Billy & SharePoint Synchronization

Billy is based in San Francisco, CA and appears to have around 40,000+ users. Billy has two versions: one for free and a premium version that includes all the features of the free version plus: multiple users, quotes and estimates, custom designed invoices and recurring invoices for $29.00 per month. This post follows the same outline as the FreshBooks & SharePoint Synchronization post.

Customer Synchronization

Customer are set up under Contacts as in Xero and FreshBooks. Unlike FreshBooks and Xero, Billy does not provide for importing clients. It does provide the capability to export Contacts to Excel.

Project Synchronization

The post “The Case for a Project List” – I suggest you should set up projects in both SharePoint and QuickBooks. I also point out that although you can import from QuickBooks to SharePoint, there are multiple steps involved. It is easier to go from SharePoint to QuickBooks. There is no concept of Job or Project in Billy. You can setup up a product or a service and use them to track projects but then you can’t use those fields for other billing purposes. Bottom line this is not a job/project oriented application.

Task Plan Synchronization

As in Xero, there is no concept of Task. You could use the product/service field to track tasks but then you can’t track a project. You could put task into the Description field on the Billy’s Sales Invoice but this a text box so it can’t be repeated in a drop down or combo list.

Time Tracking

The post “SharePoint Task Plan – Tracking Time” discusses time capture alternatives. Billy has neither a timesheet nor payroll capability.

Billing

Billy’s Quotes and sales Invoice features do not support importing of data. Their related reports can be exported into Excel so you could update SharePoint with Quote and Invoice information.

Employee Synchronization

The posts “Example Employee List from QuickBooks” and “Setup Users by Importing” discuss synchronization between QuickBooks and SharePoint Online. Billy does not capture employee information.

Document Management

Billy has no document management capabilities.

Overall Import/Export Capabilities

As mentioned above, Billy has no import capabilities but does provide report export capabilities. Like FreshBooks and Xero it does have an Application Program Interface (API) that can be used by third parties to provide integration, but I am not aware of SharePoint to Xero real time updating capability. See my post for “Real Time Updating Between SharePoint and QuickBooks” for more information.

Bottom Line

Like Xero, if you decide to run your business mostly using SharePoint Online, you can use Billy to do your basic accounting and financial statement preparation. You would also need to use a third party payroll application.

FreshBooks & SharePoint Synchronization

I have posted quite a bit on SharePoint and QuickBooks integration and how both products can be used together. This is the first of series of posts on how other accounting applications can or cannot integrate/work with SharePoint. The accounting systems discussed are cloud based. I have posted on Client, Project, Task Plan, Time Tracking, Billing, and Employee synchronization, document management and overall import/ export capabilities between SharePoint Online and QuickBooks. So I will comment on each of these areas in my review.

FreshBooks is based in Toronto Canada and claims that “millions of service-based small business owners use FreshBooks to bill for their time and expertise.” Since the software is geared towards service based small businesses, it would be great if it dovetails nicely with SharePoint Online. FreshBooks’ pricing scheme is a little different and can run from $12.95 to $39.95 per month. I should also point out that although it calls itself “cloud accounting” software it is not an accounting application per se: There is no chart of accounts nor double entry accounting. It started out as billing software and in my opinion that is what it still is.

Customer Synchronization

FreshBooks does provide an example .CSV spreadsheet for importing clients. However, it requires client name on every row. If you have multiple contacts for a client, the result is the same client showing up multiple times after the import. You then need to delete all but one of the instances and then enter the contacts manually. So unless there is only one contact per client, you don’t want to be importing from a SharePoint list. There is really no client detail report in FreshBooks, so the option of exporting the client information from FreshBooks to SharePoint doesn’t exist. I should also note that the concept of types does not exist in the software. Meaning you can’t classify clients as commercial, residential, etc.

Project Synchronization

The post “The Case for a Project List” – I suggest you should set up projects in both SharePoint and QuickBooks. I also point out that although you can import from QuickBooks to SharePoint, there are multiple steps involved. It is easier to go from SharePoint to QuickBooks. There is no equivalent of QuickBooks’ Add/Edit Multiple List capability in FreshBooks. Consequently, you need to enter and maintain the project in both places.

Task Plan Synchronization

As with Project Synchronization, there is no way to import Tasks into FreshBooks. You would need to maintain them in both places. Also the Task Name field is relatively short – 50 characters in length. The Jim’s Family Store Irrigation Plan task “Check with utility for buried gas and electric line” could not be fully added. I should also point out that FreshBooks does not support task hierarchies. A major drawback in being able to work with SharePoint’s project plan features. You can export invoiced Tasks by Client via Excel. This would allow you to provide Task Plan information on a Project SharePoint Site or Project Plan as described in SharePoint Task Plan post.

Time Tracking

The post “SharePoint Task Plan – Tracking Time” discusses time capture alternatives. This discussion pretty much applies to FreshBooks also. Like QuickBooks, FreshBooks does not have a timesheet import capability (meaning through standard features). It does provide a “Timesheet Details by Team” report that can be exported into Excel and then imported to a SharePoint site for reporting.

