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A wide variety of open source business software is available to managers in all industries who need to use technology to enhance their business processes. Whether it’s keeping track of accounts, helping with logistics, or providing analytics on delivery and sales, businesses of all sizes can profit from “freeware” or “shareware” programs that will help them to do more at no cost. The key to good open source business software is to choose programs that are compatible with one's specific business needs.
One good rule of thumb is that a manager should not “settle” for a poor quality open source business tool. If a better product is available for a moderate cost, it’s often better to choose the superior software program, since the best tools can save a lot of money. However, finding high quality freeware can add a lot to the bottom line for nearly any business. Moreover, the nature of "open source" software means that the user has the opportunity to improve and customize it to his or her needs.
Another rule is to look for open source business software that fits into an overall “software architecture.” This popular business term reflects the idea that all of your software should be compatible mutually for easy data transfer between servers, remote work portals, or other points of end use. Your software programs need to be able to “talk” to each other, and good open source business software adheres to the rules of usability that help companies craft the best overall IT setups.
Many managers also look for open source software with support options. It’s great to find a program that has some relevant use to your business, but if glitches have you running for nonexistent support or user documentation, the time drain can be a revenue eater. That’s why it’s best to seek out applications that have easy instructions, and active user forum, or, ideally, human agents who can help with troubleshooting if necessary.
Another general guideline is to fit the open source software to specific business needs. This means identifying exactly what you need IT tools for the most. Saying that you want to use additional programs for “logistics” or “customer tracking” may not be specific enough. Managers should come up with a concrete list of specific goals, and then fit available open-source programs to those goals in a direct and concrete way. This will get businesses the most profit out of all of the free software that is out there.
In some cases, it might make sense to bring in consultants. A dedicated consultant can often recommend the right tools without taking an unnecessarily long time to pin down specifics, and help companies build their software architecture the right way. It’s also important to use any in-house talent that you have, which means talking to engineers or other qualified people within the business about which tools make the most sense.
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