Large business and IT have gone hand in hand for many years now; ever since the 1980s, computers have been a standard part of the office furniture, and an integral tool in managing how the business is run. However, where small organisations are concerned, the picture has been rather different - even today, concerns over expense, the complexity of IT solutions and a lack of expertise can easily dissuade the proprietor of a small business from managing the company electronically. Take into account a widespread lack of understanding of the benefits of software solutions for the small business, and it's not hard to see how IT might not make its way into the administration of an organisation.

So an IT-free small business is thoroughly understandable. Yet that doesn't make it ideal, far from it. Whatever your business situation, the right software solutions can save you both time and money, as well as promoting your organisation and helping you drum up more business. Sure, your company may well be doing just fine without, but there's a profound difference between coping where you are and being free to move forward and make real progress. The right software solutions can be the key a brighter future for your business.

But what about those concerns? Well, with Microsoft Office, they're easily dealt with. Firstly, it's not particularly expensive - we're not talking about costly bespoke software, and most small businesses won't even need the higher-priced professional Office packages; the everyday basic suite will do just fine, and the benefits will comfortably outweigh the small costs incurred. Similarly, there's no complexity to using Office software for your small business, no networks to set up, no infrastructure to maintain. It really is as straightforward is putting a disc in your computer (or downloading a file from the Microsoft website) and clicking a couple of buttons while the computer does the rest. That really is all you need to have an IT solution for your business up and running.

Expertise, on the other hand, may seem a more pressing and intractable issue: 'there's no point trying, I'm hopeless with computers', or 'it would take me too long to learn, and I don't have the time'. But it's all too easy to overstate the difficulty of using a new method before you give it a chance - and in this case, the methods are really very simple to pick up. The software itself comes with thorough and easily understood help documents, giving clear step-by-step instructions on whatever job you need to do (or you might want to consider a short training course for a more in-depth understanding), so there's no reason to fret: even the least experienced novice can get advantages for their business by just using the programs in their most basic ways.

So that just leaves us with the question of awareness. Just what difference can this software really make? Well, let's take Excel for example. Money is perpetually a vital issue for every business, from the smallest to the largest, and Excel allows you to store safely and clearly all of your company's incomes and expenditures without having to worry about managing ever growing piles of paper - and unlike paper files, Excel can also analyse your financial information to highlight key changes, areas of concern and successes that point towards progress.

Office software can help you with more than just your money, however. Perhaps you rely on regular clients, and being able to provide the best possible service to them. With Access, you can create a database of who purchases what, how often, and if there have ever been any difficulties, so you can always be confident of offering a personalised service to keep them coming back. Or if your business would benefit from better advertising, Publisher makes it easy to produce effective and stylish adverts and leaflets without needing to pay costly marketing professionals. Then again, you might need to show potential customers in person just what your company can offer them - in which case, PowerPoint allows you to make the perfect presentations, with engaging and attractive graphics and multimedia, but with very little effort.

There's a whole lot more that Office can do for your business, from stylish documents to more effective communication to easy project management, and far more than we have time to discuss here. But what doesn't increase is the difficulty of bringing Office into your company - because there really isn't any. Whatever line of business you're in, and however large or small your organisation, there are very few opportunities to bring substantial and ongoing benefits to your company for very little expense and effort. Microsoft Office software is just such an opportunity, and one you should grasp with both hands.