Save time and money on your accounting with Clearbooks

One of the most painful things I found when starting my first business back in 2003 was getting my head around accounting, and soon after the incorporation I had the joy of understanding VAT to add to it. Accounting was a huge chore but I knew it was an integral part of a business and so I spent weeks holed up in a darkened room poring over receipts from months passed and trying to organise a spreadsheet that allowed my accountant some kind of sensible insight into the working of my business.

The experience was so painful that this became an annual event for a few years as I wouldn’t want to go back to doing accounting – in practice running a business is reasonably simple – you buy things at less than you sell them for and ensure that it doesn’t cost you the difference to sell them, but on paper it doesn’t work out quite so easily!

Eventually I became more comfortable with accounting and started keeping the books up to date month to month and eventually delegating it to an employee, however there was still at least a couple of days extra preparation required at the end of a year before it went off to the accountant. This spawned a job for one of my developers to put together an accounting software system (codenamed Betty strangely), however due to various other projects it didn’t get off the ground.

So imagine my pleasure when I found an online accounting system called Clearbooks, that ticks some major boxes in terms of both the software itself and the way that they actually build their software. For the system it has the following major benefits:

  • 30 days free “try before you buy” – with no credit card details to enter.
  • Affordable after the free trial – for very light users (less than 5 transactions a month) it’s even free! The unlimited plan doesn’t break the bank either, weighing in at just £15 per month for unlimited use. Check out all the pricing options here.
  • Generates all your invoices for you, with your logo and can email them direct to your clients if you wish. Client paying late? You can set up automated email reminders to go out to them too.
  • Import your bank statements to get everything held in one place.
  • Attach scans of bills and receipts you’ve received to each purchase for proof of the expenditure.
  • File your VAT online to HMRC directly through the system.
  • And even more I can’t fit in this blog post – just go and check out the demo or sign up for a free trial, there’s nothing to lose!

Now onto how they actually build and improve the system, and interact with users:

All in all Clearbooks is a great system, built in a smart way, using all the elements of the social web to it’s advantage and I wish the guys over there all the luck in the world. In the meantime I know when it comes to a choice of my painfully under-equipped spreadsheet accounting system and Clearbooks, there is a clear winner!

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What is Klout?

After an announcement today that Klout can now include Facebook personal profiles in it’s algorithm, I thought it was worth taking a look and explaining a little bit about Klout in general.

What is Klout?

Klout is an algortithm for measuring someone’s influence on social networks – up until today that has basically consisted of analysing a twitter account for things such as Followers, Mutual Follows, Friends, Total Retweets, Unique Commenters, Unique Likers, Follower/Follow Ratio, Followed Back %, @ Mention Count, List Count, List Followers Count and quite a few more.

Why pay attention to Klout?

Klout is a useful measure for an social media marketing campaign as part of an overall mix and can help you to understand who best to engage with to spread your message on twitter as far as possible.

Does adding Facebook improve the scoring accuracy?

That’s the million dollar question. In order to have your personal facebook profile information included in your Klout score (Klout can’t include business and fan pages as yet) you need to actively sign up at the Klout site and provide it with access to your Facebook account, due to the relatively closed nature of Facebook itself.

Having to perform this extra step (Klout can get an accurate score from twitter without authentication), is likely to naturally skew the results given by the system. Facebook is thought of much less as a business platform than Twitter, and those with the highest influence of Facebook are the most likely to use it specifically for personal communication and are least likely to authenticate their accounts with Klout.

Klout are trying to combat this by encouraging people to tweet their score, or post it to their Facebook updates with handy buttons on the site, but a Klout score is a long way from becoming a badge of pride for your average social network user to display on their profile with pride.

What effect will linking my Facebook profile have?

Let’s see! I’ve got a twitter only Klout score of 5 which I’ve tweeted today, since I’ve only just come out of lurker mode! According to Klout it will take up to 72 hours to link up my Facebook profile that I’ve been active with for much longer and has 370 friends at last count. I’ll tweet the score again when it’s finished aggregating the information and the score updates.

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Case Study: How not to approach a project

As you may have noticed on the homepage, we have several tenet’s that we stand by when putting together IT projects for our clients, and that approach means our clients come back over and over again for work that they need.

Recently, we had a large PLC client who was looking for a new company to work with on a new project of theirs, and it was abundantly clear where we differed from the previous incumbent by taking a look at the last project that had been done by them.

