[IMGCAP(1)] We’re always on the lookout for tools that can help automate business processes – especially boring ones! Nobody likes busywork – and the good news is that today, there are a lot of great software products that can help you automate many repetitive tasks.  

I really believe that the effective use and implementation of technology can provide your company with a huge competitive advantage, simply because the software options available now are better than ever before. At Chrometa we’ve replaced many mindless man hours with automation, and it’s really helped free up our team to focus attention on the highest value activities. Leaving the busywork to the machines!

Here are three hot web apps that can help you do the same - all are designed with the solo/small firm in mind.

Basecamp – Simple Project Management
My classic mental picture of project management software involves an overly complex Gantt chart – I shudder just thinking about it! But why do you need a Gantt chart, anyway? We’re not building bridges here – we’re just trying to get a handle on our collaborative work, and find an easy way to stay synced up with each other.

At Chrometa, we use Basecamp to manage our projects – it’s a beautifully simple project management app that only does what you ask of it, and nothing more. If you’re managing really complex projects, it may be too lightweight – but for most small businesses, it’s perfect, because lightweight is exactly what we need.

With Basecamp, you can create and share project milestones, to do lists, whiteboards, and more. If you need a way to share and coordinate information – and an online Google spreadsheet isn’t cutting it anymore – you should give this app a look.

Freshbooks – Online Invoicing, Time & Billing
The most important part of running a business is getting paid – FreshBooks helps you do this, while looking slick and professional. If you’re looking for a dead simple time, billing, and invoicing solution, FreshBooks may be a great fit.

The user interface is very elegant, and the app is as user friendly as it looks. You can track your time online via their timer and/or time entry screen, on your iPhone via FreshBooks’ mobile app, or using one of the many third-party time tracking applications that integrate directly with FreshBooks.

Billing and invoicing are also a snap.  In fact, I was very impressed that just a few days after signing up for my free trial, I received a sample invoice in the mail as if it’d been generated by my company!  If the thought of invoicing makes you cringe, FreshBooks can do a lot of this busywork for you – while making hand generated invoices a thing of the past.

inDinero – Financial and Accounting Planning
As you probably know, most business accounting software is a nightmare to learn – so much so, that many business owners don’t even want to bother. But if you’ve given up on financial planning software before, you should check out one of the hottest new products on the market, inDinero.

inDinero helps you automatically monitor your company’s finances, from a simple and easy-to-read web interface. It connects automatically with your bank, credit card, and financial accounts, so that your transactions are downloaded and computed for you - with no effort required.

This information is then broken down and displayed for you in an intuitive financial dashboard that immediately displays the financial health of your business, giving you exactly what you need to know – without the need to digest any complex accounting reports.

We are entering an exciting age of software on the web.  The technology available today allows us software developers to create products that do most of the heavy lifting for you – and that’s exactly what software SHOULD do, in my book!

Brett Owens is chief executive and co-founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, Calif.-based provider of time-tracking software that records activity in real time. Previously marketed to the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation and improving personal productivity. Brett can be reached at 916-254-0260 and brett@chrometa.com.