When running your own business, it can be extremely helpful to have a system for keeping track of progress, tasks, documents, contacts, etc. There are many apps available that help facilitate project, client and customer management like Daylite, Elements, or Outlook.
These apps fall into a category called CRM, or Customer Relation Management apps, which is a fancy way of describing the management of people and projects in a business. Relationship from Jumsoft aims to help organize projects, team members and customers with a powerful feature set in a native Mac app environment.
Another way of looking at apps like Relationship is as a local project management app — where you can keep track of who is doing what for what project, without having to rely on input from your collaborators.
No matter what kind of business you’re in, when you’re working on projects with others, you’re probably going to use various apps for things like email, task management, calendars, contacts and notes, as well as a keeping track of a slew of related documents and bookmarks.
Relationship is an attempt to bring all this functionality together into one cohesive app, so that when you’re working on a project, you don’t need to go back and forth.
Relationship boasts the kind of clean, attractive interface that Jumsoft is known for, with a sidebar navigation style and two or three column layout. The sidebar has a “Library” which displays various aspects of your business or work individually.
Contacts, Projects, Tasks, Events, Emails, Bookmarks, Stickies and Notes are each almost like their own application within Relationships, except that information within each can be linked. When using Relationship, you’re most likely going to be dealing with all these elements as related to Projects, such that each task, sticky, bookmark etc. is linked to a project.
The “Relationships” in Relationship function as links between different pieces of information. For example, when you add a new contact, you have the option to “link” this contact to other contacts, to projects, tasks, and so on. This works between all different information types – you could link an event to an email, a task to a project, or a bookmark to a contact.
You can choose to view all information of a certain type from all projects by selecting sections from the left sidebar, or you can see these items for specific projects in the project pane.
Contacts are the bread and butter of Relationship. No matter how you use the app, you will probably primarily organize everything in terms of either contacts or projects.
Relationship syncs both ways with Address Book, and you can import all your contacts in their groups when you first open Relationship. Adding contacts is identical to Address Book, with the added option of linking contacts to each other or companies. When you click on a contact, links to other contacts are displayed below, and links to projects, tasks etc. are listed in the sidebar.
You can organize contacts in normal Address Book groups, which sync with Address Book, or create groups that only show within Relationship called “Relationship Groups”. You can also create smart groups with rules for who gets included.
The Projects section is a central command for active projects. Each project has a “dashboard” that displays an objective, assigned contacts, upcoming events and linked information about the project. In the third column, you can choose to display each type of information (e.g. tasks) by itself.
The task manager in Relationships is pretty straight-forward and familiar. For each task, you can add a deadline, assign contacts, and assign relevance.
One small gripe I have about the task manager is that you can’t see who is assigned to a task without clicking on it, and even then clicking on the contact’s name doesn’t bring up their info. It would be nice if you could see an overdue task, who’s responsible, then click the name and send an email asking what’s up.
In the third column of the task manager, you can narrow the focus of tasks by project, deadline or priority.
The events calendar in Relationship is pretty much identical to iCal, and works in almost exactly the same way. There seems to be some syncing ability, but I couldn’t find any documentation in the manual.
Events added to Relationship show up in iCal, but not the other way around, which I guess makes sense if you only want to focus on business-related events.
Relationship also shows dock icon notifications for upcoming events and tasks, along with a count in the application sidebar.
The email client in Relationship is, again, much like Mail.app, but missing a few features: there’s no autocomplete for the “to” field, and you can’t select recipients from a list of contacts, which seems like a pretty big oversight to me.
It’s not immediately obvious, but you can link emails like anything else in Relationships, you just have to select the email and click the “link” icon at the bottom left of the email pane. The email client also has an integrated RSS reader.
Relationship has a built-in browser with a bookmarks bar much like that in any web browser, the difference being that you can link bookmarks to any other information by selecting the bookmark in the right-hand column and clicking the “link” icon.
I’m not a huge fan of this approach. Personally I dislike in-app browsers, and would prefer if it just listed bookmarks and opened them in my default browser when clicked.
I’m starting to sound repetitive here, but the stickies function in Relationship is pretty much the same as the Stickies app that came with your Mac, again, with the exception of being able to link stickies!
I think this is one of the more useful features of Relationship, because I’m terrible at keeping my documents organized in the Finder. You can browse (or drag and drop!) to add relevant documents to a project, and when clicked they open up in the appropriate application.
Documents in Relationship are organized by “shelf” – where each project has a shelf – but you can also add custom shelves with any name.
If you’ve been following, you may have noticed that Relationship is basically just Address Book, Things, iCal, Mail and Stickies all rolled into one application. I’m a bit on the fence as to whether I like this approach. None of the features really add any functionality beyond the native Mac apps, with the exception of ability to link everything together.
This linking is what makes Relationship unique – though the separate apps you would use for the same tasks do the job just as well (if not better), it can be tough to keep everything together.
While the most obvious way of organizing all your information in Relationship is by project, you aren’t limited to this, and can literally link anything to anything. Business very often is about relationships, so it makes sense to have an app that helps you see everything as it relates.
That being said, I think Relationship perhaps tries to do too much. The email client and the browser/bookmarks are certainly overkill. It would work just as well if when an email address was clicked, a new message opened in your default client, and emails could be linked without having to be displayed in the Relationship client (for example, many task management apps allow you to link emails to tasks).
The browser is superfluous too, I imagine most people are like me and like to do all their browsing in one place, and also don’t have the screen real estate to maximize relationship so as to see the full browser window.
Businesses can be tricky to organize digitally – all your information is on the computer, but it takes a lot of time and patience to maintain an immaculate Finder where everything is in its proper place. To that end, I think Relationship is a great idea, and I find myself tempted to use it for my own freelance business, but I’m too attached to the system I already have.
How do you organize your small business? Do you feel an app like Relationship is necessary, or is it just overkill?