Business management software is meant to automate certain work processes that would otherwise take a lot of unnecessary time and effort.

This comprehensive guide will show you which aspects of your work should be automated by using business management software, as well as help you decide on the one that best suits your company.

Business management cover

What is business management software?

Business management software encompasses all of the tools that help you run your business smoothly.

They range from simple time trackers to complex accounting platforms that let you juggle several dozen clients.

These tools are meant to automate certain processes, such as payroll, for example. They can also cut down on tedious tasks like inbox management. But they can also handle large-scale tasks, like project management.

But, with such a wide variety of tools to choose from, how will you know what to look for?

How to choose the right business management software/platform

Since there are so many different types of software and categories, one can easily feel lost. If you aren’t sure where to start in your search, the next set of questions can help.

These are just some important things to consider when choosing the right software for you. Answer the following questions and you might get a clearer idea on what your business needs:

What are the biggest challenges my business is facing right now?

Needless to say, the type of business management software depends on the areas you struggle with the most. Maybe it’s financing, maybe it’s insufficient data storage, HR, customer management, and so on. Decide which aspects of the business are a priority and patch those holes first.

How much are we able/willing to spend? What are our budget constraints? 

It goes without saying that the software will need to match your budget. If at all possible, you should try signing up for a free version until you know for certain that a paid plan can benefit the company.

Do you expect/plan on growing the business? 

If you do, then you’ll want software that can scale along with the company. Look for tools and solutions that can help with the workflow whether you’re at 10-50 employees or 150-300.

Do you have remote teams? Do you need 24/7 access? 

Answering “yes” means that you will have to find a software that caters to all devices, and is accessible both offline and online.

What level of customization do you need? 

This question is related to integrations. Apps and software that have at least a dozen different integrations will give you more freedom to mold it to fit your business. In the end, you’ll be taking that software and tailoring the service to maximize its potential.

For easier reading, we’ve narrowed down the choices and grouped them into 6 different categories. They represent the general aspects of a business, regardless of the industry (retail, IT, construction, HR,…).

Business management software categories and their best representatives

Apps, tools, and solutions are there to make our jobs easier by finding shortcuts or automating certain tasks. So let us first take a look at what type of work can be automated, and to what extent it should be automated.

It’ll give us a better overview of what our business management software should entail.

Activities and processes that can be automated for optimal business management are:

  1. Tracking employee and team work hours
  2. Managing workforce
  3. Customer relationship management and sales
  4. Project management and collaboration
  5. Accounting and invoicing
  6. Storing and sharing documents

1. Time tracking software ⏲️

For time management, you will need a tool that tracks your time, helps with scheduling and ensures you (and your employees) stay focused when needed.

More specifically, time management apps need to:

  • track time;
  • act as a timer (Pomodoro or other);
  • keep distractions away;
  • have schedules/to-do lists/habit trackers;

Any tool that saves you time on mundane tasks and helps with the day-to-day schedule is irreplaceable.

Top time tracking tools

1. Clockify – Best free time tracker for businesses of all sizes

clockify timesheet

Clockify is an easy-to-use tool with a robust set of features. Made for freelancers and big businesses alike, you can easily track and log your time, check your progress and even improve your overall productivity. And with complete transparency on designated projects, you can see what everyone is working on at any given time.

Notable Clockify features: 

    • Individual and team-wide time tracking, time audits;
    • Timesheets;
    • Identify wasted time;
    • Improved productivity with daily/weekly/monthly reports.

Best value for: Freelancers, businesses of all sizes

Platforms: Cloud-based, Mac and Windows desktop, Apple and Android tablets and smartphones, Chrome and Firefox browser extensions

2. Everhour – Best lightweight tracker

If you want a tool that simply tracks time, without any bells and whistles, then Everhour might just be for you. It is an online-only tracker that acts as a supplement to an already-established business model.

Notable Everhour features: 

    • Individual and team-wide time tracking, time audits;
    • Editing time entries;
    • Lightweight invoicing system.

