The Software Tools in My Company's Arsenal
Startups need to do a lot with a little. The right software can make a big difference and picking the right “stack” to handle all your company's key functions is a critical decision.
The end of the year is a great time to look at your technology systems to see what’s working. My company, Recruiter.com, recently made some software choices to help our team of 15 in multiple locations stay in touch, collaborate and be more productive.
I've shared my thinking about the software that my staff and I selected in the hopes that some of these choices might be helpful to you.
1. Customer relationship management software.
I choose Insightly mostly because of its very tight integration with a range of Google apps (now called Google for Work). It was easy to learn and to deploy through the Google log-ins and fairly priced.
“One of the most important aspects of purchasing a sales system is the number of people using it," TechnologyAdvice advisor Cameron Council tells me via email. "Some sales software systems are specifically designed for smaller teams, while others work great in larger organizations."
"Interoperability with other systems is key, but not every add-on and special feature is always necessary or useful," Cameron adds. An add-on might be a marketing-automation function to schedule "distribution of content that will continue nurturing your relationships.”
2. Help desk and customer-support software.
For my company's help desk, I chose Freshdesk, a product that feels like a robust, feature-rich service.
Freshdesk provides an intuitive on-site chat function, a ticket-logging feature and customer-service-agent management. One worthy feature is the ability to set up a custom toll-free number, replete with a phone tree that logs support tickets for the correct agents.
Support software becomes expensive when multiple licenses must be purchased, so spend some time on your decision. Pay attention to the quality of the design and user interface. Decide how your staffers wish to interact with customers via online chat, ticket logging, email or phone, and then choose a platform built around it.
3. Cloud storage and backup and file-sharing tools.
I choose Google Docs and Google Drive for the strength of their real-time collaboration possibilities. Developing documents in Google Docs seems more like chatting than writing, which is amazing for working in teams, especially remote ones.
A Google Drive makes it easy to comment and collaborate on documents and files. The only downside is that the drive can become impossibly disorganized without a clear file organization. Also the folder-sharing features can be somewhat nonintuitive for new users.
“Many free platforms are easy to implement and use, but organization can often become a challenge," Cameron explains. "The size of the team is a key factor in the type of file-sharing system purchased" or how a free platform is organized.
Whether you select free or purchased software, opt for something that can be customized as the business grows, Cameron writes, adding, "Understand the types and sizes of files you’ll be creating and how you’d like to share them to account for storage space and accessibility."
Cameron adds that some cloud storage systems offer server backup and encryption so identify the company's needs so as to not buy unneccessary functions.
4. Issue tracking.
Tracking bugs seems like a small aspect in a company’s workflow until it has a lot of users. Effective issue tracking is vital to the ongoing development of a product. My development and testing teams chose DoneDone for its simple design, robust reporting feature and strong user management.
A ton of issue-tracking tools exist: Decide whether your company can track issues by using a function inside another tool, such as a project management or collaboration tool. If you opt for a standalone tool, decide if you want an open source or a software as a service product. If your company has a technical staff, open source tools might suffice.
5. Project and task management software.
I chose Wrike for its user-friendly design, Facebook-style, real-time activity feed, easily organized and nested folders and granular control over the permission levels of users.
Wrike offers a nice balance between ease of use and on-demand complexity for more technical users. The only downside is that certain new features are limited to a costly enterprise edition.
“Most startups would probably benefit from the online collaborative workspace provided by project management software, especially those with multiple teams and projects" or widely distributed staffers, Cameron writes by email.
After a company identifies a project-management setup that's suits each department, Cameron says, "most platforms can be modified to work with almost any methodology and any size team, while a few are designed specifically for visual engagement."
Related: Apps Our Pros Can't Live Without
6. Social media management tools.
Buffer solved the problem of scheduling social-media updates through simple browser extensions, which is why I chose the company's software. My firm uses the business version of the Buffer tool in order for multiple users to access and update our key social-media networks.
"If you are simply trying to post content and increase visibility," tap "free tools to help manage and schedule your accounts," Cameron says. Expanded social-media suites provide more comprehensive strategies for businesses "interested in tracking analytics, driving leads, or engaging in social listening," he adds.
"Many of these larger suites also have free basic plans," he notes.
7. Web analytics software.
I chose Google Analytics for its real-time traffic data and goal conversion tracking and it’s completely free. Plus its iPhone app feeds my unhealthy addiction to web traffic data.
Acknowledging that every corporate website is unique, Cameron says identify the data vital to your organization. Google's free tools "help you track to see which keywords your business is ranking for in its search engine," he adds, noting that other software products specialize in search engine optimization and offer services such as A/B testing and heat mapping.
8. HR software
My company was using TribeHr to manage employees' time off and for certain performance-management functions. But my employees now just use a Google Doc to enter their time off and don’t input any kind of further reporting.
My company has adopted many of the principles of a results-only-work-environment or ROWE and I thought it made sense to keep things simple. Our company is small enough that the results recorded usually speak for themselves. We handle performance issues with conversations.
“If you do want to implement a full HR platform, you need to decide what you want to track and what you want it to control," Cameron says. Some platforms offer personal time off, health insurance, payroll tracking features. "You’ll want it to have an easy-to-use dashboards," for the users.