Business tools: How many is too many?
Is there such a thing as using too many business tools in the workplace? If your employees are spending more time struggling with tools and less time doing their core tasks, it’s time to step back and reevaluate your systems.
I was a shy kid growing up, and books came to be my closest friends. I’d carry a book with me wherever I’d go, so I’d never be alone or bored, even in a room full of strangers.
A couple of decades later, when I landed a job as an editor at a major publishing house, I couldn’t have been happier. I’d get to immerse myself in words and get paid for it! What could be better?
Molding and shaping text came naturally to me, but I realized very soon that working in a publishing house wasn’t just about playing with words.
For one thing, there were a lot of new things to learn.
I had to acquaint myself with house styles — serial commas, spelling conventions, and so forth. I also had to familiarize myself with InDesign, the standard desktop software application used for publishing. I underwent some training at the office, did some tinkering on my own, and received a lot of tips from helpful colleagues. Within a few weeks, I was completely comfortable with the software and already getting my hands dirty on my very first book.
So far so good, right? But there was more to being an editor than just researching, checking for grammar and flow, rewriting, and proofreading.
It involved a whole range of ancillary activities, and it meant using a variety of different tools and systems to get the job done. Here’s a list of some of them:
· Microsoft excel: To maintain trackers for every single page of the book through the life cycle of the project, and to assign tasks. Also, to maintain lists of images, costs, glossary terms, and so on.
· Calendar app: To create and update ever-changing book schedules.
· Google drive: To share checklists, style guides, and images internally and with authors and consultants.
· Google mail and chat: For in-house and out-of-house communication.
· An internal server system: Used to store and share all files to do with the book.
· FTP system: To share heavy book files with consultants and other external contributors.
· Sticky notes: For my personal reminders, task lists, and note keeping
Additionally, I needed to visit an HR portal to regulate attendance, apply for leaves, and submit documents for tax purposes.
There was yet another portal where I had to indicate names of projects I had worked on during the month and for how long — a time allocation system used to calculate project costs.
A third portal served as a repository of information for all published and in-production books.
There were a whole bunch of other such systems in use, but I’ll spare you the details.
You get the picture though, right?
Take my word for it, that’s a lot of tools and systems to have to go through on a day-in day-out basis. Sure, with time one would get accustomed to using them. But for a new employee, it was intimidating.
Even after I got used to the processes, most of my work day would be spent signing in and out of systems and switching between apps and browser windows. I’d end up struggling to find time to actually sit and do my core work — that is, edit and create books.
And don’t even get me started on the number of log in IDs and passwords that I had to create and remember. I had a separate excel file just to keep track of all my passwords.
Now, bear in mind that this is just the account of one employee frittering time away because there was no single, unified, all-encompassing system in place. It’s dizzying when you start thinking of the problem at an organizational level. Hundreds of employees, all wasting away precious work hours dealing with multiple tools that are, ironically, meant to increase productivity. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?
Cut to six years later, when I decided to make a career transition to digital content and marketing. I started working for web-based project management application startup Orgzit.
On my very first day at the job, co-founder Nitin Verma told me that I would have to start using Orgzit to manage and track all my tasks — core and ancillary. He also discouraged me from using instant messaging or email to communicate with the team, and urged me to use Orgzit for all exchanges.
There were two things going through my head during that conversation:
1. So now I have to get used to using yet another new tool? Just great…
2. This tool is going to do everything that Excel, Google Drive, email, and chat do together? Wow!
I realized in no time that my fears about having to learn to use yet another tool were completely unfounded. I spent less than an hour looking through Orgzit and was amazed at its simplicity and intuitiveness. And yes, the tool could do everything Nitin had promised and more!
As part of the Orgzit team, I am now using the tool for:
1. Tracking all my work
We have separate lists for content and marketing tasks. For each item on each task list, we enter task IDs, task expectations and plan, assignee name, target date, and task status. Everyone knows at a glance who’s working on what, and there’s absolute clarity on deliverables. This video that my colleague, Growth Hacker Kartik Dulloo, made shows you how:
In Orgzit, it’s really easy to navigate to the comments, notes, or feedback that you need to access at any given point of time. That’s because all of this information is stored in a very logical manner. Say I’m working on a case study. I’ll create a record for it in the content task list, and all communication to do with the task will take place inside the record. If I need to find the brief or feedback for the case study, all I need to do is visit the record. Beats having to sift through emails to find what you need any day!
3. Sharing files
Whenever I need to share any kind of document with the team, such as reference images or drafts for approval, I simply drag and drop the file into the relevant record in Orgzit.
I’m also using Orgzit to request leaves and file invoices. In fact, Orgzit is pretty much the only tool that I’m using in the workplace now. And the amount of time I’m saving is unbelievable. Because there’s a single system that I’m logging on to for all my work, my day is freed up to pursue my core tasks, and my productivity is at an all-time high.
Oh, and did I mention there’s only one log in ID and password that I need to remember now? Yay!