Let's get digital - Paul's blog

I like technology and I like free stuff. So free technology, what’s not to like!

Over the last couple of years there’s been a real explosion in Software as a Service (SaaS) for business. These are websites that offer online tools you can use in a web browser, and increasingly through mobile apps. We’re using several of these systems at Foundations HQ that you might also find useful.

My favourite is Asana, which is basically a to-do list for teams. We use it to manage our workplan, with each section set up as a project, and each item listed as a task which is assigned to a member of the team, with a completion date. As you complete a task you tick it off as done, or the system automatically emails you a reminder. But the real value comes from being able to have online conversations about a task and keep the rest of the team up to date with progress. With the built-in dashboards you can see progress at a glance, or use the calendar view to see what’s due when. 

They’ve recently added Kanban boards (virtual whiteboards with sticky notes) which we use for our editorial calendar, or you can integrate with kasban.io. Asana is free for teams of up to 15 people, with an option to upgrade to get some additional functionality. But the free version is great and it integrates with lots of other services too.

One such service is Cisco Sparks Meeting Notes. It’s totally free and takes the pain out of meeting agendas and minutes. You set up the agenda and share it with colleagues. During the meeting you can then log-in to the site and collaboratively take notes as you go along and circulate at the end of the meeting - works particularly well for conference calls. Any actions can also by synced to Asana to keep all your tasks in one place. 

If you do your own invoicing and payments, then I highly recommend Wave. It’s another service that’s amazingly completely free to use, and creates professional looking invoices in a few clicks and then keeps track of whether it’s been paid. You can also record your payments and store receipts, all in a format that your accountant will understand.

This next one is free for any charities with less than 50 employees, although anyone else can get a free trial by using code FOUND01. It’s BreatheHR - a fully featured HR system that manages annual leave, sickness absence, emergency contact details, salary changes, company policies, expenses, etc. etc. etc. It’s really easy to set-up and use (webinars are available to help) and they’re adding new features all the time. Highly recommended.

And finally for now, one you may already have: Facebook. If you want to be first to find out what we’re working on, join our DFG Champions group. It’s a closed group where we debate, challenge and champion good practice, and occasionally try DFG-themed limericks.

I can imagine the gnashing of teeth amongst local authority IT departments across the country, but there’s some great free stuff out there. If you’ve got any great finds, please let me know!