Can Small Businesses Benefit from Custom Software Apps?

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Every business can benefit from custom software applications, regardless of the service or product it offers. However, if you are a small business, spending on the right applications is particularly crucial due to a tighter IT budget and being more vulnerable in the dynamic corporate world. This could lead to conflict about whether you should spend on generic desktop software or custom web software.


To resolve this conflict, we look at the key performance indicators of any business: the data about its customer-practices and business process management. What the organization has learned about its customers and how effectively it uses this data to provide better and relevant solutions to its users is what keeps them on the charts. In such data-centric times, an organization’s data is distributed across various inevitable software solutions it uses: CRM, accounting applications, project management, inventory management and resource allocation, support ticket management, enterprise resource planning, revenue, expense and commission trackers and much more. That means multiple copies of data are stored at multiple locations, leading to ineffective usage of resources. What if all the data pertaining to your customers could be stored at a central location, and all the custom software applications you use could access the data relevant to them? What if all these software solutions could communicate with one another, effortlessly?


Well, this is possible if the applications are from the same vendor and hosted online. But it is more about picking from the lot, those applications that best suit your business. Why insist on appropriate ones, and not generic ones? Because not all businesses are run alike. Each has unique use-cases, and thus needs unique applications for each requirement. Generic software applications are almost always full of compromises. You end up paying for more than what you actually use. This is one good reason why you should consider building your tools, yourself. Building custom applications using web application building platforms is more beneficial than settling for ready-made software. Customization not only costs a lot less, but it also speaks your language. Not all of us are programmers, after all. What stops you now? Get started with custom apps today!


How To Clean Up Your Business – With Zoho

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Entrepreneur.com recently featured an article titled ‘How To Clean Up Your Business‘. The article talks about Spring Cleaning, a time to ‘get rid of the tasks, people and situations that drain time, money and energy from your Business’. Every Business encounters its share of such tasks, people and situations that it must successfully overcome in order to increase and optimize productivity.

I’d like to share some ‘Productivity Pitfalls’ quoted from the original articleAt Zoho, we offer several applications which can help eliminate 7 out of these 8 Pitfalls. These Zoho Apps can be used together, in conjunction with one another, to achieve the purpose of maximizing productivity while saving you time, money and energy.

Productivity Pitfall #1 Scattered day plans

 ”Failure to plan their days is the No. 1 reason business owners waste time, energy and money, says New York City-based time-management expert Julie Morgenstern By not planning their days, they tend to become reactive and distracted, diminishing their productivity and the revenue they can generate.”

Our SolutionZoho Mail for Business comes with Calendar, Tasks and Notes apps integrated for improved productivity and efficiency. With Zoho Mail, Business-Owners can plan and organize their days better. The Calendar app within Zoho Mail helps easily schedule, manage and track important events and meetings from within the email interface. The Tasks app lets you assign, plan and track important tasks, ensuring that you never miss any task-related deadlines. The Notes app lets you add quick, color-coded notes to gather all useful information in one place, so you can later refer to it, edit or import it. Zoho Mail also supports multi-level folders that make it easier for Business-Owners to track, organize and prioritize incoming email thereby saving time and energy. Read the complete list of powerful features offered by Zoho Mail for Business.

Productivity Pitfall #2 DIY syndrome 

Morgenstern estimates that 75 to 80 percent of the small and midsize businesses she consults with waste employee salaries, including their own, by not focusing each person’s time on the optimal task for that person.”

Our SolutionZoho Creator helps many Business-Owners build custom apps for their Busi
ness requirements. Instead of hiring a developer who may or may not understand their exact requirements, Business-Owners can easily build their own custom app all by themselves, using the Zoho Creator platform. Building their own apps saves these Businesses considerable time and money that may have otherwise been wasted hiring unnecesary developer resources Also, using Zoho Creator ensures that there is no compromise on the quality of the applications built.

One such Zoho Creator customer, Wayne “Kila” Watts, Chief Pilot at  PilotSpeak.net reports:

“It was a godsend for the applications I needed for my website, saving me thousands of dollars to have someone else make the databases and design the pages.”

Read experiences of other Business-Owners who have saved time and money by building their own apps with Zoho Creator.

Productivity Pitfall #3 Disorganized direction  

To make the delegation process more effective and less time-consuming, Bakersfield, Calif.-based business growth consultant Russell S. Allred, co-author of Best Practices of High Performance Entrepreneurs, recommends creating task-related systems and processes. Write a list of steps for each task you perform regularly in your workplace and the best practices for completing those steps.

Our SolutionZoho Wiki helps create a secure, collaborative environment for Businesses to document and share such task-related systems and processes online over their Intranet. Wikis serve as a knowledge-base where employees can maintain and update information and steps related to these tasks.

Stu Press, CEO of Grand Assistance, is the owner of one such Business and has successfully achieved this purpose using Zoho Wiki. Here’s what he had to say about our Wiki solution:

“Zoho Wiki has been a valuable communication tool that we were able to integrate into our business. We have been able to eliminate printed procedure manuals and employee handbooks resulting in a more nimble and environmentally friendly process for keeping our all of organization’s people in alignment with our goals. We enjoy being able to quickly implement modifications and updates to our Wiki.”

Learn more about Zoho Wiki features that can help you create process-oriented knowledge-bases for your Business.

Productivity Pitfall #4Untamed distractions

“Many people have no idea how to manage the overwhelming amount of communication that comes their way on paper and electronically, says productivity consultant Kimberly Medlock, founder of Productive Matters in Olive Branch, Miss. To cut down on distractions and time-sucks, clean up your act, she says. Develop hard-copy and electronic filing systems to help locate important papers and information more quickly.”

