The Best Productivity Apps for a Successful Back Office

June 9, 2016 Michelle Mire

Everyone’s doing it. Flexibility, cost-effectiveness and functionality. These are just a few of the reasons why small businesses and startups are choosing could-based, software as a service (SaaS) apps over enterprise software. 

How SaaS Apps Are Taking Over The Small Business Space

  • Heads up enterprise — 65% of small businesses are skipping licensing, setting up servers and other hassles for cloud-based accounting, payroll and other back office apps.
  • Take that computer — 43% of small business owners use a smartphone as their main operations tool. Even the best laptop won’t fit in your pocket.

Source: The Amplification of Small Business: Why the Small Business Market is the Next Big Thing for Developers. (E-book from Intuit on SlideShare.)

Which Small Business Apps Should You Choose?

If you need a specific kind of functionality, chances are there’s an app for that. Great, so where do you get started? We’ve asked our team, checked with peers and scoured the web to bring you this list of productivity apps to help you take care of business. 

Accounting/Bookkeeping/Financial  

Flare
Free 30-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Easy financial management for more profit.”
Big deal: Has a feature that lets you manage multiple companies from one login.
Includes: Invoicing, billing, expenses and taxes. 

FreeAgent
Free 30-day trial
One-sentence sales pitch: “Say hello to your business's new best friend.”
Big deal: Its goal is to help make accounting more friendly for small businesses.
Includes: Estimates, invoices, expenses, reporting, time tracking, accounting and tax.

Freshbooks
Free 30-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Purpose-built for small business owners.”
Big deal: Targeted at service-based businesses and includes invoicing software.
Includes: Invoicing, expenses, time tracking, reporting and payments.

LessAccounting
Free 14-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Accounting Software for Business Owners Who Dislike Bookkeeping.”
Big Deal: Designed to serve micro-businesses with fewer than 20 employees or less than $10 million in revenue.
Includes: Expenses, invoicing, proposals, mileage, workflows and reporting.

QuickBooks Online
Free 30-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Easy accounting software for small business.”
Big deal: A legend in this space, they’ve successfully made the leap from desktop to the cloud.
Includes: Income/expenses, online banking, estimating/invoice, bill payment, reporting, inventory and 1099 (miscellaneous income) preparation.

Sage
Free 30-day trial of Sage One
One sentence sales pitch: “Empowering small businesses to manage cash flow.”
Big deal: Offers tailored solutions for small businesses and startups. They’re also having Richard Branson speak at their 2016 summit in July.
Includes: Payroll, workforce management, accounting and customer relationship management (CRM).

Saasu
Free 30-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Online accounting software you’ll love.”
Big deal: They innovate to help liberate small business from compliance, debt and tax.
Includes: Invoices, expenses, cash flow, inventory and payroll.

Wave
Free (Seriously)
One sentence sales pitch: “Free and easy accounting, invoicing and more.”
Big deal: Created for businesses with less than nine employees. However, it can be used by larger firms.
Includes: Accounting, invoicing, payroll and receipt scanning apps.

Xero
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Popular features that will change your life.”
Big deal: Comprehensive features and 24/7 support.
Includes: Accounting, invoicing, banking, payroll, inventory, expenses, reporting and payment.

ZipBooks
Free (They hang their hat on it.)
One sentence sales pitch: “Fully-equipped invoice and expense management that gets you paid effortlessly.”
Big deal: They are the only free accounting software to provide invoice financing, automatic credit card recurring billing and integrated time tracking.
Includes: Accounting, invoicing (standard and online) and time tracking.

Zoho
Free sign up | Free 30-day trial of bookkeeping app
One sentence sales pitch: “The operating system for business.”
Big deal: As an operating system, it features a finance component with a collection of accounting tools.
Includes: Bookkeeping, inventory, invoicing, subscriptions (recurring billing) and expenses.

 Power tip — check for integrations and add-ons when selecting the accounting app that's best for your small business. 

Billing/Invoicing/Payments  

Bill.com
Free 30-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Slash bill approval and payment time by 50%.”
Big deal: Simplifies accounts payable by letting business owners view and pay bills from anywhere. They have also vowed to make the filing cabinet extinct.
Includes: Cash forecasting, payment history, recurring deposits, invoicing and automatic reminders.

ChargeOver
Free 14-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Simple recurring billing software.”
Big deal: This is a pain point if you’re a service-based small business.
Includes: Everything you need for recurring billing.

Invoicera
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Changes the way you’ll look at invoicing forever.”
Big deal: It’s comprehensive invoicing that accounts for almost every back office function.
Includes: A set of tools specifically for small businesses.

