The Amazing New Business Tools You Need to Grow Your Business
Full disclosure: This article’s title is clickbait.
In reality, we think you may not need a bunch of trendy new business tools. This article will give you the info you need to decide that for yourself.
We understand that there are a lot of popular business apps that many people say you need to use. This creates the feeling that you must use them too, in order to stay competitive.
However, if a tool does not fit with your company’s strategy, it can end up being a waste of money, mental bandwidth, and your team’s precious time. This article is a guide to help you assess which tools you need, and which you’re better off without.
Let’s begin by understanding the essence of a business tool.
What’s a Business Tool?
Human beings have been using tools for about 1.85 million years. It’s one of the key reasons we’ve been able to master the natural world. It started with a simple rock that served many purposes. This first tool allowed humans to hunt, dig, build, and butcher.
Countless tools were invented as humans evolved and moved from caves to civilized communities. These tools allowed us to further differentiate from other animals by cultivating land, creating standardized languages, and mass producing products. Many of these tools have been used for so long and only serve a specific purpose, so it’s obvious when and how to use them. Forks and screwdrivers, for example.
On the other hand, digital business tools are complex and relatively new. Business software began being widely used just 30 years ago. Moreover, these applications have changed dramatically—and continue to change—in a short amount of time. Every month dozens of new business tools appear, each one promising to transform the business landscape. Some even keep this audacious promise.
In a nutshell, a digital business tool is any piece of technology you use to operate your company.
You may not even realise how many business tools your company is already using. These tools include: HR applications; analytical tools; CRMs; online collaboration tools; core business applications; e-mail; instant messaging and enterprise social media tools; and virtual meeting tools. The list goes on and on.
I will admit that I myself did not realize how many tools our company is using before I started working on this article. 18!
Siftery.com allows you count all the tools that are used in your organization and compare it to what other companies use. So I did some investigating.
The tech giant Google uses more that 500 tools. Nike uses 320. General Motors: 180. I also poured through a ton of manufacturing companies in the United States. The company with the least amount of tools still used more than 20!
Most SME companies use between 15 and 80 business tools.
Business Tool Overload
If so many companies--including the prestigious ones just mentioned--use a bunch of business tools, how can more be bad?
The answer’s simple. You may be wasting too much time, attention, and money on your applications.
A lot of the tools used by companies operate on a freemium pricing model. That means some features are free--but you need to pay in order to get the best features. Most of the paid versions cost less than 1000€ a year. Seems like an inexpensive investment to help run your company, right?
But, as we mentioned, most companies use at least 20 different tools. These small amounts add up to a significant sum.
We’re not saying you should never pay for business tools. We’re saying that it’s important to get the most out of each tool you do invest in; that way you avoid redundant costs, leaving you more cash for necessary expenses.
Wasted Time and Attention
Think of your workspace as a tool box. Every employee brings his own preference, biases, and knowledge of the tools you use. Each task you need to accomplish requires you to think about which tool will work best for the job.
For example, when you need to tell an employee something. Should you call him? email him? Should you use Slack? The more possible tools you have for the task, the more time and energy you’ll spend on the decision.
Having different tools also means that you need to educate your employees on how to use each and every one of them. A huge time investment. What’s worse, this education process does not ensure that your employees will use the right tool, especially if you have multiple tools for the same task.
Even if you have useful tools that your employees know how to operate there’s a good chance there will still be a lot of wasted time. According to the 2016 HubSpot Global Tools Survey, 75% of sales and marketing employees spend up to one hour a day entering data and connecting data from different tools. That’s time spent transposing data instead of making sales calls, servicing accounts, or working on creative.
Also, staying with the tool-box metaphor, imagine you have your tools in a separate drawer and each of these drawers requires its own lock. These locks represent the security needed to protect your business from a data breach. Each data-using tool is a potential hole for hackers. Consequently, each of these holes requires you to spend time monitoring them--or hire someone who will keep them secure.
One thing is for sure: When it comes to business tools, more is not always better.