Best value for: Freelancers, mid-sized businesses

Platforms: Web app, extensions, as an integration (Asana, QuickBooks, etc)

2. Workforce management software 👩‍💼👨‍💼

These types of tools are intended to help you manage staff – their work schedules, project tasks, to optimize productivity, etc. Workforce management software is a be-all-end-all solution that will do wonders for company transparency and boost workflow.

WMS needs to have:

  • time tracking and timesheets;
  • project transparency/task scheduling;
  • monitoring and analyzing the workflow;
  • expense and productivity reporting.

Top workforce management tools

1. Clockify – Best for time, project and team tracking

Clockify dashboard showing task progress

Aside from tracking time, Clockify can easily become an indispensable workforce management tool. Track your and others’ time, have full transparency over projects and tasks, calculate rates for separate projects and more. Useful for automating the more tedious sides of project management, whether you’re a freelancer or a business.

Notable Clockify features: 

    • Individual and team-wide time tracking, time audits;
    • Task categorization and labeling to improve workflow;
    • Billable vs non-billable hours in different currencies;
    • Set estimated times and compare them to actual progress.

Best value for: Freelancers, businesses of all sizes

Platforms: Cloud-based, Mac and Windows desktop, Apple and Android tablets and smartphones, Chrome and Firefox browser extensions

2. ADP Workforce Now – Best for payroll, benefits, and attendance tracking 

ADP Workforce Now was created with the intent to automate staff-related administrative tasks. Both managers and employees can use the software. Employees get access to paychecks, can calculate taxes, check their balance, submit work hours, check benefits, etc. Managers can track the same, with the addition of analytics and benchmarks, as well as compliance requirements.

Notable Workforce Now features:

    • Access to timecards, payrolls, benefits;
    • Integrated human resources to optimize teams;
    • Predictive algorithms to help with staffing;
    • Cost control.

Best value for: Mid-large businesses

Platforms: Cloud-based

3. Workday HCM – Best for recruiting, talent and workforce planning

Workday is a software solution aimed at enterprises that need nearly every aspect of their business in one place. This feature-packed tool is most commonly used for talent management, team analysis and accounting regarding payrolls, benefits, and taxes. It is ideal for large companies that have difficulty tracking their ever-growing workforce and need help automating most of the tasks.

Notable Workday features:

    • Tracking individual career goals and developments;
    • Internal accounting software for payroll and benefits;
    • Finance, HR and recruiting collaborative space;
    • Analyze costs, team structures and fill talent gaps, all in one.

Best value for: Large businesses and enterprises

Platforms: Cloud-based

3. CRM and sales tools 📈

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. As such, it concerns your business’s relationship with customers, both present and potential. Today we are able to automate some of the more tedious parts of the CRM process, including:

  • customer service and relationships;
  • sales – helps with understanding the sales targets;
  • marketing – helps with forecasting;
  • social media – helps with customer interaction and engagement.

CRM is on this list of absolutely necessary tools because of its large role in company growth.

Top CRM and sales tools

1. Hubspot CRM – Best in simplicity and usability

Hubspot is a smart solution for all aspects of CRM.  It boasts a wide variety of features for each department: sales, marketing, customer service, operations, and business owners.

Notable Hubspot features:

    • Email, prospect and deal tracking;
    • Sales pipeline management;
    • Ad management;
    • Chatbot creation.

Best value for: Businesses of any size and from any industry

Platform: Cloud-based, Apple and Android device

2. Salesforce – Best for growing businesses

Salesforce is a more serious player in the CRM game. Its complex set of features and tools extending beyond other versions of CRM software make it a valuable asset to any growing or large company. Because as the business grows, one can integrate new features and expand the platform along with the business.

Notable Salesforce features:

    • Automated B2B marketing;
    • Thousands of integrations (both Salesforce and third-party);
    • User forum/community for peer-to-peer help and exchange;

Best value for: Large, growing businesses

Platform: Cloud-based

3. Apptivo – Best for beginners, most user-friendly

Apptivo works as a smart collection of integrations that together form a strong CRM tool. Housed on a single platform, this powerful solution lets you customize any process to fit your business. It’s user-friendly, especially for CRM beginners.