The brief given to the previous company was for a relatively straightforward website that allowed users without any HTML knowledge to update it, with some bespoke work that would require some time on site with the client to integrate contacts initiated through the website into their in house contact management system.

The previous supplier acted in an almost completely opposite way to how we do things at R N D M R and the work had suffered accordingly. The list of “sins” included:

  • Writing their own content management system to handle the customer facing website, instead of using one of the many open source platforms available (for this particular project WordPress or Joomla would have been fine choices.
  • Excusing themselves from doing any of the bespoke contact management system integration! (It transpires that they don’t seem to have any development resource in the UK which would have made doing this somewhat challenging, or of course they weren’t upfront with the client about this!).
  • The pricing… goodness me the pricing!

The pricing is something that really concerned me – I was poring over the work done to work out if there was something extra, since they had washed their hands of the difficult part of the project – maybe 12 months hosting, domain registration, ongoing link building campaign, social media promotion for a period of time, but no…

In all the cost of this (second-rate) CMS, with no documentation should the client want to have any modifications made by any in house developers moving forwards was in the five figure range – and very comfortably in the five figure range too!

Throw in the fact it took a couple of months to develop this system, when sensible use of popular, stable, full featured, open source content management systems would have dropped this timescale down to a week or two and you have a significant opportunity cost on top of the ridiculous price tag, as well as extra work for the clients employees in using various different systems to get in touch with the contacts generated from the project.

If you haven’t read them yet – take a look at our five principles of good IT and Business consultancy that we have here at R N D M R and ask yourself – are your IT consultants doing those steps and acting in your best interests?

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Switching on Orange and T-Mobile network sharing

If you’ve seen any of my tweets yesterday (@anthony_ball) you’ll know that Orange and T-mobile have now allowed people to share their networks, so if you are on Orange and don’t have a signal, your phone will roam to a T-mobile signal instead. I activated it on my iPhone 4 and it’s working, but it wasn’t without a few hitches that just won’t fit into a tweet! Here’s the full story.

I saw a tweet from Conor Maples, the PR Manager for Orange UK (@conorfromorange) announcing that as an orange customer (which I am) you could now register online to roam onto the T-mobile network.

So I followed the instructions online (very easy to follow user journey – well done Orange!) at about 5.45pm yesterday and got the following:

  • SMS 2 minutes later: Thanks for signing up online to use signal from both Orange and T-Mobile. Just reply YES to this text so we can get you up and running.
  • I sent YES back straight away.

From this point on I couldn’t get a data signal for the life of me even in places where I usually have a strong 3G signal. Playing around with the carrier settings on the phone was fruitless. Eventually I got home and plugged the phone into iTunes, at which point I got the following.

  • SMS at 7.59pm (nearly 2 hours 15 minutes later): Hi we’ve made the update you asked for.

At this point I’m thinking that everything will have resolved itself, but no such luck. It’s about this point that the new moniker that T-mobile and Orange are going under “Everything Everywhere” would be more apt as “Nothing Anywhere”, so I gave up on it for the night.

Then…

  • SMS at 5.00am (11 hours 15 minutes after activating the service): Hello. Just turn your phone off and on again so you can enjoy calls and texts in even more places, using signal from both Orange and T-Mobile

Since turning it off and back on again I now am able to roam between networks and the data signal is stable again – a nice service, but the time it took to rectify itself was a pain.

So, a word of warning – if you are on Orange or T-Mobile with an iPhone 4 (or presumably other mobile phones as well) and need a data connection for business, make sure you only activate it when you are done working for the day!

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Welcome to the R N D M R blog!

Welcome to the R N D M R blog, this section will serve as a sounding board of information on how we see things at R N D M R, whether they be good or bad.

A few things we are planning to cover are:

  • Applications we like (web or mobile, or preferably both!).
  • Great open source software to kick start appropriate projects.
  • Information on some of our principles and how we carry them out.
  • How to use social media to your companies advantage.
  • Random smatterings of things we see on a day to day basis that completely go against our principles.
  • Our take on the latest things happening in the world.
  • Tech news that could affect your business and our opinions.
  • The odd useful guest post.

We hope you enjoy what we have to offer and would love you to get in touch either by leaving a comment or dropping us a line on our contact form.

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