Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Chris Marling who writes on behalf of www.broadbandgenie.co.uk, a site that compares the latest and cheapest iPad deals available.
For small businesses, time is very often money. Your staff will be multitasking a lot of the time; working on the move may well be an essential part of everyday life, while projects and important details can be changing all the time. No, you don’t have a secretary, accountant on call 24/7, or an IT department; but what you do have is a smartphone. And with apps taking over the planet quicker than we can count them, it’s hard to keep on top of the most useful ones. Here are a few of our favourites.
This free app is a god send if you’re the type of person who has more ideas and sudden thoughts than you do biros and notebooks. Type notes, store documents, record audio and take photos – and then access them anywhere (most computers, tablets and smartphones are supported). It works really well as an organiser, with the smartphone app being simple to use and easy to organise.
On top of that, once back on a big screen, you can use it to organise complex projects as well as planning business trips and the like. It’s one of those little programs that, once up and running, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
As progressive computer users continue to get their information off of their own servers and into the cloud, the likes of Google Drive (and Drop Box, SkyDrive etc) are becoming essential for running a small business efficiently. Cloud storage is all the rage, as it lets you access all your documents from any of your devices.
Google Drive is proving popular, largely thanks to the combination of hugely successful brand with hugely successful email product (Gmail); Google Mail’s previous ‘google docs’ feature is being changed to Google Drive, letting you share folder access with your colleagues rather than going through lots of individual files. The Google Drive app is available for both Android and Apple, while you can easily access your Google Drive docs via a BlackBerry.
If you’re trying to make a small business work you want to concentrate on the interesting, exciting stuff – but the small, boring things are just as important if you want to make things work – and keeping the tax man happy while saving as much as possible is a key one. Luckily, you have Expensify to turn to.
A simple programme that syncs with the likes of QuickBooks, spread sheets, Google Apps and even direct with bank accounts, it’s perfect for sorting out expenses. From scanning receipts to working out mileage or exporting reports, it does the lot – and it has a handy mobile cross-platform free app too. This means you add expenses on the go, simply by snapping receipts and directly uploading them.
There are some great websites out there for businesses that just don’t quite hit the mark in terms of usability – especially if you try and use them in a browser. A classic example is project management site Basecamp, which despite some annoying ‘features’ takes online collaboration to new levels. Sign up, start projects, invite others, create to-do lists and assign tasks, add deadlines, chat on each individual topic (including email notifications) – great stuff, but a pig to use online.
Basecamp does have its own mobile web version, but to say it leaves a little to be desired would be an understatement – functionality is very low: this is where ‘web app’ Kompass has taken over. Adding much of the functionality of the ‘big’ Basecamp, for a small monthly fee you can keep on top of your business from anywhere you can get a mobile signal.
This one is a real favourite of ours, as it simplifies the often painful process of organising your business trips. Thanks to this multi-platform smartphone and web app, the days of printing off most of a novel any time you’re heading off on planes, boats and planes – or just in the car to a conference.
Thanks to setting up with thousands of the most popular travel sites – from car rental and train companies to hotel sites to theatres – TripIt can organise all your bookings into one itinerary that you access on your phone, print out etc; all you do is forward it all your confirmation emails. You can also share it with friends, add notes, make lists, get maps and weather info. If it’s something to do with your trip, you can get it in here and listed.
An important part of growing any business is communication, but there’s not always the budget available to employ a PR staffer or agency. Products such as MailChimp fill this void beautifully, with simple to use software that allows you to get to grips with designing and launching email campaigns, including integrating social networking and blogs. No coding required.
Better still, the information you get back from these campaigns can really shape the directions you take your future progress in – all of which is at your fingertips thanks to the MailChimp mobile app. You can see what people are buying too, so if a product goes through the roof while you’re on the move you can react to it immediately.
Finally, if you’ve got an iPhone, iPad or Android device, it’s hard not to leave home without Quickoffice. Say what you like about Microsoft, but it’s hard to live without Word, Excel and PowerPoint – especially in business. And being able to access, and edit, these documents on the fly is now pretty much an essential for any business person.
Quickoffice, now owned by Google, is one of the leading apps in this area. You can create, edit or access any of these Office document types from your phone, while it also offers cloud integration through the likes of Google Drive, DropBox and Evernote mentioned above. And thanks to intelligent file management options and great touchscreen functionality, it’s an absolute breeze to set up and use.