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In a digitised economy, IT services occupy a growing chunk of every business’ budget. One problem that beleaguers IT managers is how to reduce their ever-growing IT costs while ensuring that the business at large does not suffer.

The abundance of software solutions available for every business need serves only to intensify the problem. Which CRM (customer relationship management) is the best fit for the sales team? What email campaigning tool is most suitable for marketing? How do we integrate sales and marketing software?

The answer lies in making smart choices when buying software. Here are four tips that can help you choose the right fit:

Deal with a minimum number of vendors

The SaaS (software as a service) industry is replete with single-product companies that typically excel in just one area. If you try to integrate disparate, best-of-breed software for all your various business needs, you will be left with staggering costs and a complex web of new issues. Recognising this as a problem, vendors have started beefing up their product portfolio by either building more products or acquiring other companies and offering a pre-integrated software suite.

Choosing an end-to-end solution will not only bring down your software cost, it will also allow different teams to work better together. A customer experience platform, for example, brings together CRM, marketing tools for social media, email campaigns and help desk software under one umbrella. This allows customer-facing teams to work together on improving customer experience by seamlessly sharing information with one another.

Evaluate flexibility to customise

In the UAE, two companies may be selling the same product but will follow completely different internal processes.

You should be able to customise the software yourself to suit your business needs instead of changing the way you work to accommodate the software. Customised tools will also have better adoption among employees. Another factor to look for is scalability. Once you have customised the software to blend in with internal processes, you want to be able to keep using it as the company grows. It should become a part of the company’s culture.

Use a low-code platform for IT needs

Instead of stretching your IT department thin with numerous requests for specialised apps, empower all teams with tools to build their own solutions. This is possible with low-code platforms that allow users to create custom applications using drag-and-drop fields.

These platforms are simple, built for users who do not have programming know-how. Apps for exclusive business needs like reserving a seat in an office cab or managing content approval can be built quickly by the HR or marketing team. The IT department can concentrate on technical problems, and larger issues like security instead of being overwhelmed by custom app requests.

Invest in artificial intelligence and machine learning

According to a study by Forbes Insights and Quantcast, AI enables marketers to increase sales (52 per cent) and customer retention (51 per cent). The study also says that AI helps in refining online customer experience and generating targeted, personalised messaging.

But AI technology is still heavily underutilised, giving early adopters a huge advantage. While some believe that AI technology will replace humans, the reality is that AI helps users be more efficient.

In CRM, AI can help the salespeople know the best time to contact a lead, qualify leads, or point out anomalies in the sales cycle. It can also suggest automation of routine tasks, freeing up time for salespeople to actually concentrate on engaging with prospects and selling. Artificial intelligence and machine learning bolster software, giving you true value for money.

By carefully choosing the software, you cannot only bring down the IT costs, but also help improve productivity and efficiency of the employees.

Hyther Nizam is President for Middle East and Africa markets at Zoho Corp.