SaaS, PMs, CMS, CRMs, ERPs oh my (1)

I recently had a call with Adrian Sanders, co-founder of Halfslant, a contemporary art consultancy for alternative spaces and events. He put up some great questions, the type that only someone with street smarts and experience working with a lot of software products would know to ask. After the call he circled back and asked “where can I send feedback to warn the others”. I suggested a post on our site; here it is as it arrived. - Steve (founder)

“SaaS, PMs, CMS, CRMs, ERPs blah blah blah blah.” Yes, the revolution is here and as an IT consultant, I’ve helped several business implement their own next-gen software solution from Open Source CRM power houses to the best closed source CMSs money can buy. But at the end of the day, does the end-user really care and should they? Which version of Word do you run? The one that can do spell check with a pretty button or an ugly one? Which Ruby on Rails clone do you worship? The one that preaches simplicity through five different programs or the one that needs ten other applications in its API to do what you need? Online software companies are preaching a lot of things these days, but it mostly isn’t about using their software to run a business - it’s about doing things prettier, or snappier, or more conveniently, more integrated, more online all the time, more blah blah blah.

The core question is left unanswered - how can we be using these tools to fundamentally change the way we do business? Can this product leverage technology in the same way that URLs and search engines changed business? Or in the same way that email changed business?

I’ve come to this question after three years helping people implement solutions and trying to “future-proof” their business. As I begin my own business, the clean slate and liberty of a start-up has helped me understand what I want from my software. The needs of my business are incredibly dynamic and require a lot of networking and communication with a large range of people. I’m not looking to solve some project management or contact relation management questions, I’m looking for a heart beat that runs my business, something that starts with my thought processes where sometimes project management /is /contact relation management. Sometimes a task needs to be done and has absolutely nothing to do with any standard workflow, but it has to be done. Where can I find 20 bicycles on a Sunday in Paris? Who is going to contact the people upstairs about the leak in the ceiling? Can my software handle those idiosyncratic aspects of small business life? It comes down to three essential things to my business: The people I interact with, the projects I work on, and the activities I do with people and projects, which is why Solve is so exciting for a small business owner like me.

Solve starts with that simple core of People, Activities and Projects (or in it’s own terms: contacts, activities and blogs) which makes it stand apart from any CRM or PM I have ever used, (and I’ve used a lot from Pipeline Deals to Highrise, BigContacts, and Wrike or from Basecamp to Sugar, vTiger and Zoho.). There is no ill-fated attempt to try and capture that golden formula work flow or type of business activity that other CRMs and PMs do, because we’re not robots and we don’t work in perfect progam cycles. We make mistakes (the recycle bin!), we forget people’s names (full text search!), we like the rest of the internet (google docs, maps and search!), we have eyes (a real cohesive GUI!), and we’re creative (tags, custom categories, blank slate blogs).

“In my business, sometimes this is the problem, and sometimes it’s the solution” (right image)

This story will document why I’ve decided to build my business on Solve, the ways I’m organizing those three core elements to make my company productive, and my thoughts about the development of the system along the way. It will hopefully give you all a better idea of how you might use this system and if it’s right for you. After a week and a half of use, I can safely say that this is really a forward thinking product that is clearly been around the brainstorm table quite a few times (9 years, I’m told). The very fact that it’s been publicly available for less than a quarter and is already this polished is fantastic. The people over there are on to some exciting stuff.

Continue to part 2 …

For tips on mapping and route optimization see our Routing Software Guide.