Swerve Driving School had a problem. The driving school with locations in California and Washington was growing quickly. With so many projects, Swerve staff needed a way to easily manage multiple projects and collaborate without sitting around a conference table for hours each day.
Enter Liquid Planner. Swerve Driving School has approximately ten daily users, combined with eight to ten contractors and vendors. Using Liquid Planner allows these busy team members to log in as their schedules allow. They can check the status of projects and update their own work to keep everyone in the loop.
“While we initially were interested in Liquid Planner from a pure project management perspective, we’ve since discovered that its collaboration functionality has become even more important to our team,” says Fred Wright, Swerve CEO. “From a collaboration standpoint, we now use LiquidPlanner more than e-mail to share documents. Meanwhile the Workplace Chatter feature lets us discuss tasks with one another in real-time without us all having to be in the same room at once. So you can see, we really view LiquidPlanner as a platform for all of our project communications.”
With LiquidPlanner, businesses can also manage projects from an iPhone, iPad, or Android-based device, keeping projects moving while participants are on the road. With rates starting at $24 monthly per user for businesses with less than ten employees, LiquidPlanner is affordable, as well.
Creating a Digital Office
Ramar Foods International is faced with a more geographical-based challenge. VP of Marketing, PJ Quesada, says the company has offices in Northern California, Southern California, and Hawaii, which makes daily communication a challenge. Quesada has plans to relocate to Hawaii eventually, where he’ll manage his “digital team” through Podio, a solution from Citrix.
“The day-to-day confusion before we found the Podio solution was that projects would not get done on time,” Quesada says. “We were using Basecamp a little bit, I used it prior to finding Podio, but other than that we were trying to make do with email and Google Docs. There is so much coordination that has to happen when you are manufacturing a product and you finally bring it to market that in order to do that, having a centralized platform for the information and process flow is totally essential. Podio is how I keep a pulse on the entire business.”
Podio includes a suite of apps to allow each business to customize the software to match its individual needs. Prices start at $9 per employee monthly, with the ability to add partners and clients for free.
Managing Workflow on Campus
Robert Goodman, director of business and intelligence for Georgetown University, recommends Intuit’s Quickbase for managing workflow. Goodman needed a way to manage his I.T. department’s complex processes that require several levels of approval. Through Quickbase, Goodman and his team are able to communicate more effectively and manage assignments using a personalized dashboard.
“I’ve implemented and used Quickbase at several companies on my own accord,” Goodman says. “In addition to workflow, I find the email notification, reporting, and data management tools in Quickbase to be top-notch. I now spend more time as a director on the business policies which govern our data than in the software system which manages it.”
Quickbase allows businesses the ability to pull in existing data from Excel and CSV to easily create usable databases. Quickbase can be a little on the pricey side, though, with team plans starting at $299 per month for up to ten users.
Other Popular Solutions
While it might not have been the best solution for Ramar Foods International, millions of users collaborate each day using Basecamp. Current discussions and to-do lists are prominently displayed on each user’s dashboard and a “notes” feature allows teammates to share ideas alongside uploaded documents and images.
Teambox is another popular collaboration tool that small businesses have embraced. In addition to its Cloud-based solution, Teambox also helps companies who prefer an on-site collaboration tool with its Teambox On-Premise model. Teambox On-Premise can be stored on a business’s own servers, safely behind its firewall. While all of the above-mentioned solutions come with security, Teambox recognizes that some businesses opt to forgo the Cloud, due to either compliance requirements or personal preferences.
When it comes to project collaboration suites, one thing is clear: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Thankfully, many of the above-mentioned tools have free trials, allowing small businesses to try out features.