Let's be real: Your small business got started not because someone really was dying to manage all the operational details but because someone had a great business idea and he or she decided to give that idea a shot with customers. That's why business processes and documents tend to be one of the toughest things for small-business owners to define and to keep in order as the organization grows.
But, for any small or start-up company to attract outside investments or to make its case when applying for a credit line or other financing source, it needs to have a well-documented and well-founded business plan. A few months ago, I wrote about one site addressing this need, Enloop.
More recently, I spoke with another cloud startup, Quipu Applications, that is the company's co-founder describes as sort of an enterprise resource planning application for small businesses.
Quipu CEO and entrepreneur Michael Issa said Quipu incQubator dashboard allows entrepreneurs and small companies to create and to share business plans and related operational details. The modules on the site, which is built with the Google Docs application programming interface, allow for forecasting and expense tracking. Perhaps even more important, they allow for collaboration, enabling small-business owners to solicit feedback and analysis from key collaborators and investors. "We're changing the way that entrepreneurs create and visualize their ideas," Issa said.
Key social media integration points include LinkedIn, Facebook and the Salesform.com Chatter service, Issa said. The service will also allow for feeds from other applications delivered in the cloud, such as Concur or QuickBooks and it supports Google Apps documents. And, yes, the site has the requisite mobile applications, including an expense component that works on Android-based devices.
Quipu's software makes use of the Business Model Canvas developed by Alex Osterwalder as the construct for how it organizes, manages and analyzes business plans, so there is some management science behind how the site it organized.
A word of caution, however: the Quipu service is definitely itself in "startup" mode, as you can see if you poke around a bit on the Web site. But you can try out the site for free for two weeks to see if it suits your company's needs. After that time period, the dashboard service will cost $19.99 per month, although Issa suggests there will be addition pricing models emerging over time as the Quipu applications mature.