Since launching Panorama over a year ago we’ve seen the ingenious ways our customers have used WordPress as a business back office tool. Project management and communication is one of many core business activities that can be improved through the WordPress platform. Most of the time our customers have found ways to combine Panorama with existing plugins to get even more out of their system.
We felt others might benefit from this knowledge and would like to briefly cover the plugins we see being used most often:
Payments and Invoicing
The heart of any business is the collection of money. Setting up online payments used to be a long, tedious process. These days, companies like PayPal and Stripe make it easy… in fact you can be up and running within a day or two.
Once you have your accounts setup you still need some software to accept and process the payments. This is where WordPress comes in. We’ve found the following plugins to be particularly effective:
While gravity forms is most often thought of as a contact form tool, their add-ons make it easy to process payments. We’ve seen our customers setup “payment” forms with the price and product information being passed in dynamically through a variable. This means that at specific milestones or phase completions, a payment link can be sent to the project team through a Panorama announcement. Pretty cool!
The beauty of Gravity Forms is the flexibility. You can make it handle just about any payment situation you can think up, from membership to one-off payments.
I’ve been a fan of Sprout Apps since I first came across the company. Their flagship plugin Sprout Invoices is an elegant WordPress invoicing solution that allows you to create (you guessed it) invoices and estimates, but also take payments, deposits and subscriptions. If you need something more structured than Gravity forms for payments then Sprout Invoices is a good bet.
If you’re a service based company and sell your time, it’s critical you track how your time is spent. We’ve seen the following plugins used to track time effectively.
Yes, the premium version of Sprout Invoices allows for time tracking. Pretty cool!
From the folks at 9seeds, WP Time Tracker is a simple, easy to use task management and time tracking tool. You can enter in client, project and task details and then record time against the task.
Calendars & Events
Most business have important events and milestones in their business cycle. From planning and goal targets to conferences. Typically businesses want these calendars to be admin side as they are not intended for public use.
Event organizer has all the functionality of a full featured event plugin but can be used on both the front end and the back end. It can even import / export iCal files making it easy to integrate with other event and calender tools.
If you’re having your customers login to your site, you might want to provide them content that isn’t directly related to a project at hand. Maybe you want them to have access to common questions, a support form, their invoice/payment history, etc… In such a case you’re looking to build a portal around all your WordPress business plugins, giving them access to everything.
In these situations we’ve found the following plugins particularly effective:
WP-Client is a robust client management portal. It has just about everything you could think of including invoices, online payments, user groups, messaging and secure file uploads. If you’re looking to build a portal around your WordPress business site, consider WP-Client.
Maybe you don’t need anything that complicated, just some content and links customized for each user. Simple Members Area is a free plugin I developed that allows you to restrict access to content based on user.
The great thing about using WordPress for your business is the nearly infinite number of tasks you can have it do. What other WordPress tools are you using for your business? What do you wish WordPress could do? Let us know in the comments!