Notable Apptivo features:

    • 40+ apps to choose from depending on the type of business;
    • Easy accounting and invoicing;
    • Syncing timesheets, projects and data for accurate reports.

Best value for: Small-medium sized businesses

Platform: Cloud-based

4. Project management and collaboration 🤝

Project management requires the aid of all-encompassing tools. Your teams should have a platform that allows them to communicate, collaborate, delegate tasks and discuss issues.

Likewise, a business owner needs a place for monitoring the project’s progress and overseeing the work. In these regards, a good project management tool contains at least:

  • project planning – funds, milestones, deadlines, progress tracking;
  • resource management – pre-planning, allocating resources and staff according to deadlines, scheduling;
  • task management – assignment, analysis, overview;

Naturally, certain platforms will offer more intricate features for a price.

💡 That being said, if you want to learn how to improve interpersonal employee relationships, and help them by developing a healthier work environment, you might want to look into our Team Management Guide. It can easily show you problem areas in your own workplace and offer solutions.

Top project management and collaboration tools

1. Wrike – Best for IT companies

Wrike has surfaced as a great tool for growing IT companies. With its scalability option and high customization, it’s become a fast favorite of many.

Notable Wrike features:

    • Ease of use – creating and assigning tasks;
    • Kanban boards, Gantt charts, lists, tables, etc.
    • Highly customizable project dashboards;
    • Detailed reports and report templates.

Best value for: Mid- to large-sized businesses

Platform: Mac and Windows desktop, Apple and Android tablets and smartphones

💡 Setting up a foolproof project timeline is half the work. And when it’s paired up with the right software, your projects will run as smoothly as ever.

2. Teamwork Projects – Best features for tight-knit teams 

Teamwork Projects is praised all around for the ability to pack the essential features every small team needs at an affordable price. And of course, it comes with a few bells and whistles that an experienced team will know how to utilize fully. No feature can really go to waste.

Notable Teamwork Projects features:

    • Project progress visible on the dashboard;
    • Time tracking, manual timer;
    • Invoicing and expense features;
    • Kanban boards and Gantt charts;
    • Webhook support.

Best value for: Small-mid sized businesses

Platform: Web browser, Apple and Android devices, Mac and Windows OS

3. Active Collab – Best tool for creatives

Active Collab is a good choice for businesses that tackle multiple projects at one time. It’s also a great help for any one team member involved in several of them, as it makes “project-hopping” seamless.

Notable Active Collab features:

    • Organizing tasks based on features, urgency, type, etc;
    • Set task dependencies;
    • Set and track budget/resources and time for each task;
    • Ease of use and simple UI.

Best value for: Small- to mid-sized companies

Platform: Cloud-based

4. Trello – Most adaptable to any industry 

Trello has been in the game for a long time. It made a name for itself, and rightfully so. Trello is easy to use, very user-friendly for beginners and small teams, and by having only the kanban-board view, minimizes clutter. Many project managers swear by this organizational tool. It’s a deceptively powerful solution with a simple design.

Notable Trello features:

    • Free;
    • Kanban board exporting;
    • Easy overview and task organization;
    • Highly customizable.

Best for: Freelancers, small, mid and large-sized businesses

Platform: Web browser, Apple and Android devices, Mac and Windows OS

💡 And if you are already using Trello, you can take a look at our tips on how to effectively track time in Trello via integrated Clockify app to get the most out of the platform.

5. G suite – Best long-standing tool

Google’s G Suite has been around for a long time. As such, it had the opportunity to grow and evolve into the most widely used collaborative tool to date. Even now, it is essential for schools, large enterprises, and organizations. With a vast number of integrations and user-friendly UI, it remains among the top tools.

Notable features: 

    • Large cloud storage;
    • Video conferencing, screen sharing, remote meetings;
    • High email security;
    • Fully collaborative.

