Many small businesses and consultants face a similar dilemma. They work or partner with many companies and individuals that are scattered all over the country and even all over the world. With small-company workforces spread out so far it becomes very difficult to maintain the synergy of the work force.
People often work in different time zones, they were different hours within those time zones, and they work with different lifestyles. It becomes very easy for small-business organization to get severely out of sync with each other. This is compounded when the people within that organization were all using different tools from Outlook to Google’s products such as Gmail to multiple types of voice over IP services in different contact management systems etc..
Many companies are finding the need to work on the same platform just to keep their culture in line with each other and stay connected with each other. The challenges identifying the proper solution that everybody can work with any reasonable price and possibly even more important, finding one that has a reasonable learning curve.
I’ve just recently come out of the project myself with the collaboration of four different companies and the teams that comprise those different companies. This particular project fell apart largely to the teams and ability to come together and work on a single system. I’ve seen this happen before in large corporations. Are many tools of their that can be used for this type of thing from salesforce.com to Microsoft Project to Outlook two various different CRM solutions and hybrids of CRM and project management solutions such as Basecamp.
The real challenge seems to be that companies especially groups of companies need to just make a decision, pick one and utilize it.
Today I was looking at a company that provides a small business software of this nature and it is called Catalyst Web. Catalyst Web(I think its 2 words and not one combo name) provides enterprise grade e-mail services, document management services, CRM services, and enterprise grade chat services (a type of service that can log your chat so that you have full records of conversations with clients customers and partners).
Their service is new and it just launched over the Thanksgiving Day weekend from what I can tell. That’s when I heard of them, and from the Catalyst launch blog, I think I am not too far off base with that assessment.
Their service pricing works on a model where you receive an UNLIMITED USER LICENSE, but pay a rate depending on the file storage space that you utilize.
After working with Salesforce.com in comparison (not apples to apples but a good example on pricing), you would pay a fee of $60 – $120 per user per month for their CRM and project management services. If you have a growing sales force and if you run their services for several years, that totals up to a hefty bill.
Catalyst Web only charges you for the files you store on their servers.
It’s important recognize that they are providing enterprise level e-mail services.A small company can go out and purchase an exchange server to run Microsoft exchange and the total cost will come in and around $10,000 give or take.
That is the cause before you ever pay for an IT person to run a server and keep your e-mail humming along through updates and viruses and who knows what else.
Catalyst Web provides this level of e-mail service for $25 a month (for your whole company!), so you can get running out of the gate without having to make a big-ticket expenditure or hire an IT person.
What’s the catch?
The biggest issue I can see what the service is that the e-mail client it is all online. So you have to utilize and read your e-mail in an Internet browser.
I am probably becoming a little bit old-fashioned, as I still prefer to use an e-mail client like Outlook to manage my e-mail off-line. There are a number of services that provide e-mail management online such as Gmail,and this trend is definitely growing number of users preferring to access e-mail this way.
They do offer POP3 access on handhelds, so I suspect there might be an Outlook work around in there somewhere.
I personally am just not one of them and still like to have it on my desktop or laptop. I suspect the day may come when I will embrace this new medium, but I’m not there yet.
For me the biggest reason for this is that I work in web design and work as a consultant for a number of companies. Therefore, I have to juggle and manage about a half dozen email addresses, and so adding an email address to my mix that requires me to login to a browser to check my email just doesn’t work.
What Makes Catalyst Easy?
Well for starters they offer a free trial for their service. This is not exceptional, I’d suggest that its par for the course for any company or software service that wants to be taken seriously.
The reality is that users that want to try the service will not have to invest money up front, but time and effort. Now budding entrepreneurs usually can boot strap and come up with a little extra time to figure these things out, especially when there is no out of pocket expense in cash to try it.
The challenge is that time does need to be spent on growing business, so that usually limits entrepreneurs from testing only 1 or 2 services at most.
With that in mind, I’d suggest that these days the service is less important than the commitment to make the service work and the culture of the existing organization or people. If the culture clashes with the work flow process of the system, then it will probably not succeed. After that, it only requires that everyone in the organization should make the commitment to make the software work. If anyone in the company fails to try to use it, the software service, will surely fail for the company.