8 cloud-based apps bring bliss to busy entrepreneurs

Productivity nirvana

We work virtually at Articulate and Turbine, with open-book projects and agile management, so good technology is more than a nice-to-have. Without the right tools, we would simply not be able to operate the way we do. For me personally, it’s the difference between standing still and forging ahead.

There are eight cloud-based apps that I use to run my life and my business.

Basecamp

Beautiful project management

Basecamp is a project management tool that makes it painless to collaborate, not only with colleagues but also with clients. We love it and I use it hourly. It’s the hub and focus of our working life at Articulate.

HubSpot

Everything you need for marketing in one tool

If you’re in marketing like us, you spend time on tasks like writing blog posts, posting to social media, doing A/B tests, trying to optimise for Google, and editing emails and website landing pages. HubSpot takes all that and lets you do it in one place, with joined-up analytics and a simple user interface. HubSpot is our secret weapon in the battle for buyers’ attention.

Office 365

Applications and email from the cloud

Just about everyone’s used Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint at some point in their lives. As a writer, I spend most of my life staring at Word. As a businessman, Excel rules my life. And I’m addicted to email, with Outlook being my drug of choice. Now I get all these services via Office 365. I can access my email and favourite Office applications either via a web browser, my iPhone or by downloading the applications to my laptop or tablet. I can add new people to the system when I hire them, but if someone leaves it’s just as easy to cancel their subscription and save some money. It’s much more flexible than in-house email: I’m just paying for what I use, when I use it.

Todoist

The only to-do list you’ll ever need

It works on my phone, in my browser and in Outlook. Todoist is a to-do list that is constantly synchronised, up-to-date and with me wherever I go. If you’re a Getting Things Done fan, this is a great tool for capturing and organising your tasks. I use it alongside Taco, which pulls in tasks from other apps to give me a single, unified task list.

Yammer!

Like Facebook, but just for your business

As a virtual company, we don’t have a central office and we don’t see one another in person very often. So we use Skype video conferences a lot. But for the more informal, social, culture-building stuff, we use Yammer! It’s a private social network for your business. It’s free from Microsoft — and we raved about it so much, they wrote a case study about the way we use it.

Turbine

Time off requests, expenses claims and purchase orders made simple

We use Turbine for our HR processes. Since it’s a subsidiary of Articulate, it’s hardly surprising. But it works really well for other companies, too.

ZenDesk

Customer support that customers love

When someone has a question about Turbine, they can go to our support site, Tweet us, create a ticket online or email our support address. However they get in touch, it all goes through ZenDesk. This online tool makes it really easy to track customer pre-sales enquiries and support issues and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

RingCentral

Cloud-hosted telephone exchange

We’ve tried several different phone systems and none of them really worked well for us as a virtual company — but RingCentral is awesome. I can make calls using an app on my iPhone or an app on my PC, but I have a real phone number and people can call me from regular phones. Anything that a big company can do with their phone system, I can do with RingCentral: conference calls, auto-receptionist, call recording, faxes, DDI numbers for my staff and so on.

We’ve made a conscious decision as a company to use cloud-based apps wherever possible. As a small, ambitious company it gives us access to business tools that used to be limited to big companies or firms with big development budgets. And it lets me concentrate less on technology and more on growing the business. Cloud nirvana!

 

Matthew Stibbe
Matthew Stibbe is CEO of Turbine, an online app that loves the paperwork you hate, and CEO of Articulate Marketing, an agency that helps tech companies grow faster. A lifelong entrepreneur with a passion for technology, business and aviation, he blogs at Bad Language and Forbes . Three random facts about Matthew: he speaks Dutch, designed a computer game for LEGO, and has a commercial pilot’s license.