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Any startup or SME has to find the best and less expensive tools to manage its business. Today there are many excellent options online, both for having your office in the cloud and also for managing customers, teams and agendas. The ultimate goal is to run many active projects with limited resources (budget and staff). So if you are an entrepreneur and you haven’t yet decided what to do, maybe this list of services encourages you to invest and set up your own company. Go for it!
1.- YOUR OFFICE IS THE CLOUD:
The two best known tools for having most of the services you need in the cloud are Google Apps and Office 365. With Google Apps, any company can benefit from professional email accounts (Gmail), storage in the cloud, shared calendars (Google Calendar), video conferences and chats (Google Hangouts), and an office suite (Google Docs). Besides, thanks to Google Apps MarketPlace, you can add extra features to your interface, such as applications for translation services, accounting, finance, CRM, etc.
With Office 365 something very similar happens. It is the typical Microsoft Office suite, but in the cloud. You can access any document from any device (PC, tablets and phones), and also hold video conferences, share documents, update files in real time… Just like Google Apps, it has its own online store for buying new features: for content management, productivity and training. Of course, there are also alternatives out of the Google and Microsoft universe, such as Central Desktop, a tool to share files, manage projects, connect people… a true online office.
2.- HAPPY CUSTOMERS, GUARANTEED SUCCESS:
For the management of the greatest asset of a company, its customers, there are tools offering a very diverse range of services. Streak, for example, is a free app that you can install in your Gmail account and lets you have a small CRM tool to manage your customer base.
There are as well more complex CRM solutions. Insightly works particularly well with the Google Apps environment for managing contacts, organizations, partners and suppliers. It integrates other tools like Evernote (for organizing personal notes), Dropbox (cloud storage) and Mailchimp (for email marketing campaigns), and it also allows to manage projects.
Salesforce (which has its own performance tool), Zoho (which allows you to identify trends and business opportunities) and Sugar CRM (with a good visualization of data for analyzing results) can offer great performance to any company. Within the social CRM tools we have Blatchbook. “The social CRM for small businesses”, as they present themselves, allows to have a very accurate agenda of customers and to easily detect potential buyers, all of this from any device.
Other tools such as Livechat allow to have direct contact with customers in real time. The idea is to help companies deliver a proper customer service and get useful feedback about what clients do when they visit their website or their opinion about their products. To run email marketing campaigns we suggest Get Response.
3.- IMPROVE THE PERFORMANCE OF YOUR TEAMS:
A new way of managing human resources, in a much more agile way, emerged in the 1990s within new businesses, especially those belonging to the field of new technologies or those working with them. This method has evolved over time. The Agile methodologies, complex to apply, make it easy for team members to offer together a greater added value than the one obtained from their individual productivity. To start this type of strategy is not easy in high volume businesses, but it is increasingly seen as a requirement to compete in today's professional world, especially in the digital age.
Along the lines suggested by this type of methodologies, there are online tools that allow a more collaborative management of teams and professional projects. Hiveminder helps to create task lists establishing priorities and deadlines; with Doolphy you can make reports, measure the time spent on each task, and manage files; and Basecamp puts together the work of multidisciplinary teams in a very effective way: you can share documents and work on them in groups, open discussion threads, assign tasks, and monitor the delivery dates (in the last year more than two million projects were managed with this tool).
For larger teams we have Redbooth (formerly Teambox), a service that offers HD video conferencing, mobile applications for managing tasks, control of agendas, file sharing, etc. With Confluence you can do more or less the same: take notes during meetings and assign tasks later without collapsing the email, document the entire development process of a project, discuss decisions and implement them in an agile way.
These are not the only services available to manage teams efficiently; there are many others, some with specific functionalities for certain sectors or professional groups. Producteev, Assembla, Active Collab, Bitrix 24, Yast or Doit.im are a good example. Right now there is no excuse: if you want to start a small business with prospects of growth, technology and maintenance costs are not a problem. Perhaps some of these possibilities encourage you to start your business.
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