AI & Small Business: The Concerns, The Benefits, and The Tools

We frequently find ourselves being asked about the risks of AI & small business, and it's certainly not only our clients who are worried; a recent Xero report found that 80% of small businesses globally are concerned about the impact the rise of AI will have.

What Small Businesses Are Worried About:

The key concerns are whether AI development and adoption will outpace regulation, commoditise services, and ultimately take more and more jobs away from hardworking humans. But, as we tell our clients, it’s important to understand that AI is not some new and terrifying digital development; it’s been around for a long time. Machine learning dates back to the 1970s, and the algorithms have been around for many years; we’re just seeing AI more prominently now because computing power has increased.

5 Benefits of AI for Small Business

  1. The automation of routine tasks allows businesses to optimise their processes and reallocate human resources to a more impactful area.
  2. AI enhances task efficiency with rapid uptake and minimal training needs, enabling businesses to integrate advanced tech more easily.
  3. Workers are more empowered and job satisfaction is increased with AI’s removal of manual and remedial tasks.
  4. Automation is cost-effective; with technology's efficiencies, operational expenses can be vastly reduced and budgets can be freed up for more strategic investments.
  5. Businesses can acquire additional and diverse skills cost-effectively through AI technologies and their augmentation of human capabilities, ultimately building themselves a competitive edge.

5 of our Favourite AI Tools:


Positioned for the next generation of business leaders, this platform aims to humanise the interaction between people and data. It uses conversational AI to help empower decision making.


This AI-driven finance assistant is clear that it wants to “not let AI replace accountants and bookkeepers”; instead it’s designed to help small businesses complete “the admin you don't want to do”.

Zia (by Zoho):

Zia bills itself as the AI-powered assistant for business. Developed by Zoho, it’s embedded in their suite of applications and strives to enhance productivity by automating tasks, offering insights and facilitating smarter business operations.


This enterprise player, which counts juggernauts like Canon and EY as customers, is a leading robotic process automation (RPA) platform that leverages AI to complete repetitive tasks and streamline workflows.


Promising users “get four hours back every week”, this is an AI-powered platform that aims to revolutionise the way we communicate through email. The high-performing teams it counts as clients include Netflix, Harvard University, Spotify and many others.

Cracking the Code: B2B eCommerce Explained

What is B2B eCommerce?

As the name suggests, this form of online trading is focused around platforms designed exclusively for businesses transacting with one another. B2B eCommerce involves dedicated websites or portals where 'on-account' or B2B customers can place orders with their suppliers. These are often hidden behind user logins and offer a tailored experience rich in unique features, including customised account management, pricing structures and payment terms that cater specifically to B2B dynamics.

Why is B2B eCommerce important?

For businesses that trade with others, the streamlined features of B2B eComm are invaluable: automated data entry reduces supplier workload and errors; customers benefit from a user-friendly and visually engaging platform, enhancing their overall experience; and promotional capabilities are built-in, allowing strategic upselling. These platforms cater specifically to their customers, creating ease-of-use, brand loyalty and ultimately fostering a lasting relationship between suppliers and buyers.

What’s next in B2B eCommerce?

B2B eCommerce is evolving; we’re seeing a marked increase in the integration of B2C-like features including retail-style promotions, upsell and cross-sell functions, and loyalty programmes. The rise of B2B marketplaces like Upstock, Faire and Joor further emphasises the importance the market is putting on this area of commerce.

Customer account management is one area progressing most dramatically - basic, B2B-as-an afterthought-type functionality has been swallowed by the need for advanced features. These include elements like custom quotes, integrated marketing materials, sales rep activity and direct communication, as well as common B2C elements like tracking and tracing orders and payment options.

Where ALTSHIFT Plays:

ALTSHIFT / BDO Solutions works with all the B2B eCommerce platforms, including BigCommerce, Pepperi, Brandscope, SparkLayer (for Shopify), and Shopify Plus B2B, which we speclialise in. This platform requires minimal customisation and offers native Shopify functionality, making it ideal for those already on Shopify for B2C or POS. We have also created our own solution, which can be applied to any of the main eCommerce platforms or sit directly over the top of an ERP system. It’s platform agnostic with a custom front-end and no limitations on the number of features.

