Many of the technology struggles entrepreneurs have as they build a new venture involves finding tools to automate processes and save time and money. They ask themselves questions similar to those I have had executives ask me in my career as an Executive Assistant, “Can you work your magic?”, “Can this be done in the next few hours?” and, the ever popular “I know what I want but do we have something that does that?”. Business leaders naturally often lean toward the latest and shiniest and most impressive services or features. At times it was as if they were describing music or fashion from an era long past. “I heard that so and so in sales has a spiffy new macro” or “the new HR Director created a neat interactive brochure.” A manager I worked for often asked me to “jazz up” our weekly internal communications email to staff. With the explosion of cloud technology leading to more automated and impressive business processes for every office task, who can blame executives for their desire to have the next cool productivity tool?
If you are getting started, you have probably been on this merry go round of hearing through the grapevine about useful cloud productivity apps or services and wondering if they could make your life easier. Marketing/CRM, Note taking, Task Management, Point of Sale, Accounting, Competitor Research, Content Creation, Social Media Tracking…the list goes on. Wow, there is just so much to absorb. As a new business owner, it’s natural for you to want to get on-board with anything that will make your operations run more smoothly despite the mind-boggling amount of choices. So how can you parse all this information to select the right solutions for your particular needs? Well, I think a valuable approach is to think of yourself in the process as a matchmaker weeding out the tools not useful to you and letting the most valuable ones rise to the top. For example, if one of your main goals is to get things done, a good task tracking app can quickly summarize your projects, create alerts to critical business conditions and reminders for important dates. On the other hand, if you operate virtually with clients and staff geographically dispersed and that task app does not allow you to collaborate with your team in real-time, that’s a terrible match that is sure to end badly.
Most productivity cloud apps are not perfectly tailor-made out of the box solutions. Use them in your business without proper vetting or planning, and it is like running a PC with only an operating system and no applications. Powerful but not very useful. You have to match the technology to your specific business needs so that you and your team will use the most efficient and powerful features.
You can’t be everywhere, and you only have so many hours in a day. That’s why the 8 productivity cloud App integrations described in the chart below can help you find the right match for you. Here I focus on how the latest apps integrate to give you more value for your dollar. I’ve merged advice on evaluating your needs with resources from small business reviews of technology especially useful for smaller shops. At the beginning of each integration suggestion, I identify one common issue for small business owners. If any of these scenarios below describe your issue, check out the “Suggested App Integrations“ below for more information.
My criteria for selecting the tools and services I recommend are based on: