If you need a highly capable CRM with strong Project Management & Billing functionality, WORKetc CRM is a strong contender.
WORK[etc] is a powerful business management tool that prides itself on being more than a CRM — and from what I’ve seen so far, it definitely delivers. While a significant chunk of the app is focused on client relationship management, WORK[etc] seamlessly integrates project management, billing, and more into its web based CRM software. It’s a true all-in-one business management solution that can be used to access and manage all aspects of a small business from one end to end.
ALL IN ONE BUSINESS MANAGEMENT
I’ve used a lot of apps to handle business processes over the years, sometimes half a dozen concurrently. The biggest problem with this approach is that constant switching between them can lead to a drop in efficiency. Some of the data I get from one app may not even be in a format that can easily be read by another. Furthermore, the license fees of even just three to five different applications can mean a significant addition to overhead costs.
Let’s say you have three people on your team: you, one who handles billing, and another who handles support. For CRM, you use Nimble for $15 per month. You also get FreshBooks to handle billing processes for $19.95 a month. Finally, you use the Plus version of Zendesk to help with support for $49 a month.
That all comes to a total of $83.95 a month. Pretty cheap, but everybody is locked to one app — your support guy can’t access billing unless he logs in using your billing agent‘s credentials and vice versa. Even you, the business owner himself, don’t have immediate access to your company’s support and billing apps. If you extend those three apps to allow three users each, you end up with a total cost of $251.95 ($49 x 3 for Zendesk, 59.95 for the Mighty Oak version of FreshBooks plus two additional users, and $15 x 3 for Nimble).
Compare that to getting a three-user WORK[etc] license for $195 a month, where you can dictate which users have access to what modules. This flexibility is especially useful when all members of your three-man operation have to wear a lot of different hats — those times, for instance, when you and your billing agent have to help out on support because you’re flooded with support tickets.
It’s not just the upfront saving that swings my vote in WORK[etc]’s favor. As I’ve pointed out before, having to switch between multiple apps can adversely affect efficiency and productivity, not to mention the money and man hours needed to get everybody up to speed on all of them. Some data might even end up lost in the shuffle.
WORK[etc] solves this by integrating everything — CRM, project management, billing, support, and more — into one easy-to-use system. Even better, WORK[etc] makes everything just a click away from everything else. Users can connect anything to anything. For example, you can attach a support ticket to an existing project or assign a task as part of an active sales lead. The workflow is much more streamlined, efficient, and everybody concerned can immediately be notified of updates and changes.
- Contact and project management, sales, support, and more in a single platform.
- All customer and business data as well as employee activity are kept in one system. There’s no need to open several different applications to get a complete overview of where you stand.
- Any object, item, or activity within the system can be linked to another without having to work through the API or integrate additional third-party apps.
CRM AND SALES
The CRM module is the meat and bones of WORK[etc]. It automatically captures everything you do for a client and keeps a running record of your relationship.
Whenever you need any piece of information from the system, it’s just a matter of running a simple search. All results — whether they’re contacts, projects, invoices, discussions, or even uploaded files and documents — can be further refined through filters then saved as SmartViews so they’re available in one click whenever you may need them.
- Populate WORK[etc] with contacts by syncing the system with Google Contacts and importing spreadsheets
- Keep track of complete client history from first contact up to their latest support request via the Activity Stream
- Track and update sales leads from start to finish and view your company’s current standing via the sale pipeline module
- Use your website to collect leads and additional data on potential clients using customizable web forms
PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND TASKS
Perhaps the next most important aspect of WORK[etc] (well, the one we’ve gotten the most out of, anyway) is its project management module. It’s powerful and allows you to create and manage a near-infinite number of sub-projects and tasks but it doesn’t have an overly-complicated barrier to entry. It’s intuitive and easy to use even if you’ve never used project management software before.
Projects can be viewed in a lot of different ways. You’ve got the Gantt Chart, a graphical timeline that presents sub-projects and tasks along with rollout schedules at a glance. There’s also a project tree view that allows you to delve deeper into a project’s sub-projects and tasks. You can even view according to budget, progress, and the people connected to the project.
