With so many cloud applications flooding the market it can hard for business owners and IT managers to compare and decide what solution is right. In general you’ll find that applications that try to do everything, do everything poorly. And applications which provide a niche solution for operations such as project management, or customer relationship management, simply leave users frustrated that integrations into their accounts system or other legacy systems are complex or simply not possible. Or that the system is just too generic and can’t be customised to their requirements and way of working.
We have had the same issues here at Newicon HQ as everyone else, so a few years ago we set about building our own system (we call it the ‘Hub’) to manage the key areas of our business; from our communication systems to our project management and everything in-between. Quite an undertaking for a busy company intent on producing great apps for our clients, let alone ourselves! However, we wanted to practice what we preach, even if it did mean some additional effort, frustration and inevitable teething issues along the way.
Three years on from our initial ALPHA project management system we are edging ever closer to a product we can be proud of. It’s still in BETA and evolving, but we know our product will never be finished as things inevitably evolve as our business and the world around us changes – and that’s precisely the point. By creating a flexible framework and excepting the system may not yet be perfect we stay agile. This is a good thing, as it enables us to move the business in new directions, fast. This gives us a competitive advantage over our competitors, as we are way ahead of the smaller outfits in terms of our process management and supporting technologies, but yet far more agile than the larger corporate competitors.
I’d like to share some of our tools with you, and whilst these applications aren’t yet production ready for your company, hopefully they provide a taste for what bespoke software could do for your business. It’s a journey of discovery and one that can produce amazing results and provide your business with a competitive edge, enabling you to run leaner by automating key processes across all aspects of your business, whether that be sales and marketing, assembly line management, or project management within a service business like ours.
Here’s our top FIVE app modules, as used by ourselves, that might help your business in 2015…
1. Hosted CRM and Phone system
What can it do? Well, put simply everything your existing phone system can and then some, plus it will save you considerable money on your phone bills. What’s more we have integrated the phone with our custom CRM address book, to provide a seamless and time saving user experience.
- Hosted CRM to manage contacts, organisations, sales pipe-line and even export contact lists straight to your favourite third party email marketing apps; like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor.
- One-click-dialling straight from the CRM address book to your desk-phone via ethernet or a USB phone.
- Customisable hunt groups: Working away from the office just got easier – simply target your mobile and your internal team can put callers though to your home office or mobile seamlessly.
- Voicemail and call recordings – every voicemail and call recorded and accessible through your browser, anytime.
- Conference calls – easily setup conference calls and speak hands-free through your Mac, PC or USB headset.
- What else can it do? Well, pretty much anything our imaginations stretch to – we can code features to suit your business sales process and project workflow.
2. Project Management SYSTEM
What can it do? Manage all aspects of your internal and client projects, from financial information through to job management and staff scheduling. This system provides the tools and information to allow a business to run more efficiently and profitably.
- Create new clients, then assign projects, jobs and tasks. Add budgets and integrate with your accounts software
- Add team members and delegate tasks for specific projects
- Enter itemised time-sheet records for each user and bill against projects, so you can keep track of profitability E.g. Reporting, such as Quoted Vs Actual costs.
- Kanban style job board – drag and drop job cards to schedule jobs and update the job status
- Configure recurring monthly jobs, then record against contracted or retained hours, then view your monthly reports
- Manage inventory, account information, products and client specifics
- What else can it do? Everything and anything your business requires – from Gant charts to burn-down charts and any project collaboration tools you need. All of which can be integrated with other modules like the phone system and CRM mentioned above for a seamless end-to-end solution.
3. KNOWLEDGE BASE (WIKI)
What can it do? Allow your staff to share their experiences with co-workers. Solved a complex process or repeatedly articulating to co-workers some important information? Well, then create a new article in the WIKI and allow users to share the knowledge and improve efficiency across your organisation.
- Create and publish new articles from each individual user account
- Tag and categorise articles so users can search for what they are looking for, much like a search engine
- Rate articles and leave comments
- Integrate articles into your project management or CRM to assist workers with projects or customer accounts
- What else can it do? Again, whatever you need it to do. We recently discussed that some articles would make for great blog posts to help the developer community, so we’re currently looking at posting articles straight to our WordPress website.
4. HR System
What can it do? All business need to keep a track of staff details, holidays, reviews and the alike. We’ve developed a simple module to manage staff holiday and keep track of important and confidential credentials.
- Holiday management – send formal holiday requests to a line manager to approve
- Utilise a dashboard to make sure holidays don’t clash and effect project deliverables
- Store and update staff details; from passport copies and driving licenses to performance reviews
- What else can it do? We’re currently looking into integrations with third party payroll software, along with adding the ability to better manage and record staff performance. We’re also big here on culture, so we are looking at creating a staff portal to make sure everyone understands Newicon’s unique culture and brand – this can help everyone at a company collaborate and succeed together.
5. Accounting SYSTEM (integrations)
We currently use Kashflow to manage our business finances. Like Xero and other well known cloud accountancy applications Kashflow, for which we are a trusted and recommended development and integration partner, provide a fantastic API. This means we can pull critical financial information into our project management system and also send information, such as for invoicing purposes back to Kashflow.
- Manage your estimating and invoicing directly from one application and post essential financial information to your accounting software.
- Manage recurring work, such as retained business direct from one application
- Assign invoice ID’s to related jobs ID’s, so invoiced jobs can automatically be marked as archived in your project management system
If you’re interested in working with Newicon on your next digital project, get in touch now.