Billing

FreshBooks does not provide an import capability for sales invoices. This means that you would need to enter all invoice manually. This is not an issue if you are not preparing invoices in SharePoint. You can export Invoice detail and summary data from FreshBooks into Excel. Consequently, that allows you to import sales invoice data into SharePoint.

Employee Synchronization

The posts “Example Employee List from QuickBooks” and “Setup Users by Importing” discuss synchronization between QuickBooks and SharePoint Online. FreshBooks does not have the same custom reporting capabilities and no other easy way of either importing or exporting staff data. Consequently, staff data would need to be entered and maintained in both places.

Document Management

FreshBooks has no truly document management capabilities. These is nothing comparable to QuickBooks’ Doc Center. See the post “QuickBooks Doc Center or SharePoint?” for discussion on when SharePoint document management capabilities vs Doc Center.

Overall Import/Export Capabilities

As you can tell by the summary above, FreshBooks has limited import and export capabilities making synchronization between the two products difficult. FreshBooks does have an Application Program Interface (API) that can be used by third parties to provide integration, but I am not aware of SharePoint to FreshBooks real time updating capability. See my post for “Real Time Updating Between SharePoint and QuickBooks” for more information.

Bottom Line

Because of FreshBooks’ focus on billing for services, SharePoint Online may provide significant business improvement and operational efficiencies to FreshBooks customers. Browsing this blog can provide such ideas to FreshBooks users with minimal synchronization requirements. However keep in mind that FreshBooks is not a true accounting application.

Xero & SharePoint Synchronization

Xero is based in New Zealand and claims “700k+” subscribers. Xero’s pricing runs from $9.00 to $49.00 per month. This post follows the same outline as the FreshBooks & SharePoint Synchronization post.

Customer Synchronization

Customer are set up under Contacts in Xero. Like FreshBooks, Xero does provide an example .CSV spreadsheet for importing clients. The potential record length is over 50 fields (Excel cells) and like FreshBooks it requires client name on every row. If you have multiple contacts for a client, the result is the same client showing up multiple times after the import. Again like FreshBooks, you then need to delete all but one of the instances and then enter the contacts manually. So unless there is only one contact per client, you don’t want to be importing from a SharePoint list. There is a Client export using the same spreadsheet format as the import spreadsheet so it is possible to sync SharePoint customer lists. Like FreshBooks the concept of types does not exist in the software. Meaning you can’t classify clients as commercial, residential, etc.

Project Synchronization

The post “The Case for a Project List” – I suggest you should set up projects in both SharePoint and QuickBooks. I also point out that although you can import from QuickBooks to SharePoint, there are multiple steps involved. It is easier to go from SharePoint to QuickBooks. There is no concept of Job or Project in Xero. You can setup up Items and use them to track projects but then you can’t use items for other billing purposes. Bottom line is that project synchronization does not come into play.

Task Plan Synchronization

There is no concept of Task in Xero. As mentioned above, you can use Items to track tasks but then you can’t track a project. You could put task into the Description field on the Xero Sales Invoice but this a text box so it can’t be repeated in a drop down or combo list.

Time Tracking

The post “SharePoint Task Plan – Tracking Time” discusses time capture alternatives. Xero does have a timesheet capability but I could not evaluate it. Timesheets require setting up Xero’s payroll function. You have to specify a U.S. state for setting up payroll and I tried a couple of states including my state of Arizona and got a message it wasn’t supported.

Billing

Xero Quotes and Sales Invoice features do support exporting of reports into Excel so you could update SharePoint with Invoice information. Xero does support import through an Excel spreadsheet. Consequently, you could prepare your invoices in SharePoint and import the data need to setup a basic accounts receivable in Xero. You could then do your collection recording in Xero.

Employee Synchronization

The posts “Example Employee List from QuickBooks” and “Setup Users by Importing” discuss synchronization between QuickBooks and SharePoint Online. I could not evaluate Xero’s capabilities in these areas since it is also dependent on its payroll function.

Document Management

Like FreshBooks, Xero has no truly document management capabilities. There is nothing comparable to QuickBooks’ Doc Center. See the post “QuickBooks Doc Center or SharePoint?” for discussion on when SharePoint document management capabilities vs Doc Center.

Overall Import/Export Capabilities

As you can tell by the summary above, synchronization between the two products would be very limited. Like FreshBooks, Xero does have an Application Program Interface (API) that can be used by third parties to provide integration, but I am not aware of SharePoint to Xero real time updating capability. See my post for “Real Time Updating Between SharePoint and QuickBooks” for more information.

Bottom Line

If you decide to run your business mostly using SharePoint Online, you can use Xero to do your basic accounting and financial statement preparation. You do need to check if your state is supported to use their payroll function.

Office 365 Nonprofit

I am adding a blog post on Office 365 Nonprofit since these organizations also face many of the same challenges as small businesses such as:

  • No or very limited technical staff.
  • Limited financial resources.
  • Minimal staff overall.
  • Staff/Volunteers performing multiple roles.
  • Effectively managing projects.
  • Multiple software packages to manage operations that could be consolidated.