Fundbox
Paid
One sentence sales pitch: “Overcome cash flow gaps. Get paid instantly.”
Big deal: They’ll buy your unpaid invoices from you so that you can get paid. This earns our vote for a novel service for small businesses and startups.
Includes: Quick signup with no application process.

Plooto
Free trial of U.S. service | $1 per transaction in Canada
One sentence sales pitch: “Send and receive electronic business payments.”
Big deal: Their goal is to fill the void in payment services for small businesses.
Includes: Accounts payable, accounts receivable, automatic reconciliation and cross-border payments.  

Telpay (Canada)
Free consultation
One sentence sales pitch: “Free your business from cheques.”
Big deal: Streamlines accounting practices and workflow.
Includes: The ability to send or receive money from any domestic or international account.

Expenses/Receipts

Expensify
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Expense reports that don’t suck.”
Big deal: Their goal is to make this unintuitive process a little less painful.
Includes: Expenses, receipts (scanning and tracking) and reporting.

Expentory (Formerly ExpenseMagic)
Free on the Apple App Store and Google Play
One sentence sales pitch: “Scan your receipts and we do the rest.”
Big deal: Focused on smartphone use.
Includes: Receipts, reports and related accounting.

Receipt Bank
Free 14-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Helps small businesses save time and money.”
Big deal: Take a picture with your phone and the information is quickly and accurately published to your accounting system.  
Includes: Receipt scanning, team functionality with different levels of access and rule creation for information transfer.

Shoeboxed
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Turn receipts into data.”
Big deal: Gets your receipts out of the “shoebox” and into the system. Also has business card management.
Includes: Receipt and business card scanning, human-verified data, mileage tracking and the intriguingly named “magic envelope.”

Xpenditure
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “An easy-to-use expense management solution.”
Big deal: Can scale from a company of 1 to 1,000.
Includes: Receipt scanning, accounting and reporting.

Document Management

Hubdoc
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “All financial docs in one place, automatically.”
Big deal: A file management tool created specifically for financial documents, it collects all your receipts and recurring bills in one place.

If your file sharing doesn’t need to be this specific, you can try stalwarts like Box, iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or Tresorit.

Workforce Management

BambooHR
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “The No. 1 online HR software for small and medium business.”
Big deal: Automates operational human resources tasks.
Includes: Applicant tracking, onboarding, time off, employee database and records and performance management.

Deputy
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Manage your workforce from your back pocket.”
Big deal: Take the pain out of scheduling employees.
Includes: The best demo video ever.

SwipeClock  
Contact for pricing
One sentence sales pitch: “Hassle-free tools for maximum workforce efficiency.”
Big deal: They started out selling time clocks (which they still do) and have grown to include an integrated range of tools.
Includes: Workforce planning, time and attendance, advanced scheduling, workforce performance, absence management, balances and accruals, workforce mobility and employee communication.

uAttend
Cost varies by service-level agreement
One sentence sales pitch: “The most cost-effective and innovative time and attendance system — ever.”
Big deal: Provides an end-to-end system for workforce management.
Includes: Physical time clocks plus web-based software and apps. 

When I Work
Free 30-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Five-star rated employee scheduling software."
Big deal: Automates traditionally time-consuming tasks and helps boost accountability and attendance.
Includes: Time tracking and mobile apps.

7shifts
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Reduce labor costs and improve communication, all while staying in control.”
Big deal: Designed exclusively for the restaurant industry.
Includes: Scheduling and notification, time tracking, shift trading and communication tools.

Time Tracking

HoursLogger
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Built by consultants for consultants.”
Big deal: The focus here is functionality over flash. It’s designed to be simple rather than sexy.
Includes: Time tracking and invoicing. 

LessTimeSpent
Free 30-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Simple time tracking and that’s it.”
Big deal: Purpose-built for small teams.
Includes: Time tracking and reporting.

OfficeTime
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Easy time tracking.”
Big deal: Comes with a 100% happiness guarantee.
Includes: Time and expense tracking, cross-team reporting and a groovy app for Apple Watch.

RescueTime 
Free basic service | 14-day trial of premium
One sentence sales pitch: “Find your ideal work-life balance.”
Big deal: Not sure where your time goes? This is the tool for you.
Includes: A tool that tracks your time spent on different apps and websites in order to give you an accurate report of how you spent your day.

Toggl 
Free basic tool
One sentence sales pitch: “The ultimate, insanely simple time tracker.”
Big deal: Built for teams and no training required.
Includes: Time tracking, billing and reporting. 

Payroll

Execupay (U.S. Only)
One sentence sales pitch: “Payroll has never been so simple.”
Big deal: Makes payroll easy for the employer and employees.
Includes: Direct deposit, employer taxes, Affordable Care Act monitoring, employee access, reference library and email notifications.