If you are interested in learning more about B2B eCommerce, drop us a line at; we’d love to hear from you.

The Good Work: 7 Ways Technology Helps Not-For-Profits

Charities frequently exist on limited resources and budgets, so it can be a real challenge to keep up with digital advancements. We invest heavily in the Not For Profit space because we believe that the missions of these vital organisations should never be compromised by outdated systems.

7 Ways Technology Helps Not-For-Profits:

1. Governance

NFPs have a strong need for compliance, recording, reporting and transparency; processes made exponentially easier through modern platforms.

2. Cost Saving

Technology can help any organisation do more with less - charities can then reallocate budgets from operations to activating their actual missions.

3. Connection

Contemporary digital systems enhance the CX experience, building trust and credibility while minimising friction for donors, recipients, staff and volunteers.

4. Visibility

The NFP landscape can be competitive; charities need to keep up with their peers to remain in front of their donors.

5. Compatibility

NFPs need to be compatible with the cashless society we’re moving towards for many reasons: attracting the next generation of donors, lessening the administrative burden of physical currency, transparency, and convenience, to name a few.

6. Resource

Technology can help fill gaps in resources, which in the context of NFPs means more money and less reliance on staff and volunteers.

7. Automation

Automation can enhance productivity, reduce the risk of human error, save costs and set the charity up for scalable growth.

Where do we come in?

We’re proud to have helped a number of NFPs on their digital transformation journeys. With Fred Hollows, we implemented inventory, accounting and reporting systems to support international operations; at KidsCan, we conducted a finance review, ultimately bringing the function back in-house with new finance and admin systems; and, we focused on efficiencies and introduced state-of-the-art finance and payroll systems at the Burnett Foundation.

The work we do with NFPs is some of our most rewarding because we know that charities that leverage technology are better positioned to stay relevant, reach a wider audience and respond effectively to evolving challenges. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

WFMax Alternatives

It’s almost time for WorkflowMax to kick back, grab a piña colada and plan a golfing holiday because it’s retiring in June 2024. The good news is that there are plenty of really strong project management software options on the market, ready to swoop in and replace it. The challenge lies in figuring out which of the WorkflowMax alternatives is best suited to your business.

Here’s what we suggest:

Look at what WorkflowMax alternatives have been designed for your specific industry.

If you’re in professional services, you may look to a solution like Roll, a project management and collaboration platform that simplifies task tracking and team communication, or ProjectWorks, which has been designed to setup professional services businesses for scale. Those running trade services are more likely to find alignment with Next Minute, management software for the construction industry, or Fergus, a job management software tailored for trades and service businesses. There are WorkflowMax alternatives out there for all industries!

Narrow down your selection based on your business requirements and existing systems.

For example, Zoho Projects aligns really well with any business using Zoho’s CRM, syncing and integrating to ultimately supercharge efficiencies; Workguru is well suited for small and medium businesses, especially those offering trades or providing in-field services, like maintenance, repairs, or installations; and we find that GoJee is best suited for any business that offers custom manufacturing. Overall, Bluerock is the most like-for-like alternative to WorkflowMax, but unfortunately it’s not available until next year.

Talk to a partner.

Looking for an IT provider who is tech-agnostic, and therefore able to objectively provide recommendations after analysing your business. They should set you up to trial a couple of different options; you want solutions crafted around what feels most intuitive to you and your team. The partner should also be able to manage the entire WorkflowMax exit for you, migrating all of your existing data, setting up the new systems, training staff and providing ongoing support.

Mastering Workflow: A Guide to Choosing the Right Software

When it comes to selecting employee management solutions, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the multitude of options available. Here we break down how to choose and some platforms to know about. 

How to Choose:

With market factors like increasing compliance requirements and labour shortages, it’s never been more important to choose the right workflow software. We recommend that businesses always start by mapping out the employee lifecycle from end to end. We then suggest reviewing what tools and resources are needed at each step. Two key things to consider are automation and ease-of-use; employees will be able to best utilise a system that’s engaging and straightforward.

