I’m often asked to help new businesses get set up with the software tools they’ll need to be successful — from financial programs, to CRM systems, to project management, and so on. With a little research, it’s easy to choose tools that suit one’s specific needs. But some business people might want an integrated solution; Soho OS aims to provide all of these services, and more, in one place.
Soho OS has some similarities to 5050biz, which I talked about a while back. Soho’s navigation system is more cohesive than I found 5050biz.com’s to be, although it still has its quirks. The main menu consists of three enormous buttons (“Business,” “Networking,” and “Services”) on the left, which then display section submenus at the top. The home page includes widgets that can be moved around, but can’t be edited or removed.
Soho’s business management and development functions include:
- A calendar and to-do system that allows one to share and assign items.
- A CRM system.
- A section for tracking marketing campaigns. Integration with AdWords is lacking, and is definitely needed.
- Fairly sophisticated invoicing and inventory systems, although several of their functions weren’t yet operational as of this writing. There are apparently plans for a full-fledged financial management system.
- Systems for creating and managing trouble tickets and FAQs.
- Tools to create and manage access to Soho. Internal and external users can be assigned to groups, and given different levels of access.
Soho’s contact management and networking tools include:
- A “Social Stream” reminiscent of private microblogging solutions like Flowr.
- An IM function, controlled from a bar that looks very much like Facebook Chat.
- An address book, in which contacts can be shared among group members, and which allows imports and exports of CSV files.
Soho also offers services (free during the beta period, but premium options later):
- Tools for making outgoing VoIP calls; sending SMS, faxes, and mass emailings; processing credit card transactions; and creating voice messaging campaigns.
Soho’s strength is its integration, so those who only need certain of its tools will probably be better off using stand-alone apps. Having one customer list that all of its services can access is potentially its most useful feature. But while it has a lot of useful tools, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. And it assumes that business owners are going to be willing and able to entrust a huge amount of business data to single system. Until it offers ways of interacting with the tools that business owners are already using, its usefulness is probably limited to the smallest of companies and those that don’t have a lot of information already stored elsewhere. Soho is still in invite-only beta, and it’s definitely rough around the edges; many features aren’t yet working or are incomplete.
Editor’s note: If you’re interested in working in the cloud, check out our Structure conference in June.