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.

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