Software / Services
|Software & Services|
|Adobe Creative Suite 4 |
Runner-up: Google Apps Premier Edition
|Intuit QuickBooks Premier 2009 |
Runner-up: Business Plan Pro 2008 (Palo Alto Software)
|ACT by Sage 2009 |
Microsoft Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager
|Adobe Acrobat 9|
Runner-up: Google Apps Team Edition
Runner-up: Zimbra Collaboration Suite (Yahoo)
|Junction Networks OnSIP |
Runner-up: Microsoft Response Point
Accounting / Finance
There are certain things you can count on in life -- death, taxes and Intuit QuickBooks winning the best Accounting / Finance software category in the Small Business Computing Excellence in Technology Awards. This year, QuickBooks Premier defended Intuit's crown, capturing 44 percent of the vote.
Keeping pace with text-messaging world, QuickBooks users can also now instantly communicate with co-workers with the new QuickBooks Messenger. Additionally, they can also IM with their accountants.
Claiming runners-up honors are two products that have carved out nice niches for themselves. Palo Alto Software's Business Plan Pro has pretty much built a monopoly in the business planning software category. It's earned that status and has never rested on its laurels. Version 11 allows you to quickly switch between financial tables and underlying spreadsheets. And a new progress-tracking feature makes it easier to see where you are in the overall planning process and how much further you have to go.
Most small businesses want to look larger than they really are. A professional billing system is one way to achieve that goal. Voters gave FreshBooks a thumbs-up for its free Web-based service that lets you can create invoices and estimates in your browser. It also offers fee-based services that let you send printed copies via U.S. Postal Service. The paper invoices even go out with return envelopes that have your address preprinted, making it slightly easier for your clients to pay you.
Last year, Microsoft Office 2007 dominated the Productivity category, which was no surprise. The runner-up, though, was a bit surprising as Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium placed second. This year, the latest in Adobe's sleek graphics suite (Adobe Creative Suite 4) took top honors, capturing 33 percent of the vote.
Clearly, not every small business needs the professional quality design and graphics software represented by InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Acrobat and other applications in an integrated suite. What's just as clear, however, is the fact that those businesses that do use Adobe Creative Suite 4 love it.
The runner-up award goes Google Apps Premium Edition, which got the nod from 23 percent of small business votes. Google Apps, which includes Google Docs' word processing, spreadsheet and presentations, Google Calendar, Gmail and Google Sites, has been building up a user community and also serving to even further strengthen small businesses confidence in Web-based applications.
The jury is out about whether Google can seriously challenge Microsoft for business applications supremacy. However, another sign that Google is serious is its recent announcement that it will create a channel sales program to help sell and support Google Apps for small businesses.
Customer / Sales Management
Getting and retaining customers has never been easy. But with the economic downward spiral showing no signs of ending, knowing your customers has never been more important. For that reason, the Customer / Sales Management category holds particular relevance this year. Tying for the top spot with 27 percent of vote are two familiar names: perennial favorite ACT defended its crown, but this year has to share the title with Microsoft Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager.
Extending the reach of its features, ACT by Sage 2009 now offers "En masse e-mail attaching." This lets you select multiple Microsoft Outlook e-mails from different senders and quickly attach them to the contact of your choice. From within Outlook, you can click on an ACT button to attach an e-mail to an ACT contact. You can also use Outlook rules to configure your system so any e-mail from a particular contact automatically becomes a part of a contact's ACT history.
While ACT has focused on integration with Outlook, Microsoft itself continues to make Outlook more of a customer-management product in its own right with Microsoft Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager, which Microsoft began offering as a standalone product in early in 2008.
Microsoft Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager is designed to make it easier for small businesses to organize contact, prospect, and customer information in one place (i.e., Outlook); manage sales leads and business opportunities; create, personalize and track direct marketing campaigns; and centralize project information and task management.
Outlook with Business Contact Manager is also available in Microsoft Office Professional 2007, Microsoft Office Small Business 2007 and Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007. The software also now offers integration with Microsoft Office Accounting 2008.
And, of course, what would a software category be without a healthy dose of open source software. SugarCRM is strong runner-up in the Customer / Sales Management category, capturing nearly 20 percent of the vote. The latest version of SugarCRM shows it's keeping with the times by offering new cloud services, social networking features and mobile administration.
VoIP delivers professional features typically found on the phone systems of much larger companies but with lower costs and simplified management. That's a good thing, because anyone with even a passing familiarity with telecommunications knows that phone systems can be a royal pain in the receiver.
This year's top spot goes to Junction Networks OnSIP, a hosted PBX service that not only lets you pay-as-you-go, it charges you based how much you use, not by licensed seats or extensions. A simple portal interface makes it easy for you to add extensions, configure call-forwarding rules, create call groups and more.
For companies with local and 800 numbers in foreign countries, OnSIP's Inbound Bridge service lets callers use phone menus, transfer calls, put callers on hold, etc. Without the bridge, inbound callers would be disconnected when they tried to navigate the menus or transfer to specific extensions.
Microsoft claims the runner-up position with its Response Point communications software. Sold as a bundle with the phone system hardware from vendors such as Aastra Technologies, D-Link, and Quanta Computer, Response Point supports both VoIP as well as analog phone lines. Features include interactive voice response capabilities, find-me-follow-me options, unified messaging and integration with other Microsoft products, such as Outlook.
Let's face it: The days when collaboration meant attaching and e-mailing files that you could then discuss over the phone are over. These days collaboration means one document reviewed in real-time by multiple workers who share a vested interest.
If Adobe Acrobat doesn't spring to your mind when someone says "collaboration," you aren't among the 28 percent of readers who voted it Best Collaboration product. Adobe Acrobat 9 is designed to let businesses use commenting tools to share feedback and collaborate live within a PDF document by working with Acrobat.com, a suite of hosted services. Also, because Adobe Reader is free, you can share feedback and responses with just about anyone.
Announced early in 2008, Google Apps Team Edition includes Google Docs to create and share documents, spreadsheets and presentations; Google Calendar for meetings, schedules and events; Google Talk for instant messaging and free PC-to-PC voice calls.
Also, released early in 2008, Zimbra Collaboration Suite 5.0 adds IM capabilities to the Web client enabling you to have multiple conversations as well as group chats. It's also interoperable with the major IM providers. Zimbra also supports Apple's iPhone.
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