So many business managers seem stuck in the past—back in the days where computers took up whole rooms, and “digital technology” was more clunky and confusing than convenient. Maybe they had a bad experience with an old software “solution” and gave up on new technology in exchange for what’s safe.
While that may be the case for most managers, there are brave, tech-savvy entrepreneurs and business owners that have been “making the leap” into the world of management applications. And they’ve discovered that things are a whole lot better than they used to be. Not only is business software much more user friendly than it ever was, it’s affordable, compact, and actually helps.
We dug through hundreds of apps to find the best, most affordable ones for you and your business—and below you’ll find our seven favorites (not including this obvious favorite of ours).
OmniFocus ($79.99) is an iPad app that turns your sharp little tablet into a business powerhouse. Recommended by Intuit as one of the 50 best iPad Apps for Small Business, it’s truly one of the best task/project management apps available, period. The software was designed with multiple functions in mind and can seamlessly integrate many of the everyday jobs you do into one, easy-to-use interface. Some of the coolest features are the location-aware task lists and the on-the-fly task entry with voice and image attachments.
Also: if you’ve already purchased version 1.0, it’s only $39.99 to upgrade.
Shoeboxed (free) is already helping over 500,000 individuals go virtually paper-free by allowing them to easily scan, store, and track their paper receipts. No more deluge of paper flowing out of the offices, closets, and filing cabinets. It also allows you to automatically manage and update contact information, submit automated IRS documentation, and generate expense reports with a couple taps of a button.
Shoeboxed was designed with small business in mind and takes a lot of the hassle out of the accounting process. This won’t just eliminate the added headache of expense tracking, but will also do away with unnecessary payroll – saving your business money that it can’t afford to waste.
SmartTime ($9.99) describes itself as “kind of like your life, but organized.” This surprisingly brilliant app will actually integrate a to-do task list with your calendar/appointments and allows you to get an accurate look at your life in a snapshot. During the task-creation process, the iPhone app will automatically link a contact’s name to their phone number and other contact data so that everything you need is in one place. It also allows you to share your projects and personal calendars with other users, helping to keep everyone in the know.
One of the coolest features of SmartTime, though, is the ability to shift the way information is displayed. There are essentially three ways to view it: “Smart View” displays your agenda, “Calendar View” shows the same data spread across a day/week calendar, and “Focus View,” which is a list format that breaks your to-do into “need to do” and “already done.”
Lettuce ($59/month) is an imaginative inventory management app that’s great for any sort of business dealing with producing, selling, or shipping material goods. Forbes lists Lettuce as one of their five best inventory apps and calls the smart, integrative nature of the software “more than just an inventory app.”
Indeed, Lettuce can automatically capture sales data to accurately update inventory. It also integrates with payment processing and shipping systems so your business operates as smoothly as possible. If you prefer an all-in-one approach to inventory management, Lettuce can also work well with certain CRM software.
In addition to the base software, Lettuce offers a companion, cloud-based web application downloadable for the iPad that allows meta-users to customize the company’s Lettuce experience—and adding more users only costs $25/month each.
Evernote (free) is a staple: one of the tried and true management applications available (with premium and business packages available from $5 per month). It seems like it’s been around forever, but it still does an amazing job of providing the functionality that modern managers want and need. It’s also one of the few programs that offers a cross-platform availability including PC, iDevice, and Android.
Some of the most interesting features of Evernote are the app’s abilities to search for notes across folders and the ability to record audio notes with the tap of a button. Capitalizing on the popularity of paperless apps like Shoeboxed, Evernote now allows users to scan business cards and store the information digitally for easy search and retrieval. You can also snap photos of receipts for expense tracking. Just be careful: the data is stored as an image and isn’t IRS compatible.
Numbers ($9.99) is “the most innovative spreadsheet app ever designed,” as its creators like to say. The application was custom-built for use with iOS devices and features all the functionality you’d expect from a desktop spreadsheet suite packed into a mobile package. Tables, charts, photos, and other graphics are easily integrated, and with over 350 separate functions, it’s clear that Numbers isn’t a stripped-down version of anything.
Numbers also comes with 16 ready-to-use templates that you can still customize to fit your needs. It integrates with iCloud, so you can share the same data across multiple devices automatically (your accounting department, for example, will be happy to be kept in the loop). You can also easily import/export CSV files by dragging and dropping or using the in-app “share” button.
We all know that good word processors on iOS platforms are few and far between. There have been some contenders over the years, but none seem to gel well with Apple products and all lack some of the basic functionality that we’ve all come to enjoy on desktop computers. Pages ($9.99) is different.
Pages has all of the functionality you’d expect from a top-tier processor like Word but with the unique, creative flair iDevice users are used to. Like Numbers before it, Pages comes with 16 pre-loaded templates you can use to create sleek-looking documents in a heartbeat—but it’s really the depth of functionality that will keep you hooked.
When it comes to trying out new technology, you really don’t have anything to fear anymore. The cost of the apps mentioned above is negligible in the long run, and often the higher-priced options offer free versions or trial periods. Try these programs out for 30 days, and you can get a feel for each app’s functionality without sinking too much money into the process.
The worst thing you can do as a business owner is continue to rely on outdated technology, running your business like it’s the dark ages. Even if you discover that these mobile solutions aren’t the right ones for you, they’ll give you the information needed to find apps that better suit your needs and help your business to run as smoothly as possible.
7 Apps to Make Management Easier Chad Halvorson