‘Don’t work hard, work smart’ is another cliché that’s always bandied about by those wishing to seem efficient, but its one that I don’t fully subscribe to. It’s impossible to make a success of any business without an incredible amount of hard work, punishingly long hours and a steely determination to succeed; but that doesn’t mean we can’t work smart as well, right?
If you open the curtains right now you’ll see there’s a revolution going on. The widespread availability of high-speed internet access combined with smartphones and tablet devices now being commonplace, has created the perfect storm and given rise to a wealth of applications of online services designed to streamline the way we do business.
I’ve been a tech-evangelist for as long as I can remember and I couldn’t operate without the gadgets and services which I use to keep me connected to my team, boost my efficiency and to help me increase the productivity of my businesses.
Through a combination of better working practices and low-value task automation, I’ve calculated that I’m able to use these services to save up to two days a month which would otherwise be spent on admin tasks and paper trails.
While the requirements of each business will differ, here’s an overview of the technology and services which I currently swear by to maximise my efficiency:
1. For collaborative working – Trello
Being out of the office a lot means that I’m not always around to meet my teams face-to-face and I don’t have time to be pouring through endless update reports to find out where things are at.
Trello is online task management system which does away with all of those project management spreadsheets and status trackers by providing an easy to use and intuitive surface through which I can clearly track the progress each stakeholder is making within a specific project.
It’s particularly useful for managing projects with third-party stakeholders and because it can be accessed via the web, iOS and Android devices it’s always there when I need it.
2. For ‘always on’ connectivity – Apple
It might seem obvious, but sticking with a single ecosystem across laptop, mobile and tablet has clear advantages. I have a Mac Book Air, iPad and iPhone and all apps I use must be available wherever I am, and whenever I want them. I am also registered with just about all the public wifi services that are available and can usually get online but if not then I can do most things on my iPhone.
3. For CRM and sales – Salesforce.com
We’ve trialled a few different CRM platforms with varying levels of success but all roads always lead back to Salesforce.com. It seems inconceivable to me how any business which has a dedicated sales function can effectively operate without Salesforce?
I use it to control all the opportunities that I’m working on and love the fact that all the information I need is at hand when and wherever I need it.
4. For accounting – Xero
Xero is awesome online accounting software which is great for small businesses. Xero is slick, easy to use and again can be accessed on the go. Since we’ve been using it I rarely see our financial controller as I can easy access all the financial information I need there and then.
Xero handles all of our invoicing and payroll and its beautiful reporting dashboard is enables me to quickly pull together all kinds of reporting without a spreadsheet in sight.
5. Keeping up to speed with the web – Feedly and Buffer
Continual learning is ethos I wholeheartedly believe in so it’s important to me that I’m able to capture and digest some of the great articles that I pick up from across the web.
To make this process more efficient I use two apps called Feedly and Buffer. Feedly is a magazine-style reader for iOS which makes digesting interesting content much quicker and for me easier than just reading straight off a web page.
Once I’ve found an article that I feel is valuable to me and my community, I share it using an app called Buffer which provides a really quick and slick way of broadcasting content across my social networks. All this can be done via iOS which saves time.
6. Idea and content capture – Evernote
Ideas and inspirations can occur at anytime which is why I always used to keep a pad and pen on me to record them before they drained from my memory banks.
Today I use Evernote, which is a sophisticate online and mobile app which I use to capture my thoughts and ideas in a myriad of ways via multiple devices. So whether I want to record a sound file, take a picture or save a web-link I can use Evernote to create an information library which I use for creating and inspiriting future blog posts or for reference.
7. For document sharing – Dropbox
Did you get my file? It’ won’t go through? What’s your inbox limit? You just can’t always rely on email for sending meaty files anymore which is where Dropbox really comes into its own. You can simply drag and drop a file or save it directly to your Dropbox which sits on your desktop and files can then be accessed anywhere via web or mobile. It’s painless to install and means sharing files is never an issue again.
The software model for business has been turned on its head in the recent years and today businesses can access a huge range of powerful services and applications directly from the cloud for a low-risk monthly subscription.
This makes it really easy for businesses of any size to get on board and start streamlining the way they operate and automating many of time sapping admin tasks which can hold a business back.
Jonathan Richards is CEO of breatheHR.
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