- Control every aspect of any given project from schedules and timesheets to budgets and finances
- Add a near-infinite number of sub-projects and tasks to a project as well as attach timesheets and set custom completion stages
- Use dependencies and triggers to set requirements for specific project stages like obtaining permits, finishing reports, etc. A task that has dependencies on an earlier task won’t start until the task before it is completed
- Get a birds eye view of the status of the company’s projects and drill down deep into sub-projects and sub-tasks and check real time status, cutting down the need for constant progress report meetings
BILLING AND REPORTING
WORK[etc] automatically captures all billable projects, expenses, timesheets, and other charges, then allows you to invoice clients and collect your money. The system also integrates seamlessly with both Xero Accounting and QuickBooks.
- View paid and unpaid bills at a glance
- Multiple checkout, currency, and taxation options
- Support for both one-time and subscription services
- Keep track of company cash flow by viewing invoices and other finance-related items over specific date ranges
- Customize invoices and product catalogs to reflect your company’s unique branding
As important as turning data into important reports is, no one can argue that it can also be a boring task at times. WORK[etc] cuts out the “slogging through mountains of data” part by letting users generate a variety of automatic reports from sales and lead pipelines to project progress.
- Automatically generate reports using data captured by the system
- Cut down on progress report meetings by viewing real time project progress reports
- Save and bookmark important reports to access them with one click
NO NEED TO CHANGE YOUR EMAIL HABITS
Another thing I really like about WORK[etc] is that it doesn’t force you to outright change your email habits at all. If you feel more comfortable dealing with clients and leads through your inbox, you can keep doing that while feeding more information and data into WORK[etc] through plugins for GMail and Outlook.
If a prospective client hits me up with an email asking about our products and services, I can turn that email into a new sales lead. If a client emails me about a few changes he wants made to one of our projects, boom! One click and it’s a new project update attached to the appropriate project. Best of all, I can do all of this without ever leaving my GMail inbox.
- Turn emails into sales leads, project updates, and support tickets right from your inbox with the GMail and Outlook add-ins.
- Turn Evernote notes into project updates and new tasks and assign them immediately to your team members using tags.
- Access files on Google Drive and Box.com quickly and easily without leaving WORK[etc] then attach them to leads, contacts, projects, and more.
- Sync important dates in WORK[etc] and Google Calendars and choose which calendars to keep private or share with your team
- Export WORK[etc] invoices, transactions, and expenses directly to QuickBooks and Xero Accounting. Keep synced data available to your accounting team.
COLLABORATION AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Aside from holding almost every piece of data pertinent to your small business, WORK[etc] also facilitates collaboration and discussion between you, your team members, and even your clients. I’m a veteran of countless games of email ping pong, but with WORK[etc]’s Discussion feature my team and I are able to skip that old time-waster without sacrificing in-team collaboration and communications.
- Use any project, lead, support case, or contact as a starting point for these threaded, forum-style discussions.
- Upvote posts and comments that you think are the most helpful.
- Request responses from any and all users to make sure that you get answers quickly
- Attached emails to clients to projects; replies will automatically be attached to those projects as well.
- Access and enter information anytime, anywhere through WORK[etc]’s mobile apps
The newer versions of WORK[etc] also comes with social media integration. You can link a contact’s social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to their contact details so you can always get updated contact information. We’ve found that its especially useful to our sales team; everybody may be saying that small talk is a dying art, but social media integration gives our sales guys more small talk ammo to better facilitate the closing of leads.
YOUR VERY OWN BRANDED CUSTOMER PORTAL
One of the more recent features added to WORK[etc] is a client-facing customer portal. Through the portal, your customers can do everything from view invoices and tasks assigned to them to checking knowledge base articles and submitting support tickets.
- Assign tasks to a client and have him or her view them through the customer portal
- Choose what modules — invoices, projects, tasks, support tickets, and more — you want your clients to see
- Let clients track their submitted support tickets and view their progress
- Allow clients to view and even pay for any outstanding bills
- Customize the customer portal to reflect your company’s unique branding
FINAL WORDS: IS IT FOR YOU?
If you’re a small business or startup and you’re looking to grow, I can’t stress the importance of getting all the right systems in place as early as possible. Over the years, I’ve grown to think of implementing several different tools as building a house of cards; one strong gust of wind can make the whole thing topple. if one system — one card — fails then everything else is affected.This is where WORK[etc] shines, as it has all your processes covered in the one system.
Our only reservation was around that old catchphrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. We were concerned that WORK[etc] wouldn’t be good at any single task because it was trying to be good at everything. I’m glad to report, however, that our fears were unfounded. Sure, it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of some of the more dedicated products, but this is more than made up for by cost savings and increased efficiency. Besides, it’s unlikely you’ll ever use all those shiny bells and whistles anyhow!
September 8th, 2014