Can this customisable CRM and project management tool help your business?
Fusioo is an online app and database platform, akin to QuickBase and Podio. Like its rivals, it's designed to allow users to quickly and easily assemble flexible web-based apps that can manage a wide range of data types, with project management and customer relationship management (CRM) being key sectors that Fusioo wants to appeal to.
It has a gratifyingly simple pricing structure: either $12 (£9) per full user, per month on a rolling monthly contract or $9 (£6.80) per user, per month if you pay annually. There are two different kinds of users: Lite Users don't count towards your bill, but can only view and comment on existing records in your Fusioo apps. Regular Users, on the other hand, can create and modify apps, create and modify records and be given admin access to your business's Fusioo account.
Fusioo is based in Malta, part of the EU, and stores all its data, encrypted at rest, on Microsoft Azure servers. European users' data is stored at data centres in Ireland and the Netherlands, each of which serves as an hourly backup location for the other. This means that your data will never leave the EU, in line with current UK data protection requirements, although these requirements may change following the completion of Brexit.
Fusioo helpfully starts you off with a few simple tutorial screens, and you're prompted to choose a template App to get feel for the service. At this point, you can choose between three options: Clients, Projects and Sales Leads.
Having selected one of those (we chose to make a client tracker), Fusioo adds some basic fields - in this case name, phone number and details - and prompts you to create the app. You can add extra fields of your own either immediately or later. The tutorial allows you to add text, number or currency, multi-line text and tick box entries at this stage.
Once you've made additions and created the app, it's automatically opened for you, along with a few helpful info boxes showing you where to modify and add records to apps, adjust the widgets they use to display data, create custom data views and update your company profile and workspace settings.
The main app interface gives you a wider range of options for adding and editing fields than the brief creation screen in the tutorial provided, as do Fusioo's standard app creation screens. It's easy to reorder your fields at any time and you can even change the key field if no entries have yet been added.
Having added a few extra fields for contact information, URLs and similar, we were able to very quickly create a simple client database. It was just as easy to build project and invoice trackers including pull-down status lists, date fields, mathematical calculation fields and relational links to other Fusioo databases, allowing us to, for example, pull in customer data from our client tracking app.
Fusioo's date and calendar settings currently use a US format, regardless of the region and culture settings you've applied, but while 10/09/16 comes out as the 9th of October rather than the 10th of September, both Sept 10 2016 and 10 Sept 2016 are understood correctly. Fusioo informs us that it's currently working on automatically switching date formats based on culture. We'd have also liked to have been able to add URLs without an http:// prefix, but that's a minor gripe.
Once you've familiarised yourself with the basics of app creation, there are more projects and tutorials available via the setup guide, where you're prompted to invite colleagues and collaborators, create your own apps from scratch and investigate the Fusioo App Marketplace to download ready-made apps.
Go to market
The App Marketplace has a number of ready-rolled apps targeted at different sectors and requirements. Although there are currently only six app packs available, with four more in development - far fewer than you'll find on rivals Podio and QuickBase - those available are useful.
Bundles include Event Management, Issue Tracking for creating knowledge bases and follow up on customer bug reports, Applicant Tracking for when you're hiring, CRM, Expense Management apps to allow staff to quickly file expense and billable task claims and a simple Project Management app kit.
You can add an app bundle to your workspace at the click of a button, and you'll be emailed basic instructions and links on where to access both the apps and their permissions settings.
The project management bundle shows off Fusioo's automatic chart generation tools, but we were disappointed to find that Gantt charts - an essential for tracking complex projects - aren't available. The available pie, bar and grouped bar charts are useful for providing a quick overview of, for example, the number of completed and pending tasks at hand, but don't lend themselves particularly well to depicting project status and progress over time.
However, the same charts work extremely well when it comes to stock and financial tracking, among a wide range of traditional database tasks that Fusioo serves to make simple. If you have serious project management to do, we still recommend using dedicated software such as Asta PowerProject.
Administration and user management
User management is highly granular. As well as being able to add clients and colleagues who only need read access to your apps as free Lite Users, your paid-for Regular Users can be given custom roles. When you create your roles, you can choose whether or not the users in them will get admin access to your account, but the real power of roles comes into play when assigning app permissions.
Every field of every app can be assigned its own permissions based on the role of the user trying to access to edit it. For users who need to access, but not develop, apps, you can allow them to create, update or delete entries, and you can set specific fields in an app to be uneditable or unviewable by certain users. Staff who want to develop Fusioo apps will need admin privileges.
You can invite users via email, and add them to a role in the process. A simple drag and drop interface allows you to shift users between roles if you need to quickly change their access level at a later point. All created apps are automatically accessible to all admin users, so nothing if lost if you deactivate an individual user's account. Deactivated accounts aren't billed and can be reactivated later or entirely deleted.
Access and integrations
You can import data from other applications by downloading an Excel template file based on the database fields of the app you want to import, which at least makes it easy to copy and paste in details from, for example, exported contact lists, although it's an extremely manual approach.
Fusioo also supports Zapier, a third-party service that allows you to pull data from other cloud-based services, such as Gmail, Salesforce and Evernote, among hundreds of others, and automatically import it into the Fusioo app of your choice. Like Fusioo's other features, the process is extremely well documented, although the integration is currently in beta.
Further integration tools are promised, but not currently supported. Fusioo also assures us that a full API is due to be released in the coming weeks, which will doubtless be helpful to those who wish to integrate the service with in-house applications.
Similarly, native mobile apps are due out for iOS and Android towards the end of the year, but for the moment, the website has a cross-platform mobile browser version that rendered very neatly on all our devices and provides the full range of features you'll find in its desktop browser counterpart.
Not all the features
Like rival Citrix Podio, Fusioo pitches itself as customisable CRM and project management software, but doesn't have all the features we'd necessary want from enterprise-grade software, such as Gantt charts for project management. However, for smaller businesses and particularly for companies that want a convenient, cloud-based, and collaborative alternative to tracking company information via a local database or spreadsheets, it has a great deal to commend it.
At £6.80 per user, per month on annual plan, Fusioo is cheaper than Quickbase and, although it currently has fewer pre-made apps, we found its interface far more attractive and easy to work with than that of Citrix Podio. However, Podio is more generous in terms of the features free external users can access, while QuickBast has markedly better reporting and charting features.
We were particularly pleased by Fusioo's comprehensive online documentation and well-designed tutorials. Some features that we'd want, particularly for project management, are missing or incomplete, but if your teams need to quickly roll out flexible, database-driven cloud apps to colleagues, Fusioo represents great value, which smaller businesses, in particular, will appreciate.
Cloud-based, database driven app builder for small enterprise project management, CRM and more.
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