It’s a bit strange to see so many organizations working far below their potential simply due to using an outdated, inadequate toolset that is either not fit for the job at hand or doesn’t do it as optimally as something else could. There are many tools out there that can speed up your workflow, improve the quality and accuracy of your results, and increase the overall levels of satisfaction of your customers, and not knowing what they are and how to use them is no longer an excuse.
If you’re in any position that involves leading a team, no matter what size, it’s important that you take the time to familiarize yourself with the current market for productivity tools and learn at least a little about how they can be integrated into your current workflow properly.
Communication That Solves Problems
Communication is, unsurprisingly, the point where many organizations tend to break down first as they continue to grow. As you add more people into the mix, retaining some control over their communication can be a challenging task, especially if they are located in different parts of the world. Add time zones and cultural differences to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.
There are tools that can address these problems in modern, reliable ways, and it’s important that you take the time to explore them carefully in your own work. Slack is a commonly pointed out example of a successful, fully integrated tool for instant messaging and long-term communication that can allow teams to easily share ideas through a variety of different types of materials. If you’re still using just Skype for IMs, something is potentially wrong with the communication in your company.
Planning and Managing Resources
You must also have a good way to manage the way resources are used, as well as the people that are supposed to be handling those resources in the first place. Assigning tasks to different team members, tracking their progress, consolidating the work of different people – these are things that used to take the coordinated efforts of multiple people in the past but can be effectively handled by a digital tool in the present.
These tools sometimes come with a learning curve that’s not to be underestimated though, and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the difference between Kanban and Scrum, as well as other popular similar methodologies if you want to be able to make some sense of what’s going on in your company. Kanbanize have a very useful infographic that looks into Kanban vs Scrum (which you can find through the above link) if you’d like to learn more about it.
Automating the Repetitive Tasks
No matter what kind of work your company does, there will always be some components of it that are either highly repetitive, prone to human error, or both. Companies tend to waste a lot of time and resources on issues coming from these areas, and it’s never a bad idea to consider automating these things if you have access to the right kind of technology. Nowadays, it’s much easier than you might think to set up an automated system for a variety of things.
Of course, have a sensible approach to this – going too fast can quickly put you in a situation that can kill your entire progress. Relying far too much on automation that you don’t entirely understand is a guaranteed way to eventually find yourself stuck as your automation systems start failing one after the other. And when you no longer have the workers to replace them with, things can get messy very fast.
A New Look at Your Data
You’re probably collecting a lot of data about your processes – and if you’re not, you should. The thing about data is that it’s a very tricky resource to utilize correctly, though. Simply having more of it is not good by itself – in fact, it can make things worse without access to the right kinds of analytical tools and processes to make sense of all that information. But business leaders – especially those without a strong technical affinity – often underestimate exactly how much they can do with the data they already have available, and they rarely utilize it to its full potential.
AI and related fields, like machine learning, can be extremely useful in this context, although they also come with a high technical cost for their proper use. You need a lot of experience to know what tools to use and how to apply them to each situation correctly, which is why data scientists are so highly sought after these days. If you can get someone like that on board, they can potentially contribute quite a lot to your work – just make sure that you’re prepared to actually act on the information they provide you with.
Know How Your Time is Spent
Another productivity tool that many companies can benefit from is time tracking. It’s common for organizations to have the wrong idea about how their time is being spent, and what tasks require the most effort. This is inevitable when working with raw human perceptions and nothing else, but you often have the potential to set things up in a much more measured, controlled manner if you know what tools to use.
Time tracking software is not about ensuring your employees are not slacking off – you should ideally not care if someone is occasionally checking their Facebook, as long as work gets done. They can, however, be very useful in ensuring that clients are billed correctly for hourly work, that projects are not steering in the wrong direction with regards to the workload balance, and that everyone is on the same page with regards to their responsibilities.
If your organization relies on computers heavily in its work, it makes sense to look into solutions like these as early as possible in your work. Otherwise, you might find yourself outperformed by competitors who simply know how to manage their time better, even if their product and marketing is inferior to yours. It’s not even a rare occurrence in today’s world, and it’s something you need to be extremely careful about as a leader.