App Stack. Part 1: The CEO

I love apps. Ever since I decided to swap paintbrushes for pixels, I’ve enjoyed designing, building and using software.

Great apps represent creative inventions for everyday problems - they are the handtools of our technology-enabled world. They can make our working lives more productive and more enjoyable. But how do you find the great apps in an internet full of mediocrity? Turn to BLISS of course and our series of App Stack features!

First up, apps for the commercial lead / CEO / MD / pot washer of a creative SME (that's me).

 

Finance: FreeAgent

FreeAgent

‘Ensuring profitability’ is my main responsibility, so it’s should be no surprise that financial software is first on my list. 

Great User Experience is what drew me to FreeAgent initially, but the friendly UK-based development team also provide solid and reliable features that have accountants peering jealousy over their dusty copy of Sage.

An attractive dashboard, powerful API and easy to use interface make invoicing enjoyable and billing a breeze.

  • Bonus content: Third-party mobile app mobileAgent provides an excellent way to grab your business finances on the go
  • Cost: £25 per month, or £22.50 via this cheeky referral link
  • Website: www.freeagent.com
  • Runner up: Xero, with an improving interface and incredible number of ready-made integrations

 

​Sales: Pipedrive

We don’t employ sales staff at BLISS, happily relying on referrals to generate business. However, those referrals need to be managed - nothing spoils a new relationship quicker than failing to follow up on a positive call or email.

Pipedrive brings an interesting approach to managing leads. Pipeline stages are divided into columns, which allows me to quickly see what is going on and what needs dealing with. It may not be the prettiest but the innovative approach means that this software actually gets used.

Their reports are also something to behold - I always get a collective ‘wow’ when showing these at management meetings.

Pipedrive reports

  • Bonus content: Ecquire, whose Chrome extension gathers contact data from Google Mail and social channels posts it straight to Pipedrive
  • Cost: $9 per user per month
  • Website: www.pipedrive.com
  • Runner up: Base CRM, which is a truly beautiful piece of software, but with a price tag to match

 

Productivity: TeuxDeux

I have tried every piece of To-Do software and every productivity fad on the market. No really - just ask Laurie, who has to feign excitement every time I send him a link to my latest discovery.

The reason for this addiction is simple - for someone with a lot on his plate, anything that helps me to get things done is going to make my life better. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed from this extensive research, it’s that power users benefit from simplicity. 

Until I discovered TeuxDeux, I kept coming back to paper to-do lists in moments of stress. I’d end up with pages and pages of lists in my notebook, each a slightly updated version of the previous one. The reason TeuxDeux succeeds is that it automates this approach, but without wasting pages of my Moleskine.

No fuss, no frills, just an incredibly easy to-do list.

  • Bonus content: Developers with a sense of humour? Check out their FAQs or Story pages
  • Cost: $3 per month
  • Website: www.teuxdeux.com
  • Runner up: Any.do, for their minimalist approach and fantastic mobile day planner

 

Communication: Google Mail

Before I was addicted to To-Do software, email clients were my primary source of procrastination. Despite having a fairly brutal approach to using email, I still spend many hours a day bouncing electronic messages to staff and customers. 

I was desperate to make that experience more enjoyable, and to this day I get a momentary flutter of excitement when the next big thing is banded about the office. But I always came back to Google’s webmail interface, and as Google improved their interface and featureset, it became more difficult for me to justify change.

Sure, the interface is still ugly and lacking in customisable features. But with Google Drive integration and a selection of browser extensions, nothing else gets a look in.

  • Bonus content: Rapportive covers up ads with the LinkedIn profile of the person that emailed you. Excellent for snooping researching
  • Cost: Free
  • Website: mail.google.com
  • Runner up: Postbox, whose formatted quotes and Rapportive-like social profiles have me tempted

 

Not forgetting...

  • Google Docs: limited features, but more than makes up for it with collaboration tools, storage and third-party add-ons.
  • Sunrise: making Google Calendar more pleasurable to use.
  • Keynote: beautiful presentations and a fantastic UI.
  • ???: Exciting business and entertainment apps on the way from BLISS!