Productivity is important for business success. It’s the direct result of process efficiency and the effectiveness of instituted policies, and also reflects the right balance of tools and human talent. For small and large businesses alike, productivity improvement is the key to remain relevant, competitive, and profitable.
Challenges to productivity are numerous and diverse, particularly in terms of manpower management, budgeting, and deadlines, all while answering customer demands at the same time. These challenges, however, can be managed, and it all starts with pairing a solid team with the right productivity tools.
All that said, here are seven small business tools to help you unleash your team’s collective capabilities and double your productivity in no time.
Project management: Binfire
Binfire is a cloud-based collaboration and project management app that supports both the Agile methodology and traditional methods like Waterfall. It uses kanban, Gantt and burndown charts, and a centralized workspace to create a virtual office for traditional or distributed teams. Its interactive whiteboard feature allows teams to collaborate and brainstorm anywhere.
In addition, features such as robust task management, time tracking, bug tracking, and message boards let teams plan, track, and manage projects in real time, whether on the go or while at the office. Google Calendar integration allows due dates for all tasks and bugs to sync with Google Calendar.
Binfire also provides a dedicated storage for personal and team files and allows file importing from Dropbox and Google Drive. It stores all versions of files automatically and allows access to each version easily. Because your data resides in the cloud, project members can access dashboards anywhere there’s an internet connection, even from their mobile devices.
Collaborative editing: Google Docs
If you’re looking for a free word processing application that can handle light to moderate workload, Google Docs is the software of choice for freelancers and SMEs. No need to download anything. All you need is the internet and a Google account to access the app using any browser.
Google Docs works very much like MS Word, but the beauty of it is it allows collaborative editing of documents in real time. Whether on a desktop or mobile device, people granted access and editing rights can make changes to a document anytime. Edits are seen in real time, and the revisions automatically appear on the user’s screen, with the name of the collaborator next to their cursor to see who is typing.
Email management: SaneBox
Like it or not, email is a necessary evil we all have to deal with. And with the sheer number of business and personal emails sent per day (215.3 billion in 2016, according to Radicati), decluttering your inbox can be frustrating and time-consuming. This is exactly the reason why SaneBox came to existence – to simplify email management.
Just enter your email address on the SaneBox site and give them permission to access your account. The app then starts analyzing the contents of your inbox. Additional information, such as your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, can be fed to SaneBox so it can more accurately gauge your emailing preferences.
Note that SaneBox doesn’t delete any of your emails. Upon activation, it simply organizes your messages into preset folders like SaneLater, SaneBlackHole, SaneArchive, and SaneNews. The tool alerts you of messages you may have missed and lets you train its algorithm by dragging emails to the appropriate preset folders, so it sends the right message to the right folder next time.
Note-taking is essential to getting things done, and Evernote simplifies the process of collecting work notes, personal thoughts, and even an entire web page with the Evernote Web Clipper, a browser extension available to both Chrome and Firefox users.
Notes can be shared with anyone in your team, and the app has a convenient tagging and search tool to help you find any notes you’ve saved.
Communication management: Slack
Slack is a web-based tool that uses chat rooms called “channels” to facilitate communication among colleagues. Team members can create rooms to start a conversation about a specific topic, effectively reducing a team’s reliance on emails for collaboration. For one-on-one conversations, Slack lets you create private channels or send direct messages.
You can access Slack via a web browser or by downloading the app on your mobile device. You can upload and share files, revise them, as well as search through past conversations. Slack integrates with third-party apps likeTrello, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Zendesk. It archives messages, notifications, files, and projects, all of which you can search for later.
Document sharing: Dropbox
Dropbox is a file storage and sharing system that ensures your work files are readily available wherever you choose to work, on whatever device. This means a document or spreadsheet you saved to Dropbox using your home desktop will be available to you on your laptop, tablet, and even your smartphone anytime.
Big files, such as videos and high-resolution images, can be shared using a download link. And even those without Dropbox accounts can download shared files as long as they have the link to download them from.
Financial management: FreshBooks
FreshBooks is a financial management app built for service-based small businesses and freelancers. It lets you personalize your invoices and other financial documents, converts timesheets into invoices for faster billing and payments, and sets alerts for late payments. The software keeps track of expenses and helps you control how much you spend for every project.
FreshBooks also has an auto-billing feature where payments can be collected online via PayPal or credit card. It also has a downloadable mobile app for iOS and Android users.
A staggering 80% of businesses fail within the first 18 months. A scary prospect, no doubt, but this should remind everyone that starting and sustaining a business is no cakewalk. Carefully choosing the right companion tools can do wonders for your productivity, especially when you set realistic goals and make no excuses for your actions.