4 tools for running an office in the cloud

Leave a comment   Published in: ,    on May 13, 2014   by Justin Ward

The first year of a new business isn’t easy. We’ve been delighted to have thrived in our first year – but we’ve had our challenges. One frustration is how admin tasks can steal time away from our core business.

But, by using a set of powerful and inexpensive online tools, we’ve been able to cut down on admin time, automate regular activities and deliver higher-quality services to our imageclients.

We thought it might be useful to share our top four online tools to help your professional services practice operate more smoothly.

Managing finances with Xero and WorkflowMax

Regular readers of the Macleay Partners blog would be familiar with our use of Xero. (You can see a short case study of how we’ve used Xero here.)

Basically, Xero is a cloud-based accounting solution that allows us to view up-to-date financial information at any time over the internet. We don’t have to keep printing off reports and emailing them to stakeholders; instead, directors, management and external accountants and bookkeepers can view important information (in real time) when they need it.

Also, Xero’s great at letting companies automate regular processes such as payroll and accountants payable. This eliminates the need for manual data entry. And with Xero’s ever-expanding range of add-ons, its functionality is continually growing.

You might also want to combine WorkflowMax with Xero. In our business, WorkflowMax allows us to enter task-based information (including the hours workers spend on different jobs) and link that to the data held in Xero. WorkflowMax also makes it very easy to generate professional looking invoices.

We’ve had great success in setting up Xero and WorkflowMax in our own business and those of our clients.

Getting customer relationship management right with Nimble

Customer relationship management (CRM) has typically been the domain of big firms with the money to run sophisticated databases. But we’ve found a way to get all our contact information in one place and build pipelines of new work.

We’re using Nimble, a cloud-based CRM platform that keeps all our contacts in one place and lets us interact with them through whatever channel we think works best (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Skype). We don’t have to log in to any of those platforms separately – we do it all through Nimble.

Before Nimble, we found it time consuming to scroll through LinkedIn or Twitter just to find out what a few key contacts are doing. Instead, Nimble lets us quickly connect with the people that matter to us. Here’s a great walkthrough video of how it works.

Becoming a social media guru with Buffer

Social media makes it easier than ever to get your thoughts out there. But it’s the kind of thing that has to be constantly updated, whether that’s tweeting multiple times a day or sharing a number of relevant articles with your LinkedIn network. Given the demands of a day, this task can easily fall by the wayside.

So we use Buffer to stay ahead of the curve. Buffer lets us schedule updates across all our social media channels, including Twitter and LinkedIn. This means we can schedule posts, and create integrated and targeted campaigns for when we upload new blog posts or interesting content.

Also, Buffer has a great analytics function so you can track the impact of your content. They generate a ‘Potential’ score which calculates how many people your post is likely to reach.

Staying productive and sharing nicely with Office 365 and Suite Files

We love the fact that we’re not chained to a desk. Wherever we are, we can work with the same functionality, features and access to important documents. To enable this, we use Microsoft’s Office 365 small business.

A bugbear you might’ve experienced is trying to store and share the same document with a number of people. The process of keeping files in one location and keeping track of edits can be difficult. So, we use Suite Files to ensure documents are accessible on all devices, and can clearly show changes. Here are some videos that explain the way Suite Files works.

The key thing for us is that these tools are inexpensive and extremely scalable. So, we’re not locked in to large capital expenses and they’re ready to expand as we do.

P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like Getting ahead in the cloud: a quick guide to cloud computing or Turning around a business with Xero.

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