consideration.
Make sure you contact any potential partners directly, read the reviews, and take advantage of any free trial before you commit.
Simon Bradshaw is a Senior Developer at WorkSmarter. Created by and for HR Professionals, WorkSmarter is a cloud-based HR software platform that provides a suite of online HR tools specifically designed for UK SMEs.