Finding the right tools for your business can be an overwhelming process. Here's a look at six technologies that can help.
New technologies for business operations pop up so fast, it's difficult to separate the products with serious value and staying power from those likely to burn out in a matter of years. As a result, businesses end up in total analysis paralysis, never sure when to pull the trigger on a new technology.
I don't blame you. The time and resources and learning curve that goes into implementing new business technologies disrupts the flow of work and may even affect your clients and customers--not to mention frustrate your employees (then again, sticking with existing technology isn't making them happy either). You never know if technology is going to be buggy, lack support or be more trouble than any value it may offer.
Some business technologies are popular for a reason. Stable, useful and tried-and-true, with regular product updates and improvements, these six products are worth the time and effort you'll put into implementing them in your organization. And your employees will love them, too.
1. Document signing and tracking In most businesses, paper has become passé. Really, it seems silly that we still have to print out and sign paper documents, scan and then email them back.
When you think about quotes, proposals, contracts and employee paperwork, it just seems tedious and unnecessary in this digital age. PandaDoc is a great solution for this, managing the flow and distribution of paperwork and offering eSignatures.
2. Project management I'd be surprised if you hadn't heard of Basecamp -- it's become rather ubiquitous, especially within marketing agencies and departments. Basecamp has been around since 2004 and it's improved by leaps and bounds over the years.
Manage projects, assign tasks, share documents, view project and people schedules all from one system. They're known for great customer service, too. We love it for its integrations, "Campfires," which enable group chat in real time, and the ability to organize files.
3. Time tracking Let's be honest, no one likes timesheets. Employees hate doing them, managers hate approving them, but they're simply a part of business, particularly if you are in a service-based business. The least you can do is make it easy to do both.
One tool we like for this is Harvest -- especially since it has Chrome and Safari integrations that enable tracking from your browser. It also integrates well with a number of project management tools like Asana, Jira and Basecamp. For small agencies or freelancers, it has handy estimating and invoicing tools, too.
If you're a creative agency or team wanting a closer relationship between your time tracking and project management, 10,000ft provides a good combination of timesheets, project management and Gantt chart-like resource visualization.
4. Product management and development Trello and Jira are pretty much the go-to tools for businesses that develop websites or software products. Developers tend to be fiercely loyal to one tool or the other. With similar features and functionality, it often just comes down to preference.
Perhaps the main difference is that Jira is designed specifically for software development, while Trello's more flexible format has caught on with teams that manage content-heavy projects.
If you're not sure which way to go, there is a silver lining. Earlier this year, Jira's parent company, Atlassian, acquired Trello.
5. Employee engagement Roughly 70 percent of employees aren't engaged in their workplace. Top reasons usually boil down to not feeling heard, challenged or appreciated.
Officevibe is rapidly making its way into a number of businesses, by way of its numerous integrations --Slack, Office 365, Google, Salesforce, and the list goes on. This tool enables team managers or HR personnel to check the pulse of employees regularly -- anonymously and with a certain level of personalized automation.
Armed with this insight, leaders can make appropriate changes and improvements to company culture to improve morale. After all, happy employees make happy customers.
6. Collaborative prototyping Website and software design is a complicated animal. There are going to be opinions. There's going to be a lot of back and forth. And sure, we've talked about project management systems as a means of managing projects. But collaboration is a different animal, which is where InVision comes in handy --particularly if you are collaborating with those working remotely or clients outside of the office.
InVision allows you to build high-fidelity wireframes and working prototypes of websites or software. Built-in collaboration tools make it easy to collaborate along the life of the project by inviting feedback from internal teams or clients. Best of all? It's free.
Consider forming a small committee of people from different departments who will have to use the tool on a day-to-day basis. Let them take these for a test drive and discuss the pros and cons. Don't make the decision for the people who actually have to do the work --this can work against you.
Keep in mind, no tool is going to be perfect for everyone. It's like those questions from school exams--several answers may be right, but choose the one that fulfills your needs.