Managing a business is no easy feat. From ensuring customer satisfaction to managing finances and constantly coming up with innovative commercial ideas – not to mention, recruitment, sales and marketing, and all the legal stuff – it’s no wonder only a third of businesses make it to their 10th anniversary*.
Thankfully, there are hundreds of tools available to help make your life easier and prevent your company from descending into chaos! In fact, these days having too many tools has become a problem in itself for some organisations.
Read on to learn more about our top tools for effective teamwork and business management.
What we look for
Just to clarify, when we say business tools, we’re specifically talking about cloud based applications and software that can be leveraged by businesses to improve everyday operations and maximise productivity.
Gone are the days of writing everything down on paper and shooting emails back and forth between colleagues and clients. Today there are an abundance of tools competing for your attention. Each one has a ready made solution to your problem; from tracking finances, to handling accounting tasks, managing contacts, sharpening communication, assisting group collaboration and even scheduling activities.
In this digital age where distractions are especially forthcoming, business tools help keep teams focused by emphasising high priority tasks. Used right, they have the power to boost productivity, transform how teams work and enhance overall business management.
We’ll admit that we’re pretty picky about the tools we use internally but we do have some favourites.
Before we share what works for us however, we thought we’d let you know what we typically look for in tools for effective teamwork and business management.
It may seem obvious but if a business tool isn’t reliable, then why keep using it? Think of a business tool as your virtual assistant. It’s there to serve a function. That function might be logging your time, reminding you of important dates or sending emails. Whatever the case, you should be able to rely on it to do its job without error.
If you find yourself spending more time being frustrated with the tool than revelling in its awesomeness, then it’s time to look elsewhere.
While not all business tools have, or indeed need, report functionality, it’s not something that should be overlooked. The ability to run reports could save you hours of time otherwise spent on tedious tasks like cross referencing and data entry.
Despite the plethora of business tools available to choose from, you’d be hard pressed to find one that does absolutely everything you need to run your business smoothly. Tools that seamlessly integrate with a host of apps allow the systems to communication with each other, meaning you don’t have to double up on your workload.
Design & Usability
We take UX and UI design pretty seriously in here. And so when it comes to our business tools, we pay close attention to how easy and intuitive they are to use. We’ll admit that we’re not 100% satisfied with the layout of some of our commonly used tools, but the pros outweigh the cons so we’re willing to ignore this. For now.
With so many of us working on the go, it’s important that the business tools we’re using have mobile versions. Not only that, but mobile versions that are compatible on iOS and Android.
Our top tools for…
So now you know what we look out for, here are just a few of the tools we use that help us get stuff done in an organised, controlled fashion.
Collaboration, Productivity and Project Management
Teamweek is our tool of choice when it comes to project management. This open sourced tool is a project planner and team calendar and our project managers would be lost without it. The main attraction with Teamweek is that it gives the user a visual (and colourful) overview of tasks, meaning at any given time, a project manager can view their resources in terms of time and budget and review how a project is progressing.
And good news if you’ve a pretty small team – Teamweek is free for up to five people.
Teamwork is an Irish owned web based tool project management tool used by our team to manage projects. While Teamweek is mainly used to help our project managers manage their resources, Teamwork is used as a collaborative tool between our team and our clients. The team messaging system along with features that allow the team to upload files and create notebooks, make this an effective communication and customer service tool.
I personally use Teamwork for managing my own workflow and the task creation, priority flags and calendar are among my favourite features.
And like all good business tools, Teamwork integrates with a number of apps including Harvest, Xero, Google Drive and HubSpot.
Google Drive falls under G Suite, Google’s cloud based suite of productivity and collaboration tools. It’s a management and storage service with a host of apps designed to make it easy for you to create and share.
Word processing app Google Docs and advanced spreadsheet app Google Sheets are probably the most popular apps amongst our team, but other companies take advantage of Google Slides, Google Forms and Google Drawings.
Keeping organised is a doozy on Google Drive with the ability to create folders and search for files. And storage space is generous at 30GB, with the option to upgrade. Being able to invite colleagues to comment and edit files and view changes as they happen are also big wins for Google Drive and I for one find it hard to think of a time before it existed.
When it comes to being organised and planning ahead, calendars can’t be beaten. And even if you’re a bit old school like me and like jotting important dates down in a physical diary, Google Calendar is an excellent (free) tool for sharing upcoming events with the whole team. In addition to creating and editing events, users can add multiple calendars, invite guests to join events, set up recurring events and view the calendar in daily, weekly, and monthly formats. Users can sync their calendars with their colleagues and apply colours to the various calendars to differentiate them. Best of all, several productivity apps allow you to sync your tasks with Google Calendar, making it an ideal platform for reviewing your working day.
Slack is a cloud based communication and collaboration tool. Marketed as a ‘digital workspace that powers your organisation’, it’s used by our team as an instant messaging system. We post notifications across various channels about company news, project queries, social events and more; but also use the tool to communicate with colleagues via direct message.
Sharing files is made simple by drag and drop functionality and with thousands of apps available to integrate, Slack has the potential to be a one stop platform for streamlining workflows.
One of my favourite features is the friendly Slackbot, who can be easily programmed to send personal reminders, group reminders and even to engage in conversation.
Skype is the original video messaging tool and we love using it as it enables us to communicate easily with our developers who are based overseas. We also use it for video conferencing with clients who are unable to attend meetings in person. And while everyone is familiar with Skype’s merits as a communication tool, it also ticks boxes in terms of collaboration. The screen share and file drag and drop features make it easy to engage with clients and keep everyone up to date on projects.
Harvest is an online time tracking app that we use for logging billable and non-billable time against projects and support work. It’s a great tool for measuring performance on a daily basis and because it has a mobile version, time can be tracked when we’re on the go heading to meetings or presentations.
Harvest can also be used for invoicing, generating reports and scheduling. It also integrated seamlessly with a number of apps we use including Xero, Teamwork, Zendesk and Slack.
Xero is a cloud based accounting software specifically designed to help small businesses keep on top of their finances. We use it for invoicing, bookkeeping, bank reconciliation and much more. The sales dashboard is great for a general overview of company finances and the simple design is a dream compared to use to some of the clunky accounting software systems that exist. Generating invoices, statements and reports are all a doozy with this handy app. And the price plan is pretty reasonable too.
Zendesk is a customer service support system featuring an email ticketing system. It integrates easily with other tools and is an effective tool for interacting with customers. In our case, Zendesk is seamlessly integrated with the support page on our website so customers can easily access it.
Zendesk allows you to upload documentation to message threads, offering more flexibility in terms of workflow management. And being able to store customer information is especially useful as it avoids trawling though CRMs and old emails looking for it. It helps you organise customer support work.
One of the features we recently enabled allows customers to rate the service they received after a support ticket closes, which is a great feature from both a customer feedback and customer service perspective.
Still struggling to find a business tool that meets your business requirements? If you can’t find a single tool to meet your needs, perhaps you should consider creating your own bespoke application or integrating multiple tools. We can talk you through it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +353 1 522 7690 for more information.
*Source: The Motely Fool