Steps to a Solution
Map Out Your Business Tools
Siftery.com, the website I mentioned previously, is an easy way to map out your company’s current business tools. The site will automatically categorize your tools according to the function(s) they serve. In order to ensure a holistic view of the company, employees from different departments should be involved in making your map.
Think of Your Tools as an Assembly Line
Now that the business tools have been mapped out, businesses need to think of them as they would any physical tools. An assembly line is the most efficient way to use tools.
Let’s use the classic Ford assembly line as an example. Productivity skyrocketed when Ford divided his company’s labor into workstations. The car moved from station to station; each station had people with certain skills and certain tools performing a specific task.
There are 3 main elements to creating an efficient assembly-line model:
1. Workstations contain easily accessible tools, and only the tools needed to do the specific task(s) at this particular station. Having the minimum number of easily accessible tools ensures speed.
2. The employees are educated on the tools at their workstation. They know how their tools work and, more importantly, know which tool to use for a specific task. This element eliminates confusion and time wasted debating on which tool to use.
3. A conveyor belt connects all of the workstations--the car is easily moved throughout the entire production process.
So think of the organisation in the same way you would think of a factory, only instead of a car going through the process, it will be your product or service. The workstations are the different departments or people that you have on your team. The conveyor belt is a tool; a person or process connecting all of your departments.
Analyze the Efficiency of Each Department
Now it’s time to go workstation by workstation, measuring the efficiency of each department. Ideally, you want to speak to both team leaders and subordinates in order to get a 360-degree view.
Ask employees if they believe they have all the tools they need to do their jobs. What are the most common problems they face? Do they think there are tasks or tools that hinder rather than help their performance? Do they feel like they received enough training on the tools they’re required to use?
After this valuable feedback is collected it’s time to process it. Look for common themes; things many employees like or dislike. Synthesize this information.
Finally, analyze the efficiency of each department. Based on employee feedback and your own observation, are there areas where there’s obvious overlap? Are your business tools being used to their full potential? How can you streamline and minimize the number of tools used by your company?
Is a Digital Business Tool the Solution to Your Problem?
It’s important to remember why a certain tool was adopted in the first place.
For instance, say you started using a project management tool because your project management processes were lagging. But months after adoption there are still many issues. Did you really need new software? Or, instead, should you be educating your employees on specific processes? Or should you maybe hire someone--or outsource the process?
Bottom line: buying the newest gizmo does not guarantee a boost in productivity.
Integration is Imperative
Tool integrations are like the conveyor belt in the factory.
Instead of having to manually carry the car from one workstation to another the information can be simply transmitted from one department to another. If the belt is broken, your company's nimbleness will surely suffer.
Integration development can be costly. So when you are reviewing potential tools make sure that you are buying tools that easily integrate with one another. If you’re currently using multiple tools that cannot be integrated, you should really be looking for alternatives.
Integration is the best way to ensure an efficient organisation.
Educate Your Employees on the New Tools
Talk with team leaders before you make a final decision about which tools will be used and which will be cut. It will be challenging for changes to be implemented if everyone does not understand why they are needed beforehand.
Furthermore, change is difficult. Many employees--even the ones who said there were problems with the current tools--will be resistant. This makes it even more important that you explain why you’re using this new tool, and how it will benefit every employee. Also remind them that this change was based on their own feedback.
It should not be the employee’s responsibility to learn a new tool that you consider to be mission-critical. Don’t leave him lost at sea--throw him a liferaft. Educate him.
The 3 Business Tools You Absolutely Need to Grow Your Business
The title promised you some new business tools that will grow your business; however, no tool can revolutionise a business if it is not implemented strategically.
First, assess the needs and goals of your business. Next, take an inventory of the business tools you’re currently using and get feedback from employees on these tools. Look for overlap and ways to maximize the efficiency of your current tools through integration and streamlining. Only after doing all this should you see if, based on your goals and needs, there’s a gap that only a new business tool can fill.
Ultimately, smart analysis, strategic planning of processes, and assembly-line integration will help you achieve spectacular growth. These 3 are the amazing (not-so-) new business tools you need to grow your business.