Welcome to The Small-Biz Techie, a weekly series on the hottest technology trends that keep your small business running like the pros.
You know when you call a really, really big company like
(VZ - Get Report) or
Fireman's Fund, and they miraculously know who you are and how much you owe them?
Well, get this, fellow small-business owners: soon you'll be able to do just that with your own customers.
Advances in high-powered productivity and sales support software for the smaller enterprise may be the single biggest revolution in small-business technology since the desktop computer.
Seemingly everybody who's anybody in software --
(MSFT - Get Report)
(AAPL - Get Report)
(INTU - Get Report)
and several start ups -- is offering new, super-powerful, super-cheap bits of code that automate lead tracking, call logging, invoicing, collections and accounting.
Mark your calendars: If by the end of 2008 you're not conducting business with said management technology, one of your direct competitors will be.
The Same, but Discordant
On the surface, all of these tools, such as Business Contact Manager that can come as part of the
Microsoft Office 2007
suite ($449, $239 as an upgrade) and Intuit's
set of business tools ($249 per month for up to 10 users), are essentially the same. They allow companies to track -- by customer and by client -- every transaction of every employee. The software then relates that transaction back to larger business processes.
You'll find calendar and messaging capabilities similar to what you would see in Outlook or Entourage; word processing and file management as found in Microsoft Word or WordPerfect; and basic note-taking and task management as could be programmed into Excel or a similar spread sheet tool.