Gusto (Formerly Zen Payroll) (U.S. Only)
Free 60-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Payroll and benefits under one roof.”
Big deal: Integrates with workers’ comp so that you can take care of everything all in one place.
Includes: New hire reporting, employee self-enrollment, contractor processing, paid time off, pre-tax benefits and payroll.

OnPay (U.S. Only)
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “The next evolution in payroll.”
Big deal: As an on-demand service it allows for unlimited pay runs.
Includes: Employer taxes, direct deposit and integrations with accounting software.

Payment Evolution (Canada Only)
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Fast, secure online payroll.”
Big deal: Canada's largest and most loved cloud payroll.
Includes: All the features you need for Canadian payroll.

QuickBooks Payroll (U.S. & Canada)
Free trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Does the accounting auto-magically.”
Big deal: Highly rated and recognized.
Includes: Self-serve and full-service options.

SurePayroll (U.S. Only)
Instant quote
One sentence sales pitch: “Your payroll done your way.”
Big deal: Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed.
Includes: Time clock integration, new hire reporting, employer taxes, federal and state compliance and accounting integration.

Wagepoint (U.S. & Canada)
Free 30-day trial
One sentence sales pitch: “Simple, fast, friendly online payroll automation.”
Big deal: (It’s us. ) In all seriousness, we love serving small businesses and startups and we're designed with the features you need.  
Includes: Multi-state payroll across all 50 states and the ability to process service-based (contract-only) companies. 

Business Software Directories 

Capterra
Free
What it does: Lets you search 300+ categories of business apps
One sentence sales pitch: “The smart way to find business software.”
Big deal: Search the most extensive database of software on the web. 

FinancesOnline
Free
What it does: Compares apps by user reviews and platforms. 
One sentence sales pitch: "The fastest growing independent software review platform."
Big deal: Gives you the information you need to make the best choice. 

Getapp
Free
What it does: It’s a website that helps you find the best apps.
One sentence sales pitch: “Discover, compare and choose the right business apps.”
Big deal: Explore 4,000+ apps.  

G2 Crowd
Free
What it does: Lets you enter basic parameters or upload your LinkedIn profile to generate recommendations.
One sentence sales pitch: “84,000+ business software reviews."
Big deal: Plots the results visually on a novel grid scoring system.

Software Advice
Free Consultation
What it does: Lets you compare reviews, check research and ask advice. 
One sentence sales pitch: "We've simplified software selection."
Big deal: Search 30,000+ reviews.

Just how many back office apps are there? It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. This list is only a small part of what’s out there.

Jedi-Level Tools

As you the begin to feel more and more of the force and potential of small business apps, you can demonstrate you’re a master with these resources.

IFTTT
F
ree Account
What it does: Integrates apps. 
One sentence sales pitch: "Connect the apps and devices you love with “if this, then that” statements."
Big deal: Works with 300+ and growing. 

Meldium
Free 14-day trial
What it does: Password management
One sentence sales pitch: “Single sign-on (SSO) and password management for teams.”
Big deal: Works with 2,000+ apps.

Zapier
Free 14-day trial
What it does: Integrates apps.
One sentence sales pitch: “Trusted at companies large and small.”
Big deal: Move information between your apps automatically. 

1Password
F
ree Trial
What it does: Password management
One sentence sales pitch: "When it's too important to go anywhere else."
Big deal: Apps ❤ 1Password. 

Because You’ve Earned It

You’ve made it through the list. As your reward, why not have a little fun?

Yoda-Speak Generator
Free
What it does: Translates any phrase into Yoda Speak
Test phrase: “Grow your business.”
Translation: "Your business grow. Yes, hmmm."

 While it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll write more posts about small business apps in the future, you can read some of the other discussions we’ve already had including:  Why you should treat apps as billable resources and How to choose the best ecommerce platform for your small business. PS: Tell us your favorite back office apps. We showed you ours...

Are you a visual person? See our SlideShare of the best back office productivity apps.

About the Author

Michelle Mire

Content guru and marketing co-conspirator at Wagepoint, Michelle is a professional writer with agency and corporate experience who is now diving into payroll. When away from the keyboard she spends time hiding chocolate from her children and attempting to escape for a morning run (to work off the chocolate).

Follow on Google Plus Follow on Twitter More Content by Michelle Mire
Previous Article
How to Avoid Breaking Employee Break Laws
How to Avoid Breaking Employee Break Laws

Learn the official Department of Labor definitions of rest and meal breaks, link to maps and tables of stat...

Next Article
Smallbiz_expert Twitter Interview with Nick Keyko
Smallbiz_expert Twitter Interview with Nick Keyko

Nick Keyko, Head of Marketing at Jobber shares the tips that can help small businesses get paid faster and ...