Web based software applications offer many advantages relative to stand-alone desktop software. These include cost savings, improved efficiency and employee productivity, better communications and coordination of efforts within the firm and enhanced data security.
Many believe the advantages of web-based software applications are so compelling that it will eventually supplant the stand-alone desktop computer and the new model in business will be software as a service (SaaS), not as a product. Small businesses and entrepreneurs should consider the attractiveness of the web based software approach in planning for their future software requirements.
Web-Based Software Reduces Costs
Web-based software requires no initial capital investment to buy software for a number of individual desktops. There is no software to download or install on site. The cost is incurred as the service is used, preserving scarce cash to be used more productively within the firm for more critical needs such as building sales or acquiring productivity enhancing equipment. The browser-based approach provides greater flexibility, enabling the small business to scale up or down quickly and easily as needs change. Both initial and ongoing maintenance cost savings are realized with the online approach. In fact, all the maintenance costs are avoided because maintenance is taken care of by the provider.
Web-Based Software Has Efficiency Advantages
It is not unusual for a small business to add trouble-shooting computer software as a job responsibility for a manager or someone in accounting or human resources who is known to have more than a passing knowledge of PCs. This part-time job often consumes that person’s time and detracts from their other important responsibilities. Often they cannot resolve the issue and an outside software consultant has to be called in to fix it. Often overlooked and rarely quantified costs of this approach include the consultant’s fee, computer downtime and the lost productivity of the employee and often the manager. Tomorrow, the computer in the next cube may have its own software glitch. This is not a nightmare scenario, but something that happens almost every day in small businesses. None of this happens with the online approach.
Another problem with desktop-based software is not all units may be updated at the same time and may be running different versions. This often has unpleasant results and creates more inefficiency. With web-based software residing on a single server, any new versions or modifications are installed and immediately available for all users, improving efficiency and productivity and avoiding this confusion. The cost and inconvenience of updates is completely avoided with the online approach.
Web-Based Software Improves Communications and Coordination
Using the online approach can lead to significant productivity improvements. It can be used by laptops and any other device and can even be integrated with an iPhone. Any device that can access a browser can use this software. It provides the opportunity to work in any location at any time. Many of the devices can be used on the most inexpensive PCs, unlike desktop software that requires hard drive capacity. The ability to work anywhere at any time and communicate with coworkers can be a great productivity enhancer.
Because the same information is available to all employees, they are reading off the same page. How often in business does one person have an old version of the business plan, while another is looking at a revised version of the plan document? It happens all the time and almost always leads to confusion, frustration and misunderstandings. This never happens if the business plan is online, everyone sees the same numbers at the same time. It is also much easier to add new users without the inconvenience and cost of acquiring and installing another copy of software. Granting a new employee or advisor access is as easy as adding a new password.
The communications capability encourages interaction and team problem solving, particularly with software that offers the opportunity to chat, discuss and message. If one person has an idea for a new product and wants to see what impact that will have on the firm’s planned results, it is possible to discuss that idea with a colleague and test the idea by simulating it on the financial plan. Then, both can see and discuss the results. These types of opportunity exploration discussions are facilitated by the communications capabilities of the online approach.
The same is true if there is a big project that is falling behind schedule. The impact of the delay on other required completion dates can be determined using appropriate online project management software and the project manager and others can see the results and discuss how to get things back on schedule. With the online approach, the project manager can be on site in Dallas and the others can be in New York or any other city. These types of problem solving discussions are facilitated by the communications capabilities of the online approach.
Web Based Software Offers Greater Security
With stand-alone software, an administrator must constantly monitor the security of the data and these security measures must be instituted and policed on site. With online software, sensitive company data resides on a secure server whose security is constantly monitored by sophisticated protective mechanisms and a staff of full time specialists in computer security.
Small companies and entrepreneurs should consider online software as an alternative to desktop based systems. They should consider the cost, efficiency, communications, coordination, problem solving and security advantages the online option offers and factor that into their future information systems plans.