As a consultant, I work with individuals and firms who bill by the hour. Service oriented people who understand the significance and value of time management, case management, and appropriate billing software. The secret to successful consultancy is to understand your client’s needs and to coordinate an approach that meets those needs. This often times will include the use of more than one software program, and requires compromise on all sides.
Years of experience have identified the one type of individual that manages to throw a wrench into this process every time. This is the person who insists on “living inside Outlook.” This is the person who refuses to use any other software to maintain anything to do with Emails, ToDo’s, Calendared Events, and Contacts. As a consultant, many times I have been faced with the question, “Why would I do this in any other software when I am completely comfortable in my Outlook?” At this point in time you can list the many benefits of using third-party case management and/or billing software but you can see in their eyes as you are speaking that they are unable to comprehend anything but the eminent demise of their Outlook as their standard. I often use a term to describe these individuals, its Outlook-Spouses (people married to their Outlook).
With the introduction of an Outlook add-on product called Credenza my bag of consultant recommendations is now complete. I am ready for any Outlook-Spouse I happen to come across. There are several reasons this software fits the bill. For those individuals who have not yet been introduced to case management software, Credenza is a logical first step. For those individuals not ready to make a serious investment of time and/or money, Credenza is up and running quickly and is an excellent introduction into time tracking, document management, and contact or file/matter organization. Credenza is also great for those just starting out who want, or need, to manage all aspects of their practice themselves. There is no upfront cost for the basic version.
Credenza takes the basic Outlook features (mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, and notes) and allows the user to associate any or all of them with the Credenza “Client.” The user also receives new icons within their Outlook for Time Sheets and Phone Calls. This allows a user within Outlook to open a Client and view/review all emails, phone calls, appointments, tasks, time entries, documents, and notes which have been associated with that Client (see below). It is this “Client” module which moves Outlook into a full-fledged practice management product.
Credenza comes in two flavors: Basic and Pro. Pro adds the ability to bill out accrued time entries, a Collaboration feature which allows users to work within a team environment, and also access web based documents which can be shared among users.
The basic version of Credenza is free. Yes, that is correct! It is free and therefore removes any monetary obsticles an individual may have for not getting their act together and stepping into the world of practice management. The Pro version costs $24.95 per month and offers unlimited technical support. Heck, just the technical support is worth the $24.95 a month.