Intranet, CRM and Document Management Software ReviewPosted by Chris Garrett / October 26, 2009
Are you one of those people that have sticky notes all around your screen? It begins with only a few things to remember – call designer, eat lunch, pants first then shoes, but it rapidly gets out of control. Pretty soon you can barely see the screen and you are stuck to your desk with fluorescent paper squares.
You need a better system, so you start using your email as a to-do list. 4653 emails, 3000 files and 31 billion spam messages later; this method also begins to crumble as an effective task management system.
Email is messy and unreliable. The real issue with email occurs when a team member leaves. All their valuable communication and IP is lost with their email account, not that you could find anything anyway. If that person was a project manager, suddenly you’ve lost all history of their projects. Not an ideal situation.
Here’s the answer to your sticky, fluorescent hell – Get yourself an Intranet.
An intranet doesn’t have to be a behemoth piece of software that requires training retreats three times a year. It just needs to keep track of your day-to-day people, tasks and project assets.
Shopping for an Intranet System
Intranets can come in many forms, so you may have to do a substantial amount of research to find one that fits your business and budget. The trick is to keep it small. The fewer features it has, the less you have to learn and maintain.
Intranet software is like owning a Great Dane. You will spend a lot of time and money feeding it, only to see your efforts go to poo.
The face of software is shifting, thankfully, to be simpler, friendlier and more affordable. Software-as-a-service has changed the way we purchase software. It has no large up-front costs and doesn’t rely on your hardware. All you need is a web connection, which makes it perfect for small to medium sized companies, especially those that are not confined to a single office.
Here’s my favourite software with some rough pricing guides, although price should never be your primary buying motivation.
This will solve your sticky note issue. The best system I’ve used is Nozbe. The tagline says “Simply Get Things Done!” It’s a simple web-based system that allows you to add your projects and the prioritised steps it takes to get it done. It’s built so you can use it in your personal life as well as in the office. netVibes and iPhone apps also make it easy to access anywhere.
It’s ideal for small business and personal use.
Document Management Software for Accountants & Bookkeepers
I’d be a fool if I didn’t plug our own software. Our-Accounts is simple document management software specifically designed for Accountants and Bookkeepers. It is powered by our popular OurDisk document engine. Use it to store all your files and documents, share them with your team or send and receive files between clients or suppliers.
Cost: Starts from just $12/month.
Document Management Software
I’d be a fool if I didn’t plug our own software AGAIN!. OURDISKTM is a simple online file management tool. Use it to store all your files and documents, share them with your team or send and receive files between clients or suppliers. You can send much, much larger files than email – up to 1GB (Email is usually only 5MB) and it’s a whole lot more secure than email with 2048bit encryption.
All your files are in one easy place for everyone to access and no need to for double handling with email.
Cost: starts from just $12/month
Project Management Software
There are bzillions of project management tools and it’s a mission to find one that fits. The problem is that you don’t know if it suits you until you get data into the system and that takes time.
Some simple online software that has taken the web by storm is the 37 Signals suite of four management tools. Each one handles a different aspect – collaboration, contacts, sharing info and real-time chat.
Cost: They range from $12/month to $149/month
A more traditional and full-featured application is dotProject and at $0, it’s the right price. It’s an open source tool that is quite intuitive and has some powerful Gantt charting and time tracking that is usually available in much more expensive software.
Install it on your own server and there is no monthly licensing fee. As with any software run on your own server, you are responsible for its security, backup and maintenance. This is not free and do not assume your hosting provider is doing it. You will probably pay between $30 and $100/month for the increased server features and maintenance, depending on your backup plan.
You also better have a good web developer (not a web decorator) so they can help you with bugs or problems that can and will arise.
Cost: Free, besides your server costs.
Contact Management (CRM) Software
Normally I would not recommend desktop software, but we use Daylite for Apple and find it to be very effective. However, there are some good web-based tools available as well. Some are not much more than an excel spreadsheet and some are full blown sales management tools.
Zoho has possibly the widest selection of online office software aimed at small business. The tools are easy to use and work on a pay-as-you-need basis. They each do specific things, so you may need a few of them to manage all aspects of your office. I haven’t used the Zoho software longer than the 15-day trial period personally, but I know of quite a few businesses that love them.
Cost: Between $5 and $850/month
vTiger is a free open source tool. Just get your web company to install it on your web server. You should be up and running in about an hour, but you will still need to customise it to your business. This could take between an hour and a week, depending on how specialised you need. It is becoming a very large and sophisticated system, however this is also causing it to become complex, which defeats the purpose of finding simple software.
A Wiki is an excellent tool for keeping the IP in your company. These are mostly free and installed your server. They enable your staff to build a knowledgebase or manual as and when issues arise.
Cost: Mostly free
Strategic Planning Software
Again KND comes to the rescue with a brilliant strategic planning tool called ForesightHQ. (Go KND! You’re my hero.) It’s perfect for committees, boards and managers to construct a strategic plan, allocate tasks and milestones to specific people and track their progress. It’s the perfect way to keep your plans on track.
It requires about 5mins of training and is quick enough to use during a planning session.
Cost: Foresight HQ is priced at $29/user/month
Web-based Accounting Software
Watch this space. This is a market that is hopefully going to flourish in the coming years. Accounting software has always been designed for accountants, leaving small business owners like me lost in a sea of debits, credits and … snore. Sorry I fell asleep.
I have, however, seen a great bit of online software called Xero. It is a full-featured online accounting software designed for business owners. It does everything MYOB does, but prettier. Xero measures all your business metrics and displays them in intuitive graphs and it’s online, so your bookkeeper and accountant can access it from their convenience.
I know someone that can give you a personal demo in the Brisbane area if you would like.
Cost: Xero starts at $29/month, but most small businesses will use the $49/month plan
Paralysed by Choice
There is a plethora of new and exciting software on the market to help your business run more smoothly. So, wade out through your circular filing system on the floor around your desk and find a system that fits your business. You’ll get more sleep, your staff will think you are getting it together and your clients will appreciate your new efficiency.
If you have a system to add to the list, leave a comment below. Thanks.
About the authors:
KND are web and digital professionals with over 10 years in the business. We specialise in web, cloud and mobile apps, eMarketing and SEO strategy, servers, hosting and design.
We work closely with out clients to achieve successful outcomes. Call us today (+61 7 3832 4077) or email (email@example.com) to discuss your next project.