Dogfooding the Google Apps Marketplace

We started Umzuzu with one goal in mind; help organizations with their transition away from traditional on-premise IT and on to cloud based services.  Google Apps was at the center of that vision.  

A few years ago, when we started our business, our accounting group suggested we use the world’s most popular desktop application for our accounting.  Since our primary platform is mac, we chose the mac version.  

For many of the same reasons that traditional desktop applications fall short, we found that this product did not suit our needs.  The contacts didn’t sync through to our contact stores, the file required extra backup procedures, the software didn’t work with our bank, and the time tracking didn’t allow us to record our time unless we were back in the office.  

Through this challenge we identified two cores challenges critical to maintaining our success:
  • Taking care of clients
    • acquisition
    • maintaining contact
    • high availability (mobile)
  • Managing our funds
    • tracking client and business expenses (money out)
    • tracking time (money in)
    • accounts payable and receivable (money in)
We began our search for solutions that better suited the realities of our business.  We needed solutions that were web-based, mobile, and the that worked together in concert.  

A search through the Google Apps Marketplace yielded several applications that could meet our needs, all with free trials.  We installed and evaluated nearly a dozen applications, all at no cost.  In the end we found three applications that fulfilled our needs.  

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is at the heart of “taking care of clients.”  The solution in the marketplace that best met our needs was Batchbook.  Contacts are created in Batchbook and shared with coworkers.  These contacts then sync through to our Google Apps contacts and our mobile phones.  If the contact becomes a client, the click of a button send their contact and billing information over to Freshbooks, the invoicing and time tracking solution we chose.

Freshbooks is an established online tool for invoicing and time tracking.  They had just recently upgraded their product to include OpenID login using your Google Apps credentials.  We could track our time using the website, widgets, or timers on our mobile phones.  The collected time could be billed from any computer in the world, and the resulting income could be accounted for by checking “received” on our phones.  Hooks for Google Checkout were included, making for simple credit card processing.  Freshbooks solved the “money in” side of the equation.  While Freshbooks also has tools for the “money out” side, but we had already fallen hard for Expensify.

Expensify allows us to capture and document expenses and receipts as they happen.  Buy lunch?  Shoot the the receipt with my camera phone and throw the paper away.  Later, pair the receipt with the charge on my Amex, and route the whole thing through to accounting for approval.  Authorized expenses are sent over to Freshbooks with a click, allowing Freshbooks to bill those expenses back to the client, or reflect the business expense in our P&L statement.

Three different applications, from three different vendors, sharing information and working together with Google Apps to solve our specific business challenges.  The flexibility of the Google Apps platform allows us to solve every business challenge, both for our clients, and internally.