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Every day I hear of companies that want an ‘All in One’ solution, ie: Sales, CRM, PMS, Admin, Billing etc etc….

Unfortunately, the best you can hope for is that you can get at least some of the solutions ‘All in one’. But more importantly than this is that you get the ‘Right’ few solutions all in one, ie: SALES / CRM …or… QUOTES / PMS / INVOICING … or OUTLOOK / EXCHANGE / PDA access. The key is to have a good think about grouping the solutions that need to be together, and those that should be apart.

Sometimes, ‘Apart’ is a good thing…

Mailing List Software
We use ‘GroupMail’ for newsletter campaigns, and whilst we could integrate it with other internal systems, it’s better to be apart as it’s no hassle to simply try another solution depending on functionality we may need.

Accounting Software
‘BankLink’ is what we use. It’s simple, compatible with most accountants, and if we change to a new accountant with MYOB or QuickBooks, no prob. The files can be used. Lets face it, if we used an odd solution online or built a custom solution, we’d be on the back foot.

Email Software
Why re-invent the wheel? Outlook exchange and Entourage are fine, do the job and are compatible with all sorts of devices, PDAs, server software etc. Some people like to build email systems into an internal website or system, and that’s fine, but the time taken to do this could be better spent elsewhere…

“But I’m in Software, shouldn’t I just write everything myself?”
Of course not, that’s a crazy concept! Just focus on the application or services you are offering and buy/lease software to run your business (unless you really need something custom. Do you think a Bank makes the tills, desks, cheques.. No, they use other people. What about an Auto Mechanic/Engineer? Do you think they build all their tools, compressors, lathes, drills etc? Or a Wood Yard? Do they build all their front desks/counters, buildings etc? No, they employ other people and services to do it.
A good business should keep it’s focus on selling what it does best, and use other solutions to hold together the processes.



Should I try to get an ‘All in One” solution to manage the business?

Go for it! But don’t knock yourself if you can’t – it’s hard!  I know of some web businesses that have the same staff size, offer similar products with similar pricing, yet one has a dramatic profitability over the other. The reason is ‘PROCESS OPTIMIZATION’. Simply put, their business runs smoother.
If you can’t make more money from the clients, an avenue to profitability can be streamlining the business processes to create a ‘leaner’ business machine. You should always, always, always, be looking for ways to streamline processes, BUT – not always by trying to merge 2 or 3 processes into one solution.

Example: Why spend $5-10k of developer time creating a ‘Newsletter Manager App’ when you can buy a great bug free one for $99 and be running with it in the same day! Is the point ‘to own the IP/Solution’ or is it ‘To send newsletters out’ (which can be accomplished with the $99 solution).
And, what other more important problems could you solve with the $5-10k of developer time?
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“Question Motives on any business process decision”
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www.ProWorkflow.com – The Business, ‘Under the Hood’

The ProWorkflow business model is not perfect, none is, but it does run very well and uses all sorts of third party services, products and solutions to operate. Here is a candid look at what helps us tick.

Core Systems (Built by us internally)
www.ProWorkflow.com (Main Website)
www.ProTasks.com (Main Website)
– ProWorkflow HQ  (Internal Project Management)
– ProCodemanager (Demo, Trial, Subscription, Code, License Manager, Auto responder application)
– Customer Login App (To service customers)
– Partner Login App (To service partners)
– Affiliate Admin (Affiliate Manager System)
 
Reporting Tools
www.deepmetrix.com (LiveStats XSP Statistics)
www.vodafone.net (SMS Gateway)
 
Servers / Hardware
www.fastservers.net (US Based Servers)
– Various PC (In New Zealand)

Communication
www.skype.com (All Toll Calls)
www.dualphone.co.nz (VOIP Phones)
www.digiweb.net.nz (Web based Email)
www.vodafone.net  (TeamTalk Plans)
www.telecom.co.nz (Landline Phones)
– Outlook Exchange
– Motorola – V3 phones
– Various PDA’s (With Remote Access to mail, Servers)
 
Billing / Invoicing
www.2checkout.com
www.paypal.com
www.dps.co.nz
– Auto Payments to accounts
– Physical Cheques

Banking
www.chase.com (USA)
www.westpac.co.nz (New Zealand)
www.bnz.co.nz (New Zealand)

Marketing
www.google.com (Adwords)
www.miva.com (Adwords)
www.yahoo.com (Adwords)
www.sitepoint.com
– And numerous others

Misc Service Providers
www.mbb.co.nz (NZ Accountants)
www.harts.co.nz (NZ Accountants)
www.mobius.co.nz (Hardware/Software support)
www.banklink.co.nz (Accounting Software)

Misc Other Tools
www.blogger.com (Blogs)
www.wordpress.com (Blogs)
www.infacta.com (GroupMail – Newsletter Management)
www.aplus.net (Domain Names)
www.dnsstuff.com (Troubleshooting)
www.checkdns.net (Troubleshooting)
www.dnsreport.com (Troubleshooting)
www.sparklit.com (Web Polls)

Other Websites / Blogs
www.julian101.com (Directors’ blog)
www.job-management-software.com
www.workflow-management-tools.com
www.project-management-tools.com
www.project-management-time-tracking.com
www.groupware-applications.com
– And numerous others
 
& Many more tools and services!
I hope this shows you that, like any business, the product is almost secondary. It’s the business system and delivery that really matters. Sure, have a great product, but really put effort into the business system and it’ll pay off – Don’t try to go ‘All in One’, it just doesn’t work that way.  ;-)

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About the author:
Julian Stone, CEO – Project, Task & Time Management specialist for: ProActiveSoftware.com, ProWorkflow.com & Julian101.com

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About The Author:
Julian Stone begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting is the CEO of ProActive Software, developers and creators of the leading web based project management software http://www.proworkflow.com.