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Jewish World Review
Dec. 16, 2005
/ 15 Kislev, 5766
Small business gets web-based edge
An innovative web-based system for tracking sales leads and handling
customer contacts could help small businesses and entrepreneurs play in
the same league as large corporations. It's called "Nice Office" and even
if you're not in sales, it offers some unique advantages.
At the heart of Nice Office - available on the Web and, right now, via
BlackBerry handheld devices - is a way to track contacts as well as your
interactions with them. Whether it's a phone call, e-mail, sending a
brochure or having a lunch meeting, everything can be "journaled," or
recorded, instantly. The data is available to a company's executives as
well as the individual working with the contact. When used with a wireless
device, it can note the length of phone calls, for example, which can help
attorneys and other professionals who bill by time.
The Web service is free to small businesses and entrepreneurs; the
wireless service price is manageable, I believe, at $19.95 per month, on
top of your mobile service. Along with BlackBerry, Nice Office will soon
be available for Hewlett Packard's iPAQ and Palm's Treo phone/PDA combo.
For that, you get access to a system that is updated constantly, no matter
who enters the information or where it's done. Instead of waiting to
compare paper notes with an assistant, that person can book an appointment
for you while you're in a meeting; the data is automatically sent to the
wireless device. Conversely, you can enter new appointments, log meetings
and phone calls or send e-mail from the road, with everything being
available back at the office.
This can help small businesses protect one of their greatest assets, the
knowledge that walks out the door every evening. If a flood or hurricane
hits, or if your company's top performer is lured away by the competition,
all is not lost. Instead, it's protected on server computers maintained by
eAgency, Inc., the firm behind Nice Office.
There have been and still are other applications for tracking this data,
many of which interact with handheld computers and even wireless devices.
What I like about Nice Office, even if I don't happen to sell cars or
insurance for a living, is the automatic synchronization of information,
as well as the ability to use the data in an interactive fashion. In a
test arranged with the firm, I used a BlackBerry to send a PDF brochure
and make a phone call to a "prospect" whose information was captured on a
small business Web site. The whole process took about 10 minutes, start to
finish, and that was with a tutor helping. Once learned, it should go much
Sending a brochure by e-mail from the BlackBerry was a neat trick aided by
Nice Office's "publishing" feature, where a user can put certain files -
brochures, contracts, price quotes, whatever - into a part of the Web site
where users can select items to be mailed; the BlackBerry taps into this
and, presto, the file is on its way.
Bob Lotter, eAgency's president, calls the system a "time machine,"
because, he said, having these capabilities can add a day's worth of time
to your week.
"Lot of deals don't happen because when you're sitting there in the room,
you don't have access to the things you need," he explained. "You have to
make a follow-up appointment, do more research, or get on the phone and
say to someone 'fax this to me.' You'd be amazed how much redundant work
is being done over and over because I'm away from the office and don't
have access to tools."
Details are at www.niceoffice.com, and I highly recommend it to anyone
trying to make their business more manageable.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2005, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com