What apps do we use to run our small business?
We spend a lot of time encouraging investors to make the most of the growing cloud ecosystem of connected apps. There’s Xero of course. And newcomers like Stockspot and PocketSmith. But established players like CMC are connected too. There’s even a really cool app to connect your connected apps, called IFTTT.
So we figured it’s time to shed light on just some the apps we use to keep the engines running at Sharesight. The best thing about our cloud-based business? We can monitor EVERYTHING from our bank account to social media to development projects across about just a handful of tabs in a browser. From any computer, no downloads necessary. Paradoxically, by using cost-effective and lightweight web-apps we have far more flexibility than larger businesses, and we ensure we’re getting the latest and greatest. Larger organisations tend to build their own systems versus buying the best-of-breed. We can speak from experience, building a credit card billing system is no fun! It used to be that your job provided the best (and most expensive) technologies available. We remember how fast we thought our Dell business machines were back in the day. No more…
Not just for search and YouTube anymore, we rely on Google more than anything else. We prefer Chrome for browsing and Android for mobile, and we exclusively use Gmail, Calendar, and Drive, but we also use Google Analytics, AdWords, and Webmaster tools to optimise our websites and to help people discover and try Sharesight. We’ve also been testing out Google Keep, their new note taking product. Pretty cool. For what we spend with them, Google offers tremendous value for a company of our size.
Our developers kick ass. They’ve developed Sharesight using Ruby on Rails, a highly respected web application framework according to engineers in the know. In order to keep projects organised they use GitHub, which is a cloud-based hosting service and version control system. Basically, this allows them to check-in their code, while maintaining visibility on one another’s work. GitHub also provides open source code for myriad uses and allows our guys to share some of their work. With over three million users, it’s a safe bet that some of the best technologies will surface on GitHub. To put it another way: do you think the best technologies come from a walled-off room of bank developers, or a truly open and global ideas exchange?
We talk to our clients via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, blogging, etc. Using each one of these social networks in a silo would be too time consuming. So, we use Hootsuite to send and manage social media content across all platforms. Aside from visibility across social media platforms, the ability to schedule content in advance is great.
We adhere to an Agile approach to developing Sharesight. Locking ourselves into long-term development plans, buried under heavy-duty technical specs, and putting unnecessary constraints on projects is dumb. Things change fast and we develop accordingly. To maintain our project to-do list and ensure that everyone inside the company has visibility, we use Pivotal Tracker. They provide an intuitive dashboard, which allows non-technical folks to keep up with what our developers are working on. All work is distilled down to simple stories, which are represented by cards, which anyone can drag and drop depeding on their status.
We have a huge email database of current clients, past clients, trial users, partners, you name it. We send out newsletters, special offers, and other bits and pieces. We need to ensure that we’re sending emails to the right client segments and of course to people who haven’t opted out! Campaign Monitor not only lets us build nice looking email templates, but it also hooks into our subscriber database to ensure that all recipient lists are up to date. One of the coolest Campaign Monitor features is the geo-tracking. When we send emails to a large audience, it’s fun to watch the world map and see when and where they’re opened!
Last but not least, is Xero. We use Xero Business for everything finance-related. Ultimately, Xero replaces the need for a full-time finance role - a big savings. Our monthly financials, expenses, payroll, and tax-prep are all run out of Xero and you don’t need to be a CFA to use their app. The best part of course is that whenever a specialised need arises, “there’s an app for that”!