How many companies have you worked for that had an infuriating number of applications to adopt? And how many of those tools were completely disconnected from the others, siloed to a particular team that further separated the team from the rest of the company? The proverbial red tape caused by incompatible tools can slow, or even altogether halt, workflows. Whether you’re a new company just starting out but planning for scalability, or an established company that foresees growth in your near future, picking the right tools to scale with your business is critical for happy employees and better productivity. So how do you pick the right tools? Here are the top considerations you should be making.
First things first — you need to determine what needs you’re looking to meet with the software you select. This may seem obvious; you may think, “I just need something to track projects,” or, “I need a tool to log coaching notes.” We suggest thinking like a journalist to make sure you make the best choice for your business by asking the five why’s: who, what, when, where, and ho(w). Define who will be using the tool, what they will be using it for, how often they will need to use it, where the tool will be stored, and how you’ll keep it up-to-date and running smoothly.
We don’t recommend trying to come up with all of these answers alone, either. Reach out to the team members who will use this tool, and ask what their needs are. You should also ask who they work with, and then go talk to those colleagues to ensure that anything you select is accessible to them, as well. When you have a detailed game plan of must-have tool functions, this will help you decide which tool checks all (or at least the most) of your boxes.
Once you’ve narrowed down your tool selection to a few top options, you can whittle your choices down further by reviewing the on-boarding process for each tool. Does the software come with built-in training? Is training even needed, or is the tool so self-explanatory that the UX is intuitive and your team could start using it right away? The less training a tool requires, the higher the likelihood there is that your team will adopt it quickly, and enjoy using it.
Make sure you’re not just considering short-term on-boarding. Remember that any new team members who join your business will also need to learn your tools. If a tool is complicated enough to warrant training with a trainer, that’s an added cost both for the trainer, and the time it will take to train new employees. The easier a tool is to use, the lower your overhead costs will be in the future.
Speaking of costs, budget is an obvious consideration you’ll need to make when selecting the right tools for your business. There may be up-front costs that you need to invest in when you’re picking a new tool, but also consider long-term costs of things like training and tool maintenance. Some tools now have subscription-based costs, and others will have larger up-front costs but lifelong support beyond that.
While there are some great free tools for team productivity on the market, the reason we have cost listed as the third consideration is because if a tool doesn’t meet your business’ needs or is difficult to understand and use, the time your team wastes without an effective tool might be more costly in the long-run. Set a reasonable budget for your business, but make sure you don’t sacrifice function and quality for short-term savings.
If your business already has well-established tools in place that you don’t want to, or can’t, replace, compatibility will be a crucial consideration. Even if you’re starting from scratch, selecting a tool that is compatible with other industry-leading tools will help ensure that you avoid the dreaded tool silo. For example, if your team already uses Slack on a regular basis, Google Drive may be a great option for file sharing for your team, because it can be easily integrated with Slack.
Alternatively, you can aim to find a tool that does everything you need, all in one application. CROOW is a creative collaboration and project management platform that includes project and time tracking, feedback and client approval processes, file sharing, a stock photo library, Gantt charts and much more. If you determine that one tool can meet most or all of your needs, this can be a great way to reduce overhead costs long-term and keep one tool as your system of record.
Another way to avoid hidden costs with your tools long-term is by selecting a tool for your business that is reliable. While even the largest companies can sometimes have outages, you’ll want to aim to adopt a tool that is largely stable. User reviews are a great way to road-test reliability. Whether you look at reviews in the App Store, or sift through a specific software review website like G2 or Capterra, user reviews can help you check for weaknesses you’d otherwise only find after using the software yourself.
Our final recommended consideration is the support offered by the tool. Is there a useful Help menu or User’s Guide that comes with the application? Is the software supported by a team, and if so, are they easy to contact and work with? Sometimes things go wrong, and when that happens, you’ll want to know you can rely on your software’s support team for assistance.
If you carefully consider these six details when you’re adopting new tools for your business, you’ll set yourself up for long-term success as you scale and grow.