Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at apps and websites that can make the CPA’s job and life better.
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

An old saying wisely warns us: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, soon everything begins to look like a nail." Let me pose an adaptation: "If the only tool you have is Outlook, then soon everything begins to look like email." This month's column covers some tools you may find more effective than the hammer that is email. The products mentioned here are just a few of the most popular among dozens of apps in the "team collaboration and communication" space.

TRELLO OFFERS BEAUTIFUL APPROACH FOR SIMPLE PROJECTS

Trello provides a collaborative workspace for light project management. Its interface is highly visual and uses a drag-and-drop concept with "cards" and "lists" representing specific project tasks. It's visually beautiful but lacks several features, such as time tracking and Gantt charts, typically found in more robust project management applications. You may find Trello helpful for one-off jobs. Try something simple—perhaps planning a staff off-site training retreat. And then make one of the sessions at the retreat a discussion of team collaboration tools!

  • Website: trello.com
  • Cost: Basic is free; Business Class, $9.99 per month; Enterprise, $20.83 per month. Prices are per user when paid annually.
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android, web


WRIKE STANDS OUT WITH SOPHISTICATION AND INTEGRATION

Wrike's business management software is a significant step up on the capability ladder. It seems to provide most of the features usually found in traditional project management suites, including interactive Gantt charts, time tracking and scheduling, and fairly comprehensive reporting. I found its best feature to be the strong integration with other applications, such as Dropbox, Excel, Google Drive, Microsoft Project, etc. It's available in several languages. The interface is simple and intuitive, and the multiple integrations mean little or no duplication of work. More sophisticated organizations will find some of the high-level reporting features particularly helpful. While Wrike is quite a bit more sophisticated than Trello, it's not nearly as pretty.

  • Website: wrike.com
  • Cost: Basic is free; Professional, $9.80 per month; Business, $24.80 per month. Prices are per user, billed annually.
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android, web


SLACK PROVIDES POWERFUL PLATFORM FOR GROUP COMMUNICATION

At its heart, Slack is not a project management platform, but rather it's an online, social-messaging platform for groups. You create a "team" in Slack and then log in to have group or private discussions and share materials and links with one another. The system groups communications into "channels" that are roughly akin to Outlook folders or groups. Slack users are passionate, and after a short trial run I understand why—Slack quickly eliminates those annoying email strings in which dozens of people insist on using "Reply All." Slack's strength is its notifications, which are customizable and prolific. Another strength is the "channel" paradigm, which makes including external team members extremely easy.

  • Website: slack.com
  • Cost: Free; Standard, $6.67 per month; Plus, $12.50 per month. Prices are per user when paid annually.
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android, Windows 7 or newer, Mac OS X 10.9 or newer

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.

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