Our SolutionZoho Docs can serve as the electronic filing system helping your Business store, manage and collaboratively work on documents online. Not only does Zoho Docs allow secure file sharing via an online workspace, it also includes an admin console so that user rights and access to files can easily be controlled. Read more about these features available on Zoho Docs.

Productivity Pitfall #5Leaky expenditures 

>By checking his monthly expenses closely, Eli Mechlovitz, co-founder of GlassTileStore.com, an online glass tile retailer, found a variety of unwanted subscriptions, warranty programs, fee-based website analytics programs, utility bill errors and other incorrect or unwanted charges. Eliminating these budgetary leaks has saved his Brooklyn, N.Y., company approximately $4,000 per month.  Every quarter, be sure to review where the money is going, he advises, and discontinue or fight unnecessary or incorrect charges.

Our SolutionZoho Books is a comprehensive accounting solution that helps Business-Owners manage their finances and stay on top of their Business. With Zoho Books, you can keep your Business expenses in check and manage the money flowing in and out of your Business. Learn more about how Zoho Books can help your business stay financially healthy.

Productivity Pitfall #6:  Collecting (all) customers

Maria Marsala, a business coach in Poulsbo, Wash., finds that many of her clients waste time and energy serving the wrong customers. She encourages them to define their “ideal” customer–the person or entity that will pay a fair price for their product or service, value their business, return and buy from them again and generate referrals. The greatest marketing investment and effort should be devoted to finding and courting those ideals, she says.

Our Solution: Zoho CRM can help your Business build, maintain and strengthen customer relationships. With Zoho CRM, you can organize your customer database so that you can identify and tag the right customers, prioritize and track business opportunities and plan focused marketing activity. Read about some of the Business-Owners who have benefited from adopting Zoho CRM for their Business.

Productivity Piftall #7: Energy-sucking employees

 When Mechlovitz has trouble with unproductive or negative employees, he tries to move them into positions that better suit their skills. But if an employee isn’t a good fit or is miserable, he says, you have to end the relationship–quickly. 

Productivity Pitfall #8: Persistent procrastination

 If you constantly avoid tasks or put off work until the last minute, you need to figure out why, Morgenstern says. Burnout could be from being overworked, but she often finds that procrastination is rooted in uncertainty or intimidation. If a project seems too big, procrastination can be a coping mechanism. She suggests breaking the task down into manageable steps you can do in shorter chunks of time.

Our Solution Zoho Projects is helping many Businesses effectively manage their Business Projects online. With features such as task-management, time-tracking, project calendar, chat and meetings, Zoho Projects can help you plan and optimize the time spent on tasks. 

Business-Owners can use Zoho Projects with their teams ensuring that team members collaboratively manage their tasks within optimal time. Tasks can be easily broken down into manageable chunks and completed over a defined, measurable period of time. Not only that, Business-Owners can also save and plan their own time that they would otherwise spend micro-managing different tasks across multiple projects within their Business. Read about some of these Businesses and how they have benefited from Zoho Projects.

So, that’s the complete list of Productivity Pitfalls and how they can be avoided by using the right Zoho Apps. Thanks to Gwen Moran of Entrepreneur.com for the original article that inspired this post. Besides this list, are there any other Productivity Pitfalls that affect your Business? Tell us about them, and we can help you figure out the best ways to tackle them.

If you liked this post, drop us a comment here or give us a shout on twitter. We’d love to hear from you!

Zoho UI

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Dan, who tried Zoho a couple of days back wrote:

However in using them [Zoho] I was very disappointed to find that each program had a *totally* different look-and-feel to them – they were, in effect, four entirely separate applications. They in no way felt part of a suite, and do not have any of the advantages outlined above.

Craig, who has been following Zoho’s progress, too wanted to know:

how serious is Zoho taking the UI experience of the users out there?

We do take in feedback from users on their experience with Zoho and are only too glad to hear what users have to say on the UI and how comfortable they feel while using Zoho.

That said, it is true that there is some lack of uniformity amongst the Zoho applications. Of all our applications, users might have noticed that Zoho Writer and Zoho Planner have similar UI. Zoho Projects, our latest offering too adopted the same. This is just so that they all look like a part of the same suite. The users can be rest assured that other services will soon follow the familiar Zoho Writer UI, as a part of hooking all the pieces of the Zoho suite.

Innovate using Productivity Tools

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Quite a few people have felt that Web 2.0 isn’t just about creating flashy (or Ajaxy) little widgets. Or just another mashup of Flickr and Yahoo Traffic or tracking your favourite satellite using Google Maps. Here’s one article which is about how Web 2.0 can be used in organizations to harness innovation:

But what if you’re working in a marketing department for a company as big as British Airways? Making yourself heard isn’t going to be easy. Getting things done is even more difficult.

While it is true that the article discusses the essence of Web 2.0, it is also true that the tools and applications that come under this new wave are just as useful. To start with, most companies have their internal network and can quite efficiently run these new tools. Collaboration, to start with, has become a standard feature of any web-based application. The power of collective intelligence can be put to very good use that way. Tools can also be used to digg or bury ideas :) The result is that:

They can learn to listen to their colleagues.

They can fast-track feedback, and streamline development cycles and processes.

Think CRM. Think RSS feeds. There are a host of other tools that can be put to good use, much more than merely toying around with them. (Nothing wrong with the toying part, of course, it’s fun-work) As the author says, if organizations were to do that, Web 2.0 is all about:

making feedback loops easy to use, and making it work simply and easily where it really counts – with your users / employees.