There’s this whole ecosystem developing around how to interact with projects, customers whilst figuring out how to track payments / costs, etc.
Battling away with getting rid of the shoebox method for managing reciepts; whilst considering how to improve the methods in managing customers, projects and invoicing.
I’m in Apple Land – with a Mac, and IPAD. Still setting-up the Communications platform – to it’s optimal configuration – i’ve been setting-up methods to enhance the way i engage customers – and manage projects.
I started out by setting-up Freshbooks. Freshbooks is an online invoicing system. It’s rather cheap (cost me less than most accounting packages would otherwise), and connects to my iPAD – with a few nifty functions such as being able to attach or take a photo of a receipt and assign it to a customer – as well as a “stopwatch” (which is more designed for iphones) that means i can sit-down, start the stop-watch, do something on a project – then stop the stopwatch, and track my hours.
I can also put in expenses, manage project costs, add customers and a host of other invoice related functions – accessible both via an easy to use online interface – as well as on my iPad (or iphone).
Perhaps one of the best bits – which i’m just starting to explore – is the ability to send an invoice; and, the ability for a customer to pay that invoice online (when appropriate banking details have been set-up).
Freshbooks made it much easier – saved me heaps of time in admin – sorting out project costs, quotes, estimates, etc.
There are a few different types of systems, and solutions – but i really did like freshbooks – and have settled on it – mostly, due to the cost and application design.
But – i didn’t stop there.
after becoming a little frustrated by more complex project management processes i’m trying to streamline (for a growing business) – i then found CapsuleCRM.
CapsuleCRM integrates with Freshbooks. Making it much easier to figure stuff administrative out…
As well as integrating with the Invoicing systems – it also connects to Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. I’m not a twitter user – i feel as though i’ve got enough going on already – But depending on what type of business you’ve got – i can see how these functions can and are really useful.
CapsuleCRM for a relatively low-cost – enables the management of teams, multitude of projects, sales pipelines, and all that “crm” type stuff which is generally difficult to set-up, let alone manage overall.
Again – Much like the options available when considering an invoicing system – there are a multitude of options out there for CRM too…
The other interesting platform is Teambox. TeamBox is a relatively new start-up business. I got in-contact with them, as i set-up an account soon-after they were established. I was really impressed by the team – giving me useful support, and advise – in a really time-effective manner.
Their platform has developed quite a lot since they first started. I haven’t used it for a while, mostly because i haven’t needed to… I’ve logged into my account again, as i write this blog-entry… The interface has developed substancially, since their early days. I can link the account to my dropbox account – for sharing files. It’s also got a helpdesk, and a few other functions. I can link it to facebook and a bunch of other apps. I’m thinking i’ll ask them about linking their platform into CapsuleCRM and/or Freshbooks – as that would provide a complete project lifecycle management platform – we’ll see how it goes i guess…
Oh – now Dropbox – I think i’ll cover that in a different section, more focused on communications generally; but the simple bit is as follows,
Dropbox is an online storage provider – it links to your devices, stores files, and makes it easy to share files on a permission based processes controlled by the account holder.
One of the most important things to look-at, when considering any of these “web-services” is an exit strategy – what happens if you want to use something else – how do you get your information out of these systems, and into something else that is useful.
These types of problems can be figured out through a growth-planning process, where your software choices are put into a lifecycle management process.
Beyond simple lifecycle management – scaling cost is also an important thing to consider. If your thinking about hiring staff or collaborating with others – how can that be done? what’s needed – how is your “knowledge capital” effectively managed, throughout your businesses sales cycle.
Another good-thing about these “web-services” is that a great-deal of the more complex problems – have been thought out for you, and a well-designed site – will ask simple questions, for functional outcomes.
It’s worthwhile having a look-around at your options – seeing what can be done, and thinking about the cost/benefit to the available options, most appropriate for you and your business.