As with small businesses, I believe that nonprofits can achieve significant operational efficiencies and cost savings by adopting Office 365 Nonprofit. I also want to familiarize blog visitors with the Microsoft’s Nonprofit offerings in case they know of an organization that would benefit from SharePoint online.

The SharePoint online nonprofit features are very similar to the those available for the business versions of SharePoint Online. This link provides information on Office 365 Nonprofit plans and pricing. Organizations that you know may qualify for free versions of Office 365! Eligibility requirements vary by country and organization size and the latter link provides further information and pricing for non-free plans.

As I mention on the My Consulting Services page of this blog, I provide my consulting services for free to organizations that qualify for the either the donated version of Office 365 Nonprofit or Office 365 Nonprofit Business Premium. This is my way of giving back to our local nonprofit community.

QuickBooks Employee List PowerApps Example

Microsoft just released a “Preview” of PowerApps. PowerApps allows users to develop phone and tablet applications for various types of data sources including SharePoint and Excel. Additionally, Microsoft is going to add PowerApps directly to SharePoint Lists so that a PowerApp can be develop for a List just like a SharePoint List View.

I decided to give it a try by developing a Phone App for my blog post Example Employee List from QuickBooks. I wanted the app to show the employee name, email, work phone #, cell phone #, and home phone # so a user could look these up easily from their cell phone and also be able the edit the email address and phone #s if necessary.

Microsoft claims that PowerApps allows users to develop applications without programmer support. Based on my experience, I agree with that statement. A power user that can develop SharePoint and Excel formulas should be able to develop a PowerApps tablet or phone application.

In order to compare my app to a SharePoint View, I defined a mobile View with the same List columns as the app. Below are screen shots of the “Staff Contact List” mobile app and the related SharePoint List View.

PowerApps comes with three different types of screens. A browse screen like the one below that allows you to browse the data.


A Detail Screen that gives you more information about the item and lets you delete or select the item for editing.


An Edit Screen to edit the item. I decided not to allow the user to edit the staff name but all the other items.


Here is the screen shot of the corresponding mobile List View. I called this view “PowerApps.” For those of you that have not used a mobile device to view a SharePoint List, the view below is what you would see when going to that View’s web page.


If you clicked on the Edit icon in this View, you would get all List columns for editing.

PowerAppsViewEdit

The advantages of a PowerApps for mobile and tablet devices are:

  • You don’t need to go the SharePoint page in your browser. You can click on the PowerApp directly from your device.
  • The layout is much cleaner and friendly to use.
  • You can choose the items you want the user to edit or not edit.

Overall my first impression of PowerApps is very favorable and some great applications can be developed by a user in your business that is familiar with Excel formulas. This is a big plus for small business that cannot afford or do not need an IT staff person. Because this a “Preview” version of PowerApps there are still some kinks that need be to worked out but I’m looking forward to full product release.

Example SharePoint Survey Application

SharePoint comes with an easy to use survey application that can be used for just about any type of survey (e.g. customer, employee, vendor, etc.). This blog post illustrates using the survey application for an internal employee survey. We use Monster’s “Employee Survey: Use this Sample to Build your own Questionnaire” to illustrate setting up a SharePoint survey.

Select the app by going to Site Content>Your Apps>Apps You Can Add and on the second set of apps is the Survey app. Double click on the icon and the app will be added to your SharePoint site. In this case, we added it to the Human Resources subsite.

Once added, the Employee Survey app looks like this:

The survey name and description is set through the app General Settings page illustrated below.

Notice the Survey Options settings. I decide for this illustration that I don’t want user names showing up in survey results. If I had set it to Yes, only users with the proper permissions could see the user names. Also I want to limit the user to one survey response. Setting “Allow multiple responses?” to No means the user cannot access the survey once they fully complete it the first time.

Below is the screen shot of the actual Employee Survey web page. You can’t tell by looking at the screen shot, unless you are already familiar with SharePoint surveys, but there only two questions. The first question is “Sample Employee Survey*” and the second is “Comments:”.  The * meaning required to be completed.

The numbered questions you see under “Sample Employee Survey*” are sub-questions. I set them up as sub-questions because I want to use apps built in Rating Scale capability for answering the questions. You set the scale range and the Range Text you want to use. Notice there is “Branching Logic” in the settings. I’m not showing that in my screen shot because I’m not using it, but that capability allows you to control the next question the user sees based on the answer to the current question.

Instead of using the built in Rating Scale, I could have set each sub question up as a separate question and required a 1 to 5 number response (or anything else). I felt it was important to allow employees a submit comments so I set the Comments question as multiple lines of text.

The Survey app comes with a “Show a graphical summary of responses” and a “Show all responses” view. Screen shots are shown below.

Notice that the Created By is hidden since opted not to include user names in the survey.

Setting up this Employee Survey took me about 5 minutes and it furthers show has SharePoint Online can be used to monitor and improve your business.