15 Cloud Services we LOVE for our own business

cloud4At frevvo, we LOVE Cloud. Sure, we sell more and more cloud-based solutions to our customers many of whom are themselves small businesses. But so are we! And, we use many cloud services to lower costs and accelerate our own business. We love not having to worry about infrastructure, mobile access, automatic upgrades etc. Here are some cloud services we use today:

  1. frevvo Live Forms: A no-brainer for us. We absolutely eat our own dog food. Our everyday approvals are automated using our own product – everything from Expense Reports to Leave Approvals to Sales Orders to Training Registrations to you name it. We see firsthand how much more efficient we are as a result and we’re even more excited to bring that efficiency to customers.
  2. Email & Calendar: This is a no-brainer and no SMB has any business operating their own email. We use GMail and Google Calendar on our own domain. It’s easy and low cost, well supported and reliable. It’s super easy to quickly find relevant emails. We also like several of the plugins that you can add into GMail.
  3. Infrastructure: As a Cloud provider, this is obviously a key service for us. We use Amazon Web Services (AWS). EC2 for compute, S3 for storage and RDS for the database. AWS is amazing. Costs keep going down, it’s incredibly reliable and they keep adding useful new stuff.
  4. Sales CRM: We use SFDC (salesforce.com). SFDC has its problems for sure and it’s not cheap (costs can rise quickly). But, this is such a key function that it’s not where you want to compromise. We also like the App Exchange and the fact that so many other cloud services integrate with SFDC.
  5. Marketing: We use Marketo. We’re relatively new to it so not a whole lot of experience. We’ve found that it integrates really well with SFDC which was a huge plus. As we automate more things, we’re expecting it to save us time and become more efficient. Not sure about their GMail plugin yet.
  6. Billing: Freshbooks is working brilliantly for us. We don’t have to worry about credit cards and PCI compliance, it’s drop dead simple to use, works overseas (we have customers all over the world) and it’s very affordable. We’ve also integrated frevvo forms/workflows using their API so billing is automated as much as possible.
  7. Customer Support: We’re deciding between Zendesk and desk.com. Both cloud services. Again, integration with SFDC is critical for us. Of course, a nice interface that’s usable by customers is also a key consideration. We’ll see where we end up but a cloud-based service here is inevitable.
  8. Accounting: Quickbooks is a no-brainer. I think it costs us around $50 or $75 per month for a full-fledged accounting system that meets our needs. We also like the fact that it can be integrated with SFDC though we haven’t reached that point yet.
  9. Web Analytics: Google Analytics is free, extremely detailed and well supported. It’s an amazing product and impossible to beat the cost. Encrypting the search keyword sucks but that’s been discussed at length elsewhere.
  10. Online Documents: We need to share documents too and we’ve been very happy with Google Drive for that – it’s by far the cheapest choice and very convenient for sharing internal documents for quick and easy collaboration. Much nicer than emailing Excel/Word around.
  11. Office 365: It’s just a reality of the world we live in. You have to deal with Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. And, in some ways, they are better than the alternatives e.g. Track Changes. Office 365 is also amazingly affordable. We can’t complain.
  12. Online Meetings / Webinars: We extensively use GoToMeeting for online meetings and GoToWebinar for webinars. Easy to use, inexpensive and [usually] quite reliable. Even though we’re small we’re distributed across multiple locations on 3 continents so sharing screens, built-in audio and video conferencing are essential. GTM works well. Of course, we also use Skype, IM (GTalk, MSN …) and the host of other chat tools out there.
  13. Email Marketing: We still use Constant Contact though, with Marketo being implemented, it may become redundant. Still, over the years, we’ve been a happy customer. It’s incredibly affordable and has been reliable for us.
  14. Phone System: Skype’s very popular, of course and they offer inexpensive Internet calling. But, it’s simply not good enough to be considered “a landline”. We currently use VOIP services from 8×8 for our phone and voicemail. It’s not dirt cheap but it’s not much money either and it’s been 100% reliable for us.
  15. Video: We’ve used Powtoon to create a few videos. It’s not clear how long we’ll continue. Yes, it’s inexpensive but it’s still a pain to create these videos and it’s very very limited in what you can do. Professionally made videos cost 10-20X as much each but may still be worth the money.

I’m guessing we might even use a few more but these 15 services have been really helpful over the years. I’m sure your business benefits from many cloud services too.

This article is an update to the original published about 2 years ago.

OSRAM Sylvania uses frevvo to automate HR approvals integrated with PeopleSoft

OSRAM Sylvania manufactures and markets a wide range of lighting products for business and industry, consumers, for the automotive industry, and for the computer, aerospace and other major industries worldwide.
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OSRAM Sylvania wanted to consolidate their HR processing in a single Service Center in Mexico. However, supervisors in multiple locations still needed to submit a variety of HR forms including salary changes, shift modifications etc. Some of these forms required approval by HR, controllers and others.

We needed an affordable solution that worked with our existing PeopleSoft, our HR Portal using single sign on and other infrastructure and that was easy to use and met our business needs.

