Rarely do managers sit still. Meetings, off-sites and luncheons keep them buzzing around the office or around the country—the gears of business never slow.
Smart businesspeople carry smartphones and tablets—their dashboards—far easier to access than the routine of "finding a decent spot to work" with a laptop.
So how are managers keeping tabs on the day-to-day?
Here are five apps that are helping small to medium-sized businesses cover the major facets of operations. We’ll assume you’ve already got a decent contact management and conference call system in place, so we won’t be covering apps that help in those areas. And since Apple hasn’t conquered the world quite yet, these apps can be found on Android devices as well.
Scenario: You’re on the go so much you that you’re losing money, personally, as you accrue expenses; there is no way you’ll be able to capture all the receipts and get reimbursed.
Expensify alleviates that stress. This free app will sync your credit card transactions with receipts scanned by your phone’s camera. If you are driving, it will track mileage and generate an exportable summary report that syncs with QuickBooks, Google Docs or other Expensify users. Individual use is free; to sync across employees is only $5 submitter/month.
Honorable Mentions: Handy Expense, Cashbook
Scenario: You receive a crucial report or a client presentation on your phone, yet know you can’t get a good look until you get back into the office or your hotel room.
Box.net will help. Not only does it render documents, PDFs and media, more importantly, Box.net allows for on-phone collaboration. You can assign edits, monitor changes and view document owners while on the go.
Honorable Mentions: Documents To Go, GoodReader, Dropbox, Quickoffice, iWork, Roambi.
Scenario: You have nine meetings in six cities in three days and you could use some help organizing the logistics.
TripIt will fill in the gaps; go ahead and toss that manila folder of printouts in the trash. With this Webby-award winner, upload and store all your flight, hotel and rental car information, and Tripit will feed you back arrival/departure information, directions and mileage between the airport and each meeting. In most cases all you need to do is forward your confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the app automatically is updated with the information a few minutes later. Not to mention it costs $1.99 and works offline.
Scenario: You’re navigating through the crush of the airport security line and suddenly you have an amazing—no, brilliant—revelation on how to solve "that issue" that’s been plaguing your project.
Evernote will make sure it’s not lost into the ether of forgetfulness. Whether by typing, using your camera phone, cribbing a note from a webpage or dictation, Evernote will capture the thought and organize it with the rest of your brilliant epiphanies. And since everything is stored in the cloud, you can access your notes and musings with the desktop version once you have some peace and quiet.
Honorable Mentions: SimpleNote, Dragon Dictation
Scenario: You’re slammed with collaborative projects involving everything from correspondences to integrations to interviews, and by some cruel twist of fate, you have to travel across the country to attend an all-day seminar.
Basecamp, or one of the many compatible apps like Encamp, will keep everyone synched up. Post new tasks, mark others complete and note new milestones all from the mobile app. A concise dashboard will break down where you and your teammates stand on your projects. The only downside is that an Internet connection is required to use this app.
There is no real substitution for working in the office, but these five apps should ease much of the headache of travel and off-site obligations. The upside is that many of them make continual improvements to their features and functionality; and with each upgrade, that out-of-office stress lessens and lessens and the idea of out-of-office work becomes more and more realistic.
By Caleb Garling