What a tool!

James McCarthy
James McCarthy

Since the first human picked up two stones and bashed them together we have been perfecting our use of tools to help us get shit done. Need to poke a nail through some timber? Need to mow the lawn? What about talk to someone in France? For all of these things and infinite others we use tools. You’re probably reading this on a decent one.

‍Are your tools working with you though? We agree with Jim Collins when he wrote, “Good-to-great companies never use technology as the primary means of igniting a transformation; yet, they are pioneers in the application of carefully selected technologies.”

‍But how should we carefully select tools? We use a few key principles and considerations when we are choosing a new tool.

Will this make us more productive?

Start by asking yourself what it takes to do the job without the tool. In most startups and small businesses you begin by doing everything yourself. As you grow you will find bottlenecks that you can’t keep on top of. You need to save time and hopefully if you choose the right tool you’ll gain something extra in the process.

‍There are costs to implementing any tool. Paying for the tool, set-up time, maintenance time and cost, training the team, continual weeding the garden of mess that will be inevitable. So ask yourself this:‍

Will our ideal tool help us get more work done in the same amount of time?

‍If you know how much time you’re spending on the bottleneck this should be something you can work out somewhat objectively. If you’re not going to save time now or in the near future is this worth it?

Does it fit into our toolbox?

G Suite, Confluence, Xero, Prosperworks, Mailchimp. I could go on. We want to make sure we reduce the amount of repetitive, boring and frankly wasteful work we are doing. It helps to use tools that play nicely together.

When a visitor to our website signs up for our newsletter that’s the only time anyone will ever have to type their name into our system. All of our data is linked from one step to the next.

‍The first place I visit when I’m looking for tools is the add-ons page to our current tools. In my experience, native integration tends to be a good first pass check to see if tools will work well together. If plenty of thought has gone into the way tools are integrated, chances are you’ll get more than you anticipated.

‍By using Cradle your converstaions with clients will join the ecosystem of your other tools. Imagine dialling a frustrated customer directly from your ticketing system and having the details of the call summarised and entered back into the system. Action points are pulled automatically and tasks are set for you so you can get on and do them. The sales team is notified and will pause the upsell until the issues are resolved.

‍These things are only possible if your tools work together.

Make sure that all of your tools work well together

Are we able to be a better system with this thing?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that at work you’re part of a team. It’s all very well doing a great job bringing new business to the company, but if your top sales guy’s new accounts all churn out in six months there is a problem.

‍Likewise, it’s easy for one area of a business to optimise itself at the expense of others. When implementing a new tool we always check to see the negative side effects of the tool. Often something that is great for sales is horrendous for customer success.

‍An example I can give is a botched implementation of SalesForce that I had at Spidertracks. Within three months the transparency between customer support and sales vanished completely. Customer support agents would be ringing customers only hours before a sales agent showed up for a presentation. In the words of Donald Trump, Disaster!

‍A critical step in the evaluation and implementation of any new tool is to involve the other stakeholders early. Get everyone’s input and make sure you’re playing nice with your colleagues. If you save a whole bunch of time but others in your team get overloaded with problems, you haven’t done your job well.

‍Making sure that your business works like a well thought through machine from the inside will have an extra benefit for both your customers and the bottom line. Work that only has to be done once frees up resource for more creative output. And seamless transitions between the different areas of your business only serve to delight your customers, and that’s got to be a good thing!

Keep your existing eco system balanced whenever you introduce a new tool

Is our data secure?

I’ll keep this short and sweet. You don’t want to lose anything, and you don’t want anyone who isn’t meant to see your data seeing it. Full stop.

‍Cloud-based software companies, like ours, give a lot of consideration to this. Make sure you ask your providers how they keep your data safe. Beyond relying on the providers that you use, ensure that you have internal policies that your team adhere to. At Cradle, we try to choose tools that authenticate against a known and well tested single sign on (SSO) system.

‍Internally we insist on always using two factor authentication and nobody is allowed to reuse a password. There is plenty written on this topic. We will post something soon on some basic stuff to get right.

And finally, can we afford it?

If you’re paying your team, you’re spending money to have them do creative and wonderful stuff. In New Zealand that’s going to set you back, on average, $62,000 a year, or around $30 per hour. How many hours more productive time will implementing this tool give you? As a business we budget an extra 5% over the top of salary for tools, training and professional development. People’s time and creativity are expensive, hiring new staff comes with risk, and not providing your team with the right tools kills productivity. Make sure you’re not being penny wise and pound foolish when you consider your next piece of software.

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