After reviewing and trying a number of solutions, we decided that Live Forms has the best combination of usability, price, support and business capabilities on the market today.

– Roger Rudenstein, ERP Manager

Today, several HR functions are automated. Employees use the familiar existing HR portal – no need for a separate login. Integration with PeopleSoft reduces data entry and errors. Supervisors can sign and approve electronically from any location.

Interested in HR automation? Read the Case Study and visit our website for more information including a free 30-day trial.

[Video] Cloud Security

Nine out of ten organizations are concerned with Cloud SecurityAre you concerned about Cloud Security? You’re clearly not alone. Over 90% of organizations are very or moderately concerned about cloud security with the biggest worries being unauthorized access and malicious insiders. It’s hardly surprising considering that a single breach can have such a large negative impact on your business.

At frevvo, we invest a lot of effort in Cloud Security. Our infographics and blog articles discuss how we’ve helped customers securely automate their key processes in the cloud. We’ve also created a short (2 min) video below to show you how partnering with frevvo.

Interested in learning more? Visit our website to and see how customers are already using frevvo’s public and private cloud solutions to transform everyday business processes.

4 weeks vs 1 year? Really?

Building it themselves would be out of reach – we’re talking hundreds of thousands of $ and a year of time. With frevvo, it’s up and running in just a few weeks.

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Complex forms & workflows are really hard to program by hand

It started out as a casual conversation at lunch. But, I was so surprised at the answers I couldn’t believe my ears. Check out the little Q&A below with Courtney Bernard, one of our Customer Success whizzes.

FB (Frevvo Blog): What do you do at frevvo?
CB (Courtney Bernard): I wear a few hats in the Customer Success area. Obviously, some client services but I also do some training & customer support. I also do some of the voice overs for frevvo’s videos.

FB: This recent project, what’s it all about?
CB: It’s a customer in real estate (Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty). They sell real estate. But, before selling any property, it must first be listed – an MLS listing. That means filling out tons of paperwork – anyone who’s sold a house is probably familiar with this. You have to fill out literally dozens of forms, sign in a bunch of places, write in the same info over and over again, correct mistakes etc. It’s painful.

For our customer, obviously, speeding up the listing process is a good thing. They wanted to turn everything into an electronic form/workflow. No more mistakes, duplicate typing or signing, save tons of time.

FB: Ok, so what’d you do?
CB: We did it for them.

FB: Just like that?
CB: Well, no. This is an MLS listing. It’s huge. I’d guess there were 350 maybe 400 fields at least. And, it’s really complex. Many fields depend on others. For example, some fields are part of one type of listing others are not. Choose an option in one field and a bunch of other fields may be affected. We needed to generate a nicely formatted PDF. And, the entire form must work on a mobile device (usually a tablet) since associates are typically out in the field. So, it wasn’t easy to do.

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FB: Put that in a bit of context for us. If I wanted to hire someone to build this, how long would it take?
CB: Well, it’s a guess since I haven’t estimated it but I’d say easily 4-6 man-months for development and about the same for QA. Then there’s PDF generation and mobile. Do you really want it to look good on a tablet? That takes work and lots of time. So, somewhere between 9 to 15 months is probably a good bet. Of course, that’s if it works at all. The complexity is high so there’s a definite risk that it’ll fail.

[Spoiler: This is the part where I couldn’t believe my ears.]
FB: How long did it take you?
CB: Well, they did some of the testing work. It took us about 80 hours (2 weeks) in total. Assuming they spent about as long, we’re talking about 4-6 weeks total.

FB: WHAT? 4 weeks vs 1 year? Seriously?
CB: Yes seriously. I mean the 4-6 weeks of work was spread out over 4 months (holidays, other projects, delays etc) so 4-6 weeks is the actual time we spent.

FB: How the heck is that even possible?
CB: I know. It’s crazy. frevvo is incredibly good at making these large, complex business forms usable. If you had a simple 1-page form with 10 fields, the difference wouldn’t be so drastic. But, as complexity rises, the # of fields increase, dynamic behavior, business rules, PDF, mobile etc. come into play, the cost of building rises dramatically. That’s where frevvo really shines. It’s amazing how easy it is.

FB: Jameson’s must have been pleased?
CB: Without question. They’re reasonably big but not huge. Building it themselves would be out of reach – we’re talking 100s of thousands of $ and a year of time. frevvo puts the benefits of this kind of automation in the hands of companies like Jameson Sotheby’s who realistically wouldn’t have access to it otherwise. That’s huge!

FB: And, what else do you do when you’re not helping customers succeed?
CB: Read, listen to podcasts, ride horses, go hiking, play with my son, watch Downton Abbey and root for my beloved New England Patriots.

There you have it folks! A single form that would have likely cost $100s of K completed in a matter of weeks and far far lower cost with frevvo. And that doesn’t even take into account the productivity benefits that will accrue for years to come.

