Small business teamwork made simple: welcome to the cloud

For owners and managers of Aussie small businesses, it has always been challenging to find software that's simple, powerful – and affordable. With so many new cloud-based (that is, internet-based) software options launching in recent years, choosing what's right is an even more daunting prospect.

Australia's favourite cloud-based platforms

It seems there's a cloud-based platform tailored to every business need. We asked users from three very different Australian small businesses about their most valued software platform. They not only shared their favourite tips, they explained how other businesses could benefit from these powerful tools too.

Next level messaging: Slack

For Lauren Jane, senior marketing coordinator of mobile payment startup Tappr, team coordination is critical. That's why Slack has become an essential part of the business. Slack is a team-based collaboration tool founded in 2013. It has since become one of the biggest names in productivity software. "Team communication is streamlined, trackable and simple, eliminating the need for email," Jane says. “Since much of the Tappr developer team is often overseas, interstate, or offsite, Slack was an appealing option to keep in constant communication with employees."

With a sales force constantly on the road, Jane wanted a tool that would enable much higher levels of remote collaboration. "Slack has reshaped the way employees communicate," she says. In a sense, it's replaced the water cooler. “We have a random channel for jokes which connects us culturally – we can all jump in and contribute. In that way, Slack blends work and play."

The channels are broken down to areas within the business like marketing, or design, streamlining communications inside each team. The question is, has implementing Slack boosted the efficiency of Tappr? “When you look at the timelines of starting and finishing projects from a project management perspective, there's an impact." And the best part? There's no learning curve. “It's a chat platform – how hard is that?" 

"Slack has reshaped the way employees communicate" - Lauren Jane, senior marketing coordinator

Australia's own cloud-based software giant: JIRA

For Fred Schebesta – CEO and co-founder of comparison website – improving team collaboration was mandatory. "JIRA first appeared on our radar in March 2014," he says. If you haven't heard of it, JIRA project management software is the flagship product of Sydney-based software giant Atlassian. Today, it's used by 35,000 companies globally. According to Schebesta, “implementing software programs such as JIRA has increased the efficiency of the business by creating a central location to store and share information."

"It's boosted staff efficiency by streamlining processes as it means we don't have spreadsheets or other documents everywhere. It provides transparency as staff can see project briefs, deadlines, and progress which can help manage expectations."

However, improvements in efficiency don't happen overnight, and Schebesta admits new software involves a learning curve. “At the beginning, introducing these systems resulted in lower productivity as it takes time for people to master new programs. However, as time went by, we reaped gains in productivity. We now have a culture of creating tickets and posting files. And we've seen the benefit of sharing and cross-collaboration between teams." 

Accounting made easy: Xero

The idea of getting excited over accounting software might seem strange, but when you mention Xero to business owners, excitement naturally follows. Founded in 2006, New Zealand-based Xero's cloud-based accounting software now has more than 700,000 users worldwide.

Aussie entrepreneur Rachel Power is one of Xero's legions of true believers. With two cafés (one with a gallery), and an ecommerce website in the works, Power says, "Xero helps to keep the businesses separate to easily identify and attribute income/loss." In Power's opinion, cloud-based accounting software such as Xero is essential for all businesses, from startups to established companies. 

"In addition to the ability to quickly see accounts due and overdue invoices, it's also valuable for CRM [Customer Relationship Management] as you see your biggest return on investment with particular clients or products," Power says. "It's a strong platform that is fairly easy to navigate and work out with minimal tech-head knowledge needed."