Four Platforms to Know About:

As platform-agnostic providers, we can subjectively recommend which services can best suit your business. Below, we've rounded up some of our favorites:

  • Deputy
    • Offers powerful rostering and timesheet management for larger workforces
    • Boasts strong awards management, e.g. overtime, additional entitlements
    • User-friendly and engaging for staff
    • Adapts to a multitude of industries, including healthcare, hospitality, construction, manufacturing and agriculture
  • Bamboo HR
    • Comprehensive HR management system
    • Ideal for internal HR functions
    • Rich in HR-specific features covering areas like recruitment, onboarding and certifications
    • Built to seamlessly integrate with payroll, LMS (learning management), and time & attendance
  • iPayroll
    • Provides an outsourced legal service alongside the HR software
    • Ideal for businesses looking to outsource the HR function
    • Developed here in New Zealand
  • PayHero & Droppah
    • Ensures payroll compliance with the Holidays Act
    • Integrates rosters and timesheets
    • Ideal for SMBs with employees on variable hours

What’s Next?


If you’re interested in increasing your workplace efficiencies through software, drop us a line to connect. We’d love to discuss your options. 

Thinking about an ERP upgrade?

If you're running a growing business and thinking about taking things up a notch for some serious expansion, it might be time to explore ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software. ERP software helps businesses manage and automate various aspects of their operations, including finance, human resources, supply chain, manufacturing, procurement, project management and more. So, how do you know if you’re ready?

  • ERP software is a great fit for businesses on the rise, especially if you're ready to move on from Xero and are now looking for a central system that's rich in industry-specific features - something with all the bells and whistles that you can customise to your heart's content.
  • This software is well-suited to companies making the jump to ERP when they've outgrown legacy systems like Accredo, Reckon, Quickbooks, Attache, EXO, GreenTree, Pronto, Sage, Abel and Moneyworks.

For these businesses, we like to deliver ERP with a modern twist. Using API integration, we build solutions designed to leverage other business apps across the cloud and mobile platforms, ultimately creating a much more affordable solution. At ALTSHIFT, we'll also take care of the planning and project management, from system selection and scoping to data migration, testing, training, and ongoing support.

We've guided ERP upgrades for a number of significant local businesses, including Winton, Eurotech Design and National Mini Storage. Winton needed a system that could efficiently consolidate data across all entities, Eurotech's legacy Oracle system lacked inventory control, while National Mini Storage's previous system, Reckon, couldn't handle the growing number of transactions, leading to manual workarounds for processes like bank feeds, accounts payable, and fixed asset registers.

These three particular businesses were all best-suited to MYOB Advanced Business. For Winton, we created a single, integrated setup that automated the consolidation of their 30+ assets and ultimately played a crucial role in its successful IPO listing in December 2021. The solution we created for Eurotech Design has significantly improved inventory management, with an accurate audit trail and streamlined processing - orders are now processed within minutes, reducing errors and enhancing the retail experience. As a result of our upgrade, National Mini Storage has improved cost control, reduced manual efforts, and allowed accurate five-year forecasting - which, in turn, keeps the bank happy.

If you’re interested in an ERP upgrade, let’s get a coffee and we can talk through what options could be best suited to your business.

Choosing the Right CRM: A Crucial Tool for Business Growth

Customer Relationship Management software is a suite of cloud applications that collects and stores customer data, providing a central platform for sales teams to manage customer interactions and enhance customer experience. It essentially unifies sales, marketing, customer relationships and customer services, and as a result, the right CRM will, without a doubt, improve overall business performance. Think: better customer relationships, efficient lead management, sales automation, data centralisation, segmented targeted marketing, detailed forecasting and reporting, customer retention, scalability…the list goes on. It’s easy to see why it’s crucial to choose the right CRM.


Two of the major players in the space are Zoho and Salesforce, and it’s common for Kiwi businesses to feel confused about which is the best fit. They’re both trusted brands that offer feature-rich solutions though in our experiences, Zoho is often a better fit for our mid-market clients. Salesforce started with a focus on enterprise before including more SME-focused solutions, whereas Zoho has its roots in small and medium sized business, and therefore feels much more intuitive.


The CRM decision often boils down to finding the software that aligns with your company's needs while staying within your budget. Salesforce has an extensive array of features and integrations, numbering in the thousands, however, it's worth noting that even Salesforce's second most affordable option tends to be pricier than Zoho’s top-tier plan. Zoho also offers a free edition and flexible month-to-month billing, avoiding annual commitments.


