Software to track project/client information?
April 24, 2007 4:42 PM   Subscribe

What kind of software can I use to keep track of information on each client and/or project that I'm working on?

I do all my work on a computer. But I carry around this three-ring binder that contains all of the information/notes that I need for all of my projects and clients. I start with one sheet for each client (a form that I designed using Excel) and all of these client sheets are filed in the binder alphabetically (complete with A-Z tabs). I staple on additional sheets for each client as necessary.

I also use these little color-coded tags for flagging clients that have active projects, or that I provide web hosting for, or that I have a question about, etc.

It's some stellar organization and it has worked for years, but boy does it seem stone-age. Plus, what if this binder is washed away in a flash flood? (I really, really don't lose things, ever, but the flash flood thing is always a possibility.)

So I'm thinking of keeping track of all this stuff with a computer. Are there software programs that handle this sort of thing that are customizable? So I can customize all the information I need to store, such as client name, contact information, FTP information, billing dates/info, dates and notes on project progress, etc, etc? So I can flag or color code clients that are active, or that need attention, etc? So I can sort by different criteria? Do I just need to break down and create my own database, or do you have recommendations for existing software? And ... software that is both Mac- and PC-compatible? (My laptop is a Mac, desktop is a PC.)

(Or, is this something that I can manage with Excel, without creating/drawing a form by hand for each client? I'm really not up on Office-type products past basic word processing.)

It shouldn't be web-based because I might need to use it on a laptop somewhere without internet access.

(But is this something that would be do-able with Excel, that I could import into Google Spreadsheets so I could access the info remotely? I wouldn't need a tutorial on that, but if the answer is "yes," I could go figure it out.)

I really like using the binder. I like to be able to grab a pencil and jot down a note without having to fire up an application. And I like to keep as few apps open as possible. But now I'm beginning to worry about safety. This information should be backed up. I back up my computer regularly, and make fun of people who don't do the same, after all. Sheesh.

I feel that this is a supremely stupid question, but that the right answer will be based on a consensus of recommendations, or will be just too hard for me to go through with. (I just don't see myself building my own database any time soon; I can't even make the time to get my client login section operational on my own web site.)
posted by iguanapolitico to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's a wide range of CRM software, ranging from small-scale to megacorp. 37signals' Highrise is web-based, so may not fit your needs, but it does have a free limited-use account.
posted by holgate at 5:05 PM on April 24, 2007

You're able to synchronise info offline with Sharepoint - which pretty much covers everything you need + provides access for your clients (where needed).

You can set up a sharepoint server incredibly quickly with no tech knowledge - and for around $20USD per month, manage as many client projects as you need, each on a separate extranet.

I use these guys - never had any problems, and they're cheap, and the first 30 days are free.
posted by strawberryviagra at 5:31 PM on April 24, 2007

Hey, just remember, your binders are much more reliable than a laptop. Viruses can't touch them. Magnets are powerless against their inky charms. Very portable. No hard drive to crash, no recent work vanished. No software patches or security upgrades to worry about. If you drop it- it still works fine, you're never stuck on an airplane with no battery power. And you can insert almost any two dimensional media into your notebooks with a simple intuitive cut and paste operation.

I think there's a critical mass with client populations that makes the computer necessary to keep track of them all. I can see billing advantages in a computer driven system. A lot depends on the nature of your work, the number of clients, and how much time you're willing to devote to building new workflows.

Backing up is still a good idea, and you could hire a service to digitize all your paper materials.
posted by Area Control at 7:02 PM on April 24, 2007

Act is a great beginners CRM suite. Then if you want a bit more, flexibilty and inter-connectivity along with some serious reporting power and the ability to really work your client list, try SELLTIS. I use it at my sales office and it really keeps track of everything. You can log emails and attach to companies and then down to employees in that company, link to other clients or persons from other companies and then send quotes through Outlook from Selltis and retrieve at any time. Prolly a expensive piece of software. My boss ain't exactly cheap. At one time Siebel was offering a free version of some nice CRM software too.
Good luck!
posted by winks007 at 7:46 PM on April 24, 2007

I reccommend checking out Microsoft OneNote. It's basically an electronic binder. It plays well with the rest of the Office suite and has all sorts of nifty bells & whistles.

Plus, you don't have to have the entire program open to "jot down a note". You just click on a little icon in your system tray, type your note, and close it. You can find & file it in the proper section later from the "unfiled notes" section.
posted by redbed at 7:47 PM on April 24, 2007

Response by poster: Oh gosh, all the options.

Well, if this question isn't pushed off the front page and into near oblivion in the next 30 seconds, please keep the recommendations coming. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:26 PM on April 24, 2007

I'd stick with your existing binder, but make a 'backup' by either scanning or photocopying everything in it and storing it in a safe place.
posted by reklaw at 3:55 AM on April 25, 2007

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