A-Z of business apps: tech snapshot and future thoughts

Wrapping up our tour of the productivity software landscape as seen through 26 business apps, which includes some lesser known facts about these essential tools.
5 January 2023

Key characters: part two of our business app review completes the 26 letter-themed tech tour. Image credit: Shutterstock.

Continuing the story from part one, which included a round-up of DocuSign, Google Drive, and JupyterLab – to name just a few highlights – it’s time to complete our alphabetical tour of the business software scene, to generate a tech snapshot of where things stand heading into 2023.

To understand how the cybersecurity landscape has evolved, it’s worth looking at the expansion in services offered by big names in the scene. Virus signatures still have a role to play in keeping our computers safe from the threat of malware. But today, online security firms have so much more on their product pages besides endpoint protection. For example, Norton – which has been in the game for over three decades – now includes ‘online reputation management’ as part of its portfolio.

If you are a believer in the power of ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’ thinking to declutter your brain, then getting rid of paperwork from your daily routine could be one to add to the new year’s resolutions e-list. And it’s not just about reducing physical distractions. Digital note-taking tools such as Microsoft’s OneNote can help in other ways. Storing your thoughts, ideas, and task lists in electronic form makes their contents much more searchable compared with opting for pen and paper. Syncing means that digital notes on your smartphone keep up with the conversation in the cloud. And systems can facilitate multiple contributors.

When it comes to fintech heavyweights, PayPal remains a major player in facilitating e-commerce. And thanks to its ‘super app’ that rolls payments, savings, shopping, and even cryptocurrency into a unified mobile-friendly interface, the firm continues to provide competition for newer entrants in the scene. Decades of experience, give PayPal considerable data and resources to leverage in carrying out advanced fraud detection to help keep users safe online

Also, the firm’s venture capital arm continues to push the envelope. Taking a tech snapshot, one of the blockers for building more integrated products for SMB customers is the absence of a universal API. To address this, PayPal Ventures (together with other investors) participated in a $100 million series C round – over the summer of 2022 – to enable Codat to expand its API development in this area.

Designed for businesses of various sizes, including freelancers, Quickbooks is one of a range of apps that aim to streamline essentials such as generating invoices and managing expenses. The software can help create estimates for customers, and report on key business data so that owners know that their companies are heading in the right direction. And, if not, have as much time as possible to remedy issues.

Fintech darling, Revolut, has built its success on improving the user experience (UX) in making payments and carrying out foreign exchange, to name just a couple of services offered through the firm’s app. Business customers too, can benefit from the well thought out UX, which certainly gives traditional banks something to aim for. The competition may not be quite as it appears though, as Revolut partners with the traditional banking sector to deliver its services. So, perhaps, a more useful way of picturing Revolut is as an impressive UX wrapper, bringing financial products into the digital age.

Stripe might be most famous for allowing vendors to take card payments using their phone. But it’s helping to modernize financial infrastructure in other ways too. For example, Stripe worked with shipping giant, Maersk, to enable the transport company to accept credit cards in its customer billing software..

Trello takes the popular Kanban workflow management technique and adds some digital sparkle. The user experience appeals to many, and you may never need to use a spreadsheet to manage a project again.

Another tech snapshot is the rise of skills marketplaces, such as Upwork. Companies can connect with developers, designers, and other talent that’s required to try new ideas or quickly fill a gap that’s opened up in their organization. And it gives freelancers a ‘shop window’ to highlight their capabilities and share customer feedback and ratings.

Tools such as autonomous workspaces offer clues as to where the cloud is moving to next. As VMware explains, the concept hangs on three system properties – self-configuring, self-healing and self-securing. And, powered by big data, cloud systems will be even more aware of user needs, self-configuring to an advanced degree. If something breaks, the set up will automatically remediate. And the security posture can be escalated, offering protection based on context.

Microsoft Word may be the ‘go to’ word processing tool for many. And, certainly, integrations such as modern text-to-speech algorithms make document review easier than it’s probably ever been. But users might still enjoy venturing a bit wider in their search for word processing software. Containing decades of development, open source competitors can turn out to be just as capable for many tasks. There’s also the move towards minimal and decluttered digital writing tools to note. And these could appeal to anyone who finds having hundreds of icons surrounding the page a distraction.

New Zealand-based accounting software firm, Xero, has won many fans with its multi-featured product. Plug-ins make it possible to automate a wide range of accounting tasks, including employee pension provision and payroll. The ability to add different functions as you need them makes the concept particularly appealing for smaller and medium-sized businesses.

Much like Instagram, YouTube allows businesses to reach out to a new audience. Content can take longer for firms to prepare, but the reward is deeper engagement. Don’t forget video in your 2023 marketing strategy. And don’t’ forget YouTube. It’s not just for cat videos.

Zoom made online meetings easy. So much so that the business app has been integral in the rise of remote working. But a harder puzzle to solve is enabling hybrid events that bring real world networking opportunities into the digital realm. In a Zoom-commissioned survey, nearly all respondents agreed that hybrid events will play an important role in future event planning, which certainly sets the path for digital partners to follow.

So that wraps things up, for now. But products and services, and their creators, don’t stand still. As always, TechHQ will keep bringing you highlights at the intersection of business and technology.