New collaboration tool can improve efficiency and communication in your small business

Early in 2011, I wrote a post that introduced two cloud-based project management tools, Dropbox and Basecamp, that I had recently started using with a couple of clients. Earlier this year, yet another client started using SmartSheet, also a tool aimed at making project management simpler.

All of these tools are supposed to make sharing of information and documents among work groups more efficient and more effective, although, to be honest, I quickly grew to hate SmartSheet and its endless lines of topics on each of the project sheets my client set up. (We had over 200 topic lines for one project. Try finding something quickly among that!)

Anyway, the field of cloud-based tools designed to improve communication and collaboration is seeing rapid evolution as companies work to exploit the huge potential of such tools to improve communication and collaboration. New offerings are coming to the market, one of which was introduced to me a few weeks ago. It is Bitrix24, a cloud-based platform that establishes a social intranet for companies of any size, including small businesses.

In a nutshell, Bitrix24 enables you to put your key business processes, such as project management and customer relationship management, online in a format that mimics the social media that we all are so used to now. When I received a demo of Bitrix24 last week, I was immediately struck by how much it reminded me of something I use daily and am extremely familiar with – Facebook. Your Bitrix24 front page is a single workspace that looks very similar to a Facebook page; this page gives you access to projects, tasks, documents and contacts. You can see an activity stream that captures what is going on, such as the progress people are making on specific assignments and communication between work group members. You also have all the documents you need right at your fingertips. To communicate, you post a comment to a specific person, a work group or to everyone on the system. Or you can use an instant messenger program. With both of these communication forms, it’s easy to attach files.

The list of Bitrix24’s features is lengthy but here are some of the ones I thought were significantly different – and better – than other collaboration platforms I’ve used thus far:

• an easy-to-use daily planner,

• a breakdown of tasks that you are responsible for and ones in which you are a participant but for which someone else holds responsibility. The system also allows you to create a task and assign it to someone. You can also decide to delegate one of your tasks to someone else, which causes it to then show up in their activity stream.

• a clock that allows you, the boss, to track when people sign into and out of the system. This can be extremely handy for tracking the workday of employees working in remote locations.

• the ability to edit Word documents within the system without having to download them, edit them and then upload them again, something that I have found to be a pain with other platforms.

• access to your CRM system, so you can track what’s going on there with prospects and customers and also complete CRM tasks.

• one search box that lets you search absolutely everything that is in the system in one place.

• an extranet, that lets you set up a separate online workspace for external partners, such as clients, vendors, or partners.

Bitrix24 has several videos on YouTube that will show you more details on how the system works. Bitrix24 is still in beta and so they are still working on adding more features, such as e-mail templates that can be used for CRM. But even at this stage, as Stephen Ankenman, the company representative who walked me through the system, pointed out, Bitrix24 is a perfect collaboration tool for a business of any size, including small businesses. “A lot of people don’t start off using all the tools, but they grow into it,” he said

I would have to agree with that. I definitely learned enough about Bitrix24 in the half hour walk through Stephen gave me to think this is a collaboration platform with great potential and so I recommend that you check it out.

Signing up and using the system for up to 12 people is free, so many, many small businesses should be able to take advantage of this terrific new tool to boost their project management capabilities. Also, I’m happy to tell you that Bitrix24 is making a special offer to readers of this blog. You can get a free year of the full functionality of the product, including unlimited extranet users with this offer.

To accept this special offer, first sign up for a free account at www.bitrix24.com and then send an email to info@bitrix24.com with “Free www.bitrix24.com startup license” in the subject and mentioning this blog, “SucceedinginSmallBusiness,” in the body of your message.

If you give Bitrix24 a test drive, please do let me know how you liked it.

2 comments

  1. Eddie Collins says:

    You should checkout Oogwave.
    It brings many of the features online file storage, chat with team, online file sharing, file tracking system.
    It's a helpful tool for PM.

  2. Nice post dear. You are doing very well.

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