With so many business applications available to subscribe to it’s important to ensure that where possible they work together.  In doing so, apps talk to and with each other providing an ecosystem for your business to grow within whilst also delivering efficiencies to your everyday tasks.

The past few weeks we’ve explored what the Cloud is and our tips on how to narrow the field when it comes to selecting apps for your business.  This week, we look at some of our favourite apps.

When building an Ecosystem, it’s important to have a central connection point.  This is generally the application that houses data for your whole business, we generally use Xero as the primary connection point with our clients.

What is Xero and why use it?

Xero is cloud based accounting software, but more than that the developers provide an open API for other developers which means that it is easier for developers to write software that talks with Xero than for some of the other cloud accounting options out there.

We like Xero because it grows with your business.  You can start with a Partner Cashbook (only available through Xero partners so talk to your accountant or bookkeeper about this option) and then move onto the Business Plans as your needs change.  Being Cloud based means that your books can easily be done in real time and if you need assistance your adviser can log right into the same file as you.  No more backups and restoration of data.  There’s some great free features such as integration to Gmail for work, electronic payment options and audit trail capabilities.

What else Integrates with Xero?

For the complete list of integration options check out Xero’s Marketplace.  We recommend you look at the available options however below are a list of what we have used both in our own and client’s businesses.

When it comes to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) we like to use Capsule.  In our business, we’ve integrated Capsule to our Xero file so that we can easily see the status of customer accounts.  We also have integrated it into our Gmail for Work email so that we can easily file all correspondence to client contacts.  Cases are created for specific projects, which helps to keep relative information all together and we set up work tracks for new opportunities and maintain notes on where these are at.

If your business has staff rosters such as a hospitality business you might want to check out Deputy.  Deputy is an employee scheduling, time attendance and communication platform that integrates with Xero.  Rostering becomes easy, with the added bonus of being able to see the cost of rostering decisions as you’re putting the roster together as well as staff availability all in one place.  Staff sign in and out of shift using the app (you can even ask them to take a selfie when starting shift).  You can easily allocate tasks to specific employees so that they don’t forget those little items you’d like them to action and staff communication is a breeze with the noticeboard (you can even request that they confirm they have received the update).   When it comes time for payroll, it’s a simple task of exporting the approved timesheets into Xero and if you’ve done your setup correctly Xero will even know what hourly rate to pay dependent on shift time.

For Inventory Management we currently assist clients to use Dear Inventory.  The features are suitable for manufacturers who need Bill of Material (BOM) functionality as well as the ability to track stock through different warehouse locations.  This software also offers the ability to have multiple price tiers, volume discounts and track expiration dates on products.  It can also integrate with your CRM (including Capsule) to give your sales reps information at their fingertips.

Although we love everything integrating, sometimes you can’t find the right solution without looking outside the App Marketplace so we’ve adopted some additional applications to fill gaps in our business.

We understand that our clients are busy people, they want to action items in seconds not minutes so we use Docusign to gather signoffs on documentation.  This means that clients can sign documents on their phones whilst out in the field instead of having to find 15 minutes to go into the office, print the document, sign the document and send it back to us.  We love that clients love the experience as it means that we get signatures within minutes and don’t need to chase clients in order to lodge documents.  They even get a copy of everything sent to their email and saved in their DocuSign account.

Document storage is perhaps one of our biggest decisions we had to make when starting our business.  Being in the accountancy space it’s important that we ensure client’s privacy and security of information is the highest it can possibly be, this is why we use Binder, a Brisbane start-up, as our document storage solution.  Why Binder?  Because they are Queensland Law Society Approved and we can ensure that all documents are stored on Australian servers.  Binder offers lots of features such as version tracking, custom portals, password protected QuickLinks to send large files and permission settings.

These are just some of the software apps we and our clients use, and should give you a good base on where you can start building your own software ecosystem.  As always you should consider your business’ needs when comparing apps and functionality as we suggest not over-complicating matters too quickly, so start with one app and add others as you master it.