By Paul Lancaster (Plan Digital UK)
Technology means the nature of work is changing rapidly for some with others at risk of being left behind in terms of efficiency and productivity.
I’ve already blogged about how the ‘Paperless Office’ is finally here as cloud-based tools enable people to collaborate, share and update information online from anywhere but how do you know which ones to choose and how to use them effectively in your business?
We’re all busy people so the thought of taking time out to explore and trial new apps or software that may or may not result in a noticeable improvement to your working practices can be off-putting and therefore unlikely to get done.
From a personal point of view, I now run my entire business in the cloud via my MacBook Air and iPhone using the following cloud-based tools:
- My WordPress blog
- Sage One Accounting
- Google Hangouts
- Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud
- Google Drive
- Google Analytics
These tools allow me to work from literally anywhere with an internet connection including my home, a co-working space like Campus North where my business is based, a client’s office, a coffee shop, on the bus or on the train. Almost all of them can be used on an individual basis and have been easy for me to pick up over time with little or no training but some, like Slack, have needed a bit of guidance and only work if other people in your business, your clients or wider network are on there too.
Connected and informed
If you’ve not used Slack (or one of the many alternatives) before, it’s a private messaging tool for teams where all your messages and files can be shared in one place either with everyone under certain themes or privately with individual members. Like a cross between a social network, instant messenger and video chat tool rolled into one, one immediate benefit is the reduction of internal email which is widely regarded as a major time suck and as the founder of the annual global #NoEmailDay campaign, is something I’m a big fan of using. However, the real benefit of using a team collaboration tool like Slack is how quickly it will make you and your colleagues feel more connected and informed which in turn will help everyone make better decisions at work.
I was first introduced to Slack when I worked at Sage by the ultra-efficient developers who used it to collaborate with their colleagues around the world. Although I could immediately see the value, none of my colleagues in the marketing or business development teams who I worked with the most were on it so there was no point in me using it either.
Internal champions and external advisers
So, it was only when I started working for Tech North, the Government-backed organisation set up to promote digital entrepreneurship across the North of England, that I could really use Slack properly and appreciate just how valuable it was for keeping me informed and engaged with my colleagues as we worked on the move and in different geographical locations. Even so, what became a hugely important tool for collaboration still required my excellent colleague Laura to take time out to set things up for the team and show us all how it could be used to share information with each other and be more effective in our roles.
In my opinion, every team needs an internal champion like her who will lead by example and show their colleagues how to make the most of the technology, otherwise it simply won’t get used. But even before that stage, you need a trusted expert and adviser who can help you understand what problems you are trying to overcome, what appropriate solutions are available and how best to implement them in your business.
This could be your tech-savvy team mate or your in-house IT Manager (if you have one) but if you’re unsure of what technology is available, the potential benefits to your company and how to adopt it with the minimum of fuss, I recommend speaking to an external consultancy like Forfusion whose business is all about using the latest technology to improve efficiency and productivity for their clients. This can save you a lot of hassle, time and stress and lead to a huge improvement in efficiency, productivity and even happiness in your team!