Managing a business can be quite a task. But sometimes it isn’t always about the business itself that makes it such a task, but the work you have to get through to actually work. I’m talking about email, documents, project management, timecards, and internal communications. These tasks take up a lot of valuable time that you could be using for actual work and thankfully there are services out there that can help out dramatically. I am thinking more in the lines of a small business or a startup that does not want to spend too much on software to help manage themselves. So, I have made a small list of services that I feel are very helpful for managing these simple but time-stealing tasks. Hopefully some of you will see a service that can help out or at least try. Not all of them are free and some may have a monthly cost, but they allow for testing. I am also providing a screenshot of each so you can get a quick look. (Note: These are in no specific order).
Harvest is a new service that has just recently launched that is built to help with time tracking and reporting. I feel that Harvest is a great solution for small businesses, but not so much an independent contractor or freelancer. It allows you to manage multiple projects, emplyees, contractors, and tasks. Each employee can then receive a login in that they can submit hours worked for each day of the week. When submitting a timecard, you can point it to a specific task for a project, fill in the hours, and save. When the week has completed, you send your timecard off and it gets approved by the administrative users. Administrators can then view weekly, daily, yearly, and custom date reports on timecards organized by projects, tasks, and users that submitted the timecards. I used it briefly, but it seems like a great solution if you are looking to manage multiple employees and view reports on the time spent working on projects.
Rallypoint is an online collaborative document service (similar to Writely), but leans more into group collaboration, organization, and communication then what Writely offers. You write documents online using a WYSIWYG editor which you can then share to specific users, groups, or to anyone. Documents can be ogranized by categories and tags, viewed by activity, and you can also subscribe to documents to keep updated on them. One of my favorite features though is template functionality. You can create and save templates for use in future documents to save time, much like Microsoft Word works with templates. Another feature that makes Rallypoint great is that users can also edit your document (if given permission), leave comments, and also view past versions of the document. Excellent for working collaboratively on documents with a team of users. I have reviewed Rallypoint a while back and they have definitely been changing things around and for the better.
I’ve recently reviewed a new service for small business, Sproutit’s Mailroom. Mailroom is a simple email management service that aims to help you spend less time on email and more time on work. In an Technosight interview with Charles Jolley of Sproutit, Charles had said, “We actually talked to about 30 small businesses from around the US. We found that most of them were spending up to half of their day just answering emails!” I then began to think of the amount of time I spend on email each day and I was actually quite shocked. I am constantly sending emails for work, and when I am done working, I have email to manage for Solution Watch and other personal emails. So how does Sproutit Mailroom help? Sproutit has a unique system that learns the way you send and receive email. It finds email that needs attention the most and displays them on one page, allows for tagging, re-assigning of emails to other users, and even suggests replies. Suggests replies? Simply put, when you send an email with Mailroom, the email will be saved allowing Mailroom to learn which replies are more commonly used with each email. Then, the next time you write a reply, it will suggest one for you that you can base the reply off of. This is definitely a huge time-saver.
Writely is an online word processor that many of you are probably already familiar of. What I like about Writely is that you have the power of Microsoft Word and much more, but all online. You can write collaboratively with others, save as multiple file formats, publish online or to a blog, view revisions made by others, and best of all, access the documents easily anywhere at anytime. Usually for work, I would be sent a Word Document, open Microsoft Word, make my changes, write an email and send back my changes in hope that my processor is compatible with the recipients processor. But with Writely, you can organize your documents in one place, share with others, and export when needed. Very helpful, simple, and free.
There are many methods of internal communication for companies, but I have always found real-time chatting to be the most of help. 37signals recently launched a new group chat service, called Campfire, and I think it is excellent for group discussions. What I like is that it isn’t your normal chat in that it aims more directly to business owners. You can create a chat and invite colleagues, clients, members of your team, etc., to discuss a topic in real-time. As you chat, you can reference to files, upload images, and just talk as normal. You can create multiple chats as well with seperate users for each chat. All chats can also be logged and viewed at a later time so you can always look back at past conversations and documents. I do think it is a little pricey, but if your company is active in online discussions, it may be worth it in the end.
Lets say you are a freelance designer and you are jumping around with multiple applications, documents, post-it notes, invoices, and just your basic project management tasks all day. A little hectic, right? This is where Side Job Track can help you. Side Job Track is a free web-based job tracking, invoicing, reporting, and project management system. I’ve only briefly used it, but I know of others that have and wouldn’t want to manage projects and clients any other way. Everything from managing clients, projects, cost estimates, invoicing, expenses, reports, and I can go on and on. It is packed with features and even still maintains strong simplicity throughout the service.
Keeping on top of schedules and events are often managed using some type of calendar. But sometimes it could be a pain managing dates with multiple people or keeping track of things with a team and I feel 30 Boxes really helps manage this. The beauty of 30 Boxes is that you can create a calendar online and share it collaboratively with others to help manage important dates. Maybe a project is to be completed on a specific date and you want to let the rest of your team know. Simply add the date to the calendar and everyone will see it. Or maybe even if there is a specific event or time off that is to occur that the rest of the team should know about. 30 Boxes also allows you to add recurring events automatically and set reminders for specific dates. It is very simple to use, collaborative, and free. Could really help getting events in order for businesses and their employees.
That’s about it for my list. There are more services out there, but these are some of the top services that come to mind. I hope you found this list to be helpful and if you do use any of these services, let me know because I’d like to know how they work out for you. Also, if you know of services that you feel are great for managing a business, feel free to comment about it and I will gladly take a look at the service. Enjoy!