While Salesforce offers a more extensive range of features, Zoho’s offering is still likely more than enough for the average small to mid-tier business. It integrates seamlessly with commonly used software platforms and has a built-in social media feature for tracking conversations on platforms like Google and Facebook. In terms of user-friendliness, Zoho is ideal for beginners and smaller businesses who want to get started quickly. Salesforce, due to its extensive capabilities, is more likely to need a professional IT team to oversee it.


Salesforce still may be the right choice for larger or more complex businesses. It offers many industry-specific solutions, like Salesforce Health Cloud for healthcare and Salesforce Financial Services Cloud for financial services, and extensive customisation options. It’s also known for its scalability and can accommodate the needs of large enterprises with complicated sales processes and data management.


If you are thinking about switching to a new CRM system, let’s chat. ALTSHIFT is the only provider that specialises in multiple products and we’re tech-agnostic, so we’re able to objectively tell you what your business really needs. We’re powered by BDO, so we use our deep knowledge in accounts to find the best solutions. Best of all? We’re there for you every step of the way, supporting your business and optimising it for better business decisions and scalable growth.

The Time is Now: The Power of Digital Transformation

In a world where business applications and automations have advanced further than ever before, a holistic approach to digital transformation is often essential for businesses operating on outdated legacy systems.  There are a myriad of reasons why businesses are so positively impacted by making the switch; we look at three of the key ones below:


1. Cloud integration

This is the number one advantage of a digital transformation. The clue is in the name: cloud integration takes multiple platforms - from sales and customer service, to operations and logistics, to finance and accounts - and integrates them. In simple terms, the systems talk to one another.


2. Staff wellbeing

An integrated digital solution gives insight, transparency, and visibility across all departments, which positively impacts staff productivity and well-being. Clients we’ve led through these transformations report reduced staff stress levels, decreased burnout, and lessened pressure on staff. You can imagine how errors are reduced as many time consuming processes become automated, which naturally instills confidence and a more positive work environment.


3. Scalable growth

A digital transformation is proven to enhance data security, maximise supply chain efficiencies, revise energy consumption, support compliance, minimise risk and generate customer insights. Ultimately, it brings the business into the ‘now,’ driving its accessibility and compatibility, and optimising it for success in today’s digital-first landscape.

The most effective digital transformations are led by trusted partners with expertise spanning various disciplines like ERP, CRM and ECOM. Unlike some of the other players in the space, we firmly believe that partners should remain technology-neutral, giving them the ability to analyse the unique needs of each business before offering a tailored solution. At ALTSHIFT, we take this one step further with a team of in-house developers who are able to fine-tune customisation to the point where we can (and do!) create bespoke apps.



We appreciate that many operators feel overwhelmed by the idea of transforming all of the software across their business; with never ending to-do lists, it can be hard to imagine finding the time and energy to get started. That’s where we come in; BDO has powered ALTSHIFT to give businesses the ability to outsource the digital transformation process.

We work with businesses of all sizes and industries, successfully guiding digital transformation journeys for companies like RUBY, Medi Foods and Black Magic Tackle. We lead every step of the process, from initial analysis and solution recommendations, to migration and integration, to staff training and technical support. If you’re interested, email me on and let’s catch up for a coffee to discuss.

Shipping automation: The key to unlock your growth

The following guest blog post is written by one of our software partners, Starshipit. Have a read below to learn about the benefits of using the Starshipit platform for eCommerce and what it could mean for your business. For more information about integration options and the upsides, see our co-authored blog post on their website here.

Summary: We’re Starshipit, and we help online retailers turn shipping from one of their brand’s low points, to be as great as everything else they do. How do we do this? Through a powerful shipping and fulfilment platform that gives retailers the tools to take control of their shipping – and deliver better experiences for their customers.

The landscape of eCommerce is always evolving, with customer expectations in particular shifting at a more rapid pace than ever before.

Recently, we've seen a significant transformation in how customers interact with online retail. Now more than ever, they’re prioritising convenience, speed, and reliability. This shift in consumer behavior has become a driving force for retailers to adapt and innovate when it comes to their fulfilment strategies.