Read the Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty Case Study. Highly automated organizations get 5X more done and save up to 80% of costs compared to those who are still using paper/email based processes. Why not try frevvo yourself? Contact us now for more information.

Let’s build a Smarter Business

IBM says “Let’s build a Smarter Planet” – from Governments to cities to buildings to water. That’s great – it’s a big idea and a massive initiative. I hope we can get there soon.

But, what about somewhat humbler initiatives? At frevvo, we’re a heckuva lot smaller than IBM. I’m betting that your company’s a lot smaller than a Government or a city too. But, together, we can still build a Smarter Company, a Smarter Small Business or even a Smarter Department. Many of our customers are already doing it.
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Higher Education

In a Smarter University, students can do everything on their phone. The clientele is often millenials. They’re comfortable with technology and live on their mobile devices. Many Universities are already using frevvo (Syracuse, La Cité College, Harvard, NYU, University of California, and others) for Student Registration, Internship Applications, and internal HR/Finance workflows. Students love using mobile devices and not having to stand in line. Smarter Universities save students time and serve them better.

smartrealestateReal Estate

A Smarter Brokerage doesn’t waste associates’ time in duplicate data entry and signatures for MLS listings. You’d think every real estate agency would want the listing process to be ultra-efficient. After all, you can’t sell property unless it’s listed. See how two of our customers (Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty and Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty) are using frevvo to become smarter firms.

smartfinancialFinancial Processes

With Smarter Financial Processes, you get paid faster and speed up procurement for important initiatives. Customers like Hellmann Worldwide Logistics and Escondido Union School District are using frevvo today for completely automated Purchase Requisitions, Sales Orders and Expense Reports and implementing smarter financial processes.

smarthrHR Processes

Smarter HR Processes mean happier employees and customers. Customers like OSRAM Sylvania and Safeway Groceries have digitized HR approval processes like Salary Changes, Shift Modifications and Leave Approvals using frevvo. As a result, employees spend less time on paperwork and chasing down signatures. That gives them more time to focus on customers and new business opportunities. Everyone’s happier.

From satisfied employees to happy customers to business speed and agility to improved visibility and control, there are immense payoffs to becoming a Smarter Business. Why not try frevvo yourself? Contact us now for more information.

Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty chooses frevvo to automate MLS listings

Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty is the exclusive Chicago and North Shore affiliate of the Sotheby’s International Realty global network. Jameson’s has a 30-year-old reputation for integrity, honesty and results in the Greater Chicagoland area.
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The company sells real estate. They want to get listings out as soon as possible and provide their associates with a great user experience. Unfortunately, listing a property is a time-consuming process involving many paper forms, lots of data, and multiple signatures.

They chose Live Forms to automate the process and eliminate paper, collect data electronically, sign on any device and expedite listings.

Read the Case Study.

Highly automated organizations get 5X more done and save up to 80% of costs compared to those who are still using paper/email based processes. Why not try frevvo yourself? Contact us now for more information.

Financial Process Automation: you’ll come for the costs but stay for the productivity

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Research shows that digitizing reduces invoice processing (procure-to-pay) and sales order processing (order-to-cash) costs by anywhere from 50-60%. Impressive numbers indeed. Automating day-to-day financial processes in the cloud means you can process invoices, sales orders, expense reports etc. without worrying about the costs of servers, software, maintenance, upgrades and other hardware.

Many frevvo customers are automating their financial processes and lowering costs. But, what they’re finding as they go along is that the payoffs in increased productivity are vastly more compelling. Here’s what they tell us (see Case Studies for more):

  • Happier Employees: Your employees are so much happier now that they’re freed from error-prone, tedious data entry tasks. Automatic calculations, instant validation, PDF generation, no more duplicate data entry or signatures – it just makes for less frustrated and more productive people.productivity-circle-icon
  • Mobile Enablement: Our customers love that their forms/workflows simply work on mobile devices. But, they’re equally appreciative of the fact that they work well. Business forms are often large and complex and the time and effort we have put into people-first design ensures that the end product is usable and gets used rather than becoming yet another piece of “shelfware”.
  • Business Speed: Sales Orders, Invoices, Expense Reports get processed faster. You get cash sooner, avoid penalties & side effects of late payment and reimburse employees in a timely manner.
  • Improved Visibility and Control: Searching, tracking,and auditing are all much easier when everything’s electronic. You’ll feel the benefits all over the organization by virtue of facilitating access, sharing knowledge, promoting employee flexibility and improving business continuity.
  • Compliance: Digitizing obviously helps improve compliance. It’s far easier to ensure that documents can be retained, retrieved, audited or destroyed according to your business policies.
  • Business AgilityWhen employees spend less time on paperwork and tedious tasks, they’re freed up to respond to customers. In today’s world, you must be able to react to customer feedback and take advantage of new opportunities as soon as they come up. It’s critical for growth and the consequences of not being agile can quickly become disastrous.

Interested in learning more and automating your own financial processes?Learn more by visiting our website. Explore some of the examples, read customer success stories and contact us for more details.