Running a small business can be an expensive affair. Not only do you need expensive software to keep track of sales; expenses and documentation, but you also need to ensure that you regularly back-up your data and there is also the issue of network security which needs to be addressed.
Web base business management applications and tools offer the perfect solution. You can find money management; time keeping; project management; contact management; CRM applications and so much more, all at a fraction of the cost of traditional software. This article guides you through some of the best in each category.
Financial Management Applications
Whether you are running the finances of a one man band or a small but growing business, managing your finances is both critically important and immensely boring. Luckily there are some easy ways to manage your cashflow, invoicing, expenses and taxes online.
This online money management system enables you to manage all your financial transactions, including credit cards, banking and investment accounts, centrally and the facility is free to use. It even has budget planning tools and will send you an email or text message if your balance is low, or if you have bills outstanding.
This web based business management system is great for sole proprietors and small businesses alike. It includes time keeping, estimates and expenses tracking as well as billing and invoicing facilities. It also includes powerful reporting tools and Quickbook exporting functionality.
A web based financial management system, Freshbooks enables you to create estimates, manage time and expenses online, and even generate invoices from timesheets. For peace of mind it offers complete data backups and firewall protection, and is tightly integrated with the best credit card payment processors including PayPal and Authorize.net.
This easy to use financial management system enables you to send invoices to customers directly from the online system, as well as track customer payments. It includes a search facility so that you can easily view invoices per customer and you can even set up recurring invoices, which is a big time saver.
A secure online bookkeeping system, Outright is great for keeping track of the income and expenses for your business. It enables you to view quarterly profits and even provides tax estimates, which is particularly good for helping to manage cashflow and the allocation of budget. Outright also has a handy feature that displays tax date reminders so that you never miss a payment.
Documentation Management Apps
Modern businesses are often footloose with home offices and web conferencing tools replacing the cubicle and board room. But staff still need to share and collaborate in order to get things done, a function that can now be done entirely online using tools such as these.
6. Google Docs
This web based documentation sharing facility is offered free by Google. You can upload and edit documents online, or save them to your desktop in many different formats including .doc, .xls and .ppt. Should you require privacy, it is possible to restrict access to the uploaded documentation and to change document ownership. Furthermore, it is easy to see the history of revisions, a feature that is particularly useful when a group of people are working on the same document over a period of time.
This is another very popular and accomplished web based document sharing tool, which enables you to share documents of many different formats, setup todo lists, notes and even pictures. It even has a shared group calendar and a centrally managed message facility ensuring that everyone gets to read important news.
AirSet allows you to share documents, contacts and calendars online. It includes several document templates for publishing anything from presentations to newsletters. Contacts are managed centrally ensuring that as soon as a contact is added or updated, the information is immediately shared.
Project Management Tools
Getting things done is more than just a mantra: it’s what makes the difference between a successful and stagnant business. Choosing a good project management app will save you time, increase productivity and drive profits through increased efficiency. In short, if you are in business then you need good project management.
This complete web based project management system enables advanced milestone tracking, todo list allocation and tracking, time tracking and project management reporting. Also included in Basecamp is a file sharing facility, message boards and even a chat facility. This is a perfect tool for companies with staff working remotely.
Wrike may be lesser know, but it is nonetheless an easy to use project management system that even allows you to create tasks from emails. Aside from the normal task tracking and time management functionality, Wrike also includes dynamic Gantt charts, task reminders and it has integrated email functionality which automatically emails a staff member as soon as a task has been assigned to them.
11. Project Spaces
Project Spaces is a comprehensive project management tool that also includes a document library for online collaboration and documentation control. It has a centralized calendar for tracking events, a contact management system and you can set up discussion threads to share ideas.
You’ve got to communicate and be accessible if you want to survive, especially in a challenging market. Go beyond the usual forms of communication and interact with your staff, customers and clients with these tools for improved communication.
Meebo is an instant messaging service with a difference: it enables group chats and best of all you can chat to anyone even if they normally use a different instant messenger account. Meebo is compatible with AIM, Google Talk, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Facebook chat and MySpace IM.
The latest in online social networking, Twitter is a very popular communication tool accessible from the web and mobile phones. Tweeting is very similar to sending a 140 character text message from your mobile phone, except the messages can be published directly to a blog and read by your followers. Twitter is without doubt on the bleeding edge of communication, opening up new means of sales and lead acquisition.
The creators of Basecamp and Backpack have also released another online tool called Campfire. This is purely a web based communication tool, enabling businesses to chat to employees and clients online. It can be integrated with Basecamp and is a very secure means of communicating online, which is an extremely potent tool especially when combined with their other collaborative products.
A comprehensive contact management system, Highrise is web based and enables you to manage your contracts centrally, keep tabs on conversations, send instant message reminders via text or email, as well as post notes and messages to colleagues online.
Getting new customers is only part of the game. A successful also needs repeat customers, which means fantastic service to back up your product.
vTiger is an open source CRM and contact management system. This free system features all the customer support functionality you could ever need including raising trouble tickets, a built in knowledge base, customer self service facilities, history tracking, emailing facilities and reporting tools.
17. Mojo Helpdesk
This is a powerful online customer relationship management system which allows you to track customer requests, allocate the requests to staff members and communicate the progress of the request with the customer using an online portal.
18. UserScape HelpSpot
A CRM system that can be hosted online or downloaded onto your own secure, HelpSpot is intuitive and very easy to use. Workflow rules for customer request progression can be maintained, requests can be customised to include fields specific to your requirements and it has a built-in customer self-service portal that helps increase the productivity of your customer relations staff.
Complete Small Business Solutions
What if you would prefer to have everything in one single place, rather than using different tools for different needs? Then try one of these business management suites where everything is available in one single login.
Zoho offer a comprehensive suite of web based tools and applications catering to the needs of small businesses. From emailing facilities, to online spreadsheets; documentation control to project management tools; invoicing facilities and even a full featured Wiki – Zoho has it all in one central place.
If you are looking for a complete suite of applications to run your business, then WORKetc is a great solution. It includes document management, timesheeting, sales management, project management, billing and invoicing, reporting and even customer support tools.