Best for: Freelancers, small, mid and large-sized businesses

Platform: Web browser, Apple and Android devices

5. Accounting tools 💳

One key tool for good business management is, of course, accounting. More than with any other tool, we aim to eliminate the possibility of human error and automate as much as possible. Luckily, we can find plenty of software solutions to choose from. And when you go looking into the right one for you, pay attention that they have the following basic features:

  • invoicing;
  • budgeting;
  • finance management;
  • reporting (for clients).

Depending on the size of your business, the features you require will vary. Keep that in mind before any purchase, or else you end up with a tool that is too robust, or too barebones.

Top accounting tools

1. FreshBooks – Best accounting tool for beginners

While FreshBooks had made its name as an invoicing tool, it is now a full-fledged accounting app. It’s ideal for freelancers and small businesses due to its ease of use and intuitive design. Larger companies will want a more robust tool to be able to cover all avenues.

Notable FreshBooks features:

    • Connectivity to Stripe;
    • Data import from financial institutions;
    • Automated reminders for late payments;
    • Double-entry accounting.

Best value for: Freelancers and small businesses

Platform: Web browser, Apple and Android devices, Mac and Windows OS

2. Xero – Best all-around accounting

Xero keeps being the strongest contender to the leading QuickBooks in the accounting world. And for those of you managing a bigger company, it will be a better option than FreshBooks In order to compete, they had to expand their palette of integrations and offer features very few in the market did. But it does come with a price.

Notable Xero features:

    • Double-entry accounting;
    • 800+ integrations;
    • Unlimited users;
    • Project management;
    • Multi-currency support.

Best value for: Mid-large sized businesses

Platform: Cloud-based

3. Wave – Best free accounting software

Wave is an excellent tool for freelancers and small businesses which plan to remain small. It provides all the necessary tools and features without having to pay a hefty monthly price. It’s especially useful for service-based businesses that have a limited budget.

Notable Wave features:

    • Account coaching (for an additional fee);
    • Cloud storage and automatic backups;
    • Multi-business support; unlimited collaborators.

Best value for: Freelancers and small businesses

Platform: Cloud-based, for Apple and Android devices

5. Document storing and sharing 🗄️🗄️

When it comes to in-office (or remote) collaboration, having easy access to sharing and storing data is crucial. You also need a tool that facilitates communication between teams, helping project transparency. A good tool for this aspect of the work should feature:

  • intuitive and easy to use interface;
  • a platform with varying degrees of access;
  • easy storing and sharing of data;
  • integrated chat rooms/other communication channels;
  • project/task boards and progress visuals/reminders

How well your staff collaborates mainly depends on their own dynamic. However, a quality document sharing/storing tool can make communication much easier.

Top document sharing tools

1. Evernote Business – Best multipurpose document storage

While Evernote Business doesn’t seem as versatile as some of its competitors when it comes to advanced features, it’s a fine tool in an of itself. It makes document sharing, archiving and storing much easier.

Notable Evernote Business features:

    • User activity monitoring;
    • Limited access and restrictions setup;
    • Supports multiple file types (audio, video, documents, pdfs, spreadsheets, etc);
    • Offline access.

Best value for: Small-mid- large-sized businesses, too pricey for freelancers

Platform: Cloud-based, for Apple and Android devices, Mac and Windows OS

2. Dropbox Business – Largest file storage

Dropbox Business is an upgraded version of the regular dropbox software. It offers a good set of features that a document management software needs today.

Notable Dropbox Business features:

    • A large number of integrations;
    • Ease of access and sharing with clients;
    • Starts at 3TB of storage, with the option to expand for no charge;
    • Simple and easy to use.

Best value for: Small-mid- large-sized businesses, too pricey for freelancers

Platform: Cloud-based, for Apple and Android devices, Mac, Windows, and Linux OS

Lastly

We’ve seen that finding the right business management software isn’t as easy as we think. It requires you to know what aspects of a business can be automated, and to what extent. You need to know what is it that your business needs to grow and improve, and if the appropriate software will help. Because with the right tools, your work will be streamlined better, you save yours and your employees’ time and boost overall productivity.