With studies showing that eCommerce sales are expected to account for 20.8% of retail sales worldwide this year alone, this suggests a steady increase in the preference for online shopping, and an opportunity for retailers to optimise for growth.

For retailers selling products through eCommerce channels, this really means one thing – to remain competitive, they’ll need to focus both on how they sell effectively through these channels, and how they get orders out to customers.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how a shipping automation platform (like ours) can solve the major fulfilment challenges that come with running a modern eCommerce business, and how you can get started today.

Overcoming the time sink of manual shipping processes

Shipping is almost universally a time-intensive task for retail businesses. Manual jobs such as printing shipping labels and assigning couriers is a time sink for everyone involved, and there's room for human error.

Starshipit solves this by automating the admin. Equipped with Starshipit, retailers can easily automate each step of the fulfilment process, such as generating shipping labels, packing slips, manifests, and submitting customs documentation. This is particularly useful for businesses shipping from store, as store staff can easily operate Starshipit to fulfil orders.

Centralised fulfilment dashboard

Efficiency and visibility are key elements in fulfilment, which is why having one centalised dashboard is essential. Starshipit offers just that – a single, intuitive platform where you can manage every aspect of your shipping and fulfilment process.

This unified approach not only streamlines operations but also provides clear insights, reporting and control over your entire fulfilment workflow, ensuring efficiency and consistency in every order you ship.

Got a store? Ship from it

'Ship from store' is emerging as an innovative way to speed up delivery and cut costs. It turns your stores into mini distribution hubs, so you can send orders from the closest store to your customer. This means faster delivery and less spent on shipping.

With Starshipit, setting up 'ship from store' is easy. Our platform works seamlessly with your existing systems, like Shopify and Magento, ensuring a smooth transition of orders from online to in-store fulfilment. It's a simple change that makes a big difference for your customers and for growing your business.

Ability to negotiate and use your own courier rates

When you first start out, it can be tempting to go with a shipping provider who offers set rates. After all, it's another time-saver, right? There’s actually little more to it. So-called aggregators can often sting you with per-label fees for using your own carriers, which can quickly add up when you’re moving high volumes. Here’s how we’re different:

Starshipit focuses on offering best-in-class shipping technology, not on making money off shipping rates. Our goal is to empower your business, allowing you to save on shipping costs without worrying about per-label charges or restrictive rate plans.

We encourage you to build your own relationships with couriers. This approach enables you to negotiate more competitive rates directly, fostering a shipping strategy that scales with your business and enhances customer experiences.

Flexible and powerful rules engine

Imagine being able to automatically sort orders as they come in by rules that you create, all within a matter of minutes. The Starshipit rules engine can automate your dispatch process in a way that works for you. You can reduce clicks in your warehouse, assign specific couriers, automate special requests and more. You can also manage orders based on parameters and conditions that you define, like weight, size, and SKU.

Leveraging a powerful tech stack

For the satisfaction of your customers and the growth of your business, it's essential to have seamless communication in your tech stack. Starshipit's automation software lets you connect to a range of powerful platforms, including Cin7, Xero, Unleashed and more.

The partnership between ALTSHIFT and Starshipit means you can streamline your operations. Build an end-to-end tech solution that enhances efficiency, reduces costs, and leads to a better customer delivery experience, setting the stage for scalable growth.

Get started with Starshipit

Starshipit is the best practice shipping and fulfilment platform that helps retailers save time and deliver great shipping experiences.

Getting started is easy. To start, simply create your account and start your 30-day free trial. Then, connect your platforms and couriers (we support all the major ones). With some other minor setup admin out of the way, you’ll be good to go! And, if you have any trouble at all with setup, our team will be standing by and ready to help you out.

Want to learn more? Just head over to the Starshipit website!


Changes ahead for WorkflowMax in 2024 - Xero to retire WorkflowMax

Xero has announced its plans to retire the WorkflowMax product.

After considering many options and balancing those against competing priorities, the difficult decision was made to retire WorkflowMax on 26 June 2024. This means the WorkflowMax product will no longer be available to use from this date.

From the date of announcement (23 March 2023), you have approximately 15 months before WorkflowMax is retired and right up until that date, Xero are committed to maintaining the current product and support experience for existing customers.

Talk to us about what this means for you as a WFM user: