Online Tools To Help You Improve Your Productivity


p054-057-ABS#33-Technology-1By Kevin Dam.

Collectively, SMEs can be the driving force of a recovering economy because of the energy, flexibility and responsiveness inherent in the sector. Astute owners and managers are always ready and waiting to take advantage of any tools or technology that will boost their financial performance or productivity – particularly during a slow economy.

Globalisation, outsourcing and automation are three popular resources SMEs have engaged to help cut costs in recent times. Another powerful way to save time and money is to move your strategic administration systems online. Streamlining everyday processes by making the most of web technology can simplify operations and increase efficiency right across your organisation.

Introduction to apps

In the past few years, tech start-ups from all over the world have been working hard to add value to everyone on the planet. The high value of apps in personal and social use is simply that they save people time. The same principle of efficiency applies to using online tools for business. Here, the value is in financial returns for the time saved that can be put to more profitable use.

If you are ready to take the leap of faith and run your company’s admin using apps and software, here are some of the recommended starters:

Project management

All businesses manage multiple projects involving numerous internal and external contributors and stakeholders. One of the best ways to keep everyone accountable for the tasks that move the project towards completion is to use an online project management tool.

The main benefit of managing projects online is that you can log on to view the status of each stage and input, no matter where you are. You can see outstanding tasks and deadlines at a glance if you are the project manager, and you can update your progress and add comments and suggestions if you are a contributor to the job.

One of my favourite project management tools is Producteev because it allows multiple projects to be tracked at once, easy addition of new participants, and you can create, assign and set deadlines for new tasks by email.

There are paid project management tools such as Basecamp by 37signals, but if you look around the internet there are definitely some that perform in just about the same way, that are free up to a certain level.

Aggregating News
With mobile internet now outstripping desk-based searches, information overload is not uncommon. Sourcing information and news can be frustrating when there are so many outlets. When you are trying to stay ahead of the competition or just making sure you do not miss out on industry news that could make or break the business, a tailored news aggregator that is easy to access on the go can save time and effort.

Some of my favourite news sources are RSS feeds, Twitter, LinkedIn and anywhere that industry articles are shared by people all over the world. It got to the point where it was too time-consuming to even flip between the different apps for daily news updates. A news aggregation tool removes this cumbersome step of switching between sites but you still get to see all the news that matters to you, stored in one place to read at a convenient time. Flipboard, Feedly and Pocket (formerly called Read it Later) are commonly used news aggregators.

Social Media multi-tasking
Social media is an important part of any business, whether you are online or offline. Most people make a purchase after seeing a personal recommendation, so you are losing out if people are not talking about you on social media.

With the prolific amount of established platforms, and new ones being created, it can be overwhelming for a SME to allocate the resources required to post news and other content to a platform as often as it would suit their content marketing plan.

There are shortcuts that allow you to post ‘one-to-many’. These remove the time required to log in individually to each platform with the same post. However, it is important to understand the limits of each social media outlet. For example, when posting to Twitter and Facebook simultaneously, be careful with the length of the message as Twitter only allows a maximum of 140 characters whereas Facebook will permit up to 1,000.Popular shortcuts for social media posting are Hootsuite and Bufferapp.

Time Management
Whatis measured can be improved. So if you really want to know where your time has gone each day, you can now measure exactly how long you have spent on each task at a macro level. My experience is that, subconsciously, my brain thinks it knows how long I have spent or should be spending on a task, but when a timer confirms I have spent double the amount, I get a move on.

Time management tools seem intrusive at first, but after a while you appreciate that just being aware of the real pace of your activity can push you to better efficiency. Using a digital timer has its benefits and one is the ability to review what you have been doingby graphing it over a day, a week or a month. With some platforms you can even assign hourly reports, such as for use in invoicing.

Basic online time management tools are usually free. Those with a cost vary the fee, depending on the level of customisation, such as for billing and financial reporting. Some use a tiered pricing structure based on the number of people registered as users. Time management automation is provided by Toggl and RescueTime, among others. 

Email Automation

Speaking of time management, research has shown that email has become one of the biggest time wasters in any business. As long as email communication is persevering as an integral tool for most customer communications, the best way to deal with its disadvantages is to automate outbound messages.

‘Canned responses’ and auto-responders can save SMEs hours of manual email reply time. Canned responses are template-style replies to common enquiries, programmed to be sent at a specific time. Auto-responders are similar, but get sent immediately as each inbound email is received.

Some email service providers are so sophisticated that you will be able to segment users based on how they have previously interacted with your business or by what actions they have taken on your website. The only thing you need to do is prepare the series of email replies to be sent when triggered by incoming messages. Some platforms for automating emails are Vero, Office Auto Pilot, Mailchimp and MyEmma.

Kevin Dam’s passion for mobile, marketing and technology has made him a leader in these chosen fields. As a team member and senior digital marketing strategist at online marketing agency, E-Web Marketing, he puts his skills to work in helping his clients stay ahead of the curve in the rapidly-changing digital marketing landscape.

 

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  1. Reblogged this on saleswatchdog.

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