Keep it simple

Using Mindmaps - VBP
Odds are that none (or not all) of your assistants and/ or support staff will be located in your office or home, so you need tools to help you communicate, exchange and share information and keep each other up to date.

The first two articles in this series talked about letting go and how to prepare to be in a position to accept help and support and the basics of how to work effectively with an assistant or Virtual Assistant. However, it doesn’t end there. It’s unlikely that your assistant or team will be located in your office or home, so you need tools to help you communicate, exchange and share information and keep each other up to date.
I’m not going to go into specifics on any products in this article (will do so in future ones) but I would like to highlight some pitfalls of which you should be aware when selecting tools and Apps. Plus, if you need any help selecting tools or getting them set up, we can help.

Selecting the right App
Let’s start by looking at how you select the various tools that you need to make you more efficient. Say for example that you are looking for a project planner or todo list, one that you can share with others, and keep track of what you and they are doing. You may search on Google for project planners or todo lists, and if you do you will get listings which include titles like “The 10 Top Project Management Tools” or the “Top 7 To Do List Apps”. Good start you may think, so you go through the first list and read the various reviews. Ok, you think, but how do these compare with the todo list Apps? You notice that there are a couple that appear in both lists, clearly contenders. Next step, you find that you’ve clicked through to one of the sites and are maybe viewing an intro video describing the App and what it can do for your business. Seems really good, so you download the trial version, demo or free version. You start by setting up a few projects or activities that you do on a regular basis.

Now if you are like me you get to a point where there is something that you cannot quite get the hang of, so you look online for some help. Whilst doing this you come across another App that claims to be all that the one that you are using is and more. So, you take a look at that one, and yes, it does look quite good. Maybe you should have a look at that as well. You see where I’m going with this – it’s the new “Shiny Object Syndrome” and we are all in danger of falling into the trap if we are not looking out for it.

Avoiding “Shinny Object Syndrome”
The real key to avoiding the shinny object trap is to be clear what you want the App to do before you start your search and certainly before you start using any of them. List the “must haves” and the “nice to haves” and then on that basis decide on a shortlist. Make sure that what you choose is actually going to help make you more efficient. Check against the processes and workflows that you’ve identified in your business (see the previous article in this series) and make sure that the App contributes to making at least one or more of your processes more streamlined, time efficient, or maybe it can even eliminate one or two. By all means try out a couple of them but do not get too invested in any one until you’ve identified a clear favourite.

However you get to it, let’s assume that you’ve decided (well pretty much decided) on a project planner. It consolidates a number of strands within your business and you like the user interface. Now comes the detail part and the part where the shine becomes that little less shinny. You get down to more detailed implementation. You recall that you do need to be able to share various projects and tasks with your assistant(s) and you would also like a calendar to work alongside the project planner, a calendar which synchronises with your regular calendar. No problem, there are add-ons available, but they come at an additional cost. Also, you discover that you can share everything with your assistants but after the trial period that also costs extra, or at best is quite limited in the free version. Maybe you can do without the calendar or ability to share. It would be good though, and after all the cost is not that much extra. Oh, and being able to store and share documents within the App and in the cloud would be good and that’s available, great, and again it’s not that much extra per month. And so it goes, gradually up-selling you on more and more features.

The App also has a number of other features that you can’t see a need for now, but in the future who knows? Best have the option. It’s a bit like the fear of missing something important which stops us unsubscribing from newsletters and mailings – just in case something really useful comes along. In all probability you will never need the extra features in the App. Worst case would be deciding that you should change the way you do things to accommodate the features of an App. This is not unusual, we see it regularly, but the rule we follow is that if you didn’t know that you needed it then you probably didn’t need it!

Anyway, back to your selected App. After maybe a week or two you’ve started to work with the new App and have become more familiar with it and it’s not quite so exiting (or shinny) as it was. But it is doing the job. However, in the course of your work whilst on the net you come across another project planner/ todo list which you may have dismissed first time around (Google knows that you were interested in these sorts of Apps and doesn’t know/ care that you have made a choice, so still pops up targeted ads based on your search history) and this one has the option to share without any additional cost. Maybe you should look into this one? It’s also got a really nice user interface – perhaps you have been hasty in your choice of App? We are almost back to square one again!

Stand by your App
This is when it is time to step away and get back to what you were doing. The fact is that any of the Apps in either of the original lists that you found would likely do the job for you. The incremental benefits of one over the other come down to trade offs and often subjective judgements, whatever the respective websites promoting the Apps will tell you. They are carefully designed to make you feel uneasy about any choice other than their product, and they are very persuasive. However, the bottom line is that flipping between Apps is not going to help your business. Get to know the one you have chosen well and get the maximum benefit from it. And stick to it. The key is not the extra features of one App over another but the way that you implement your chosen one and fit it into your business processes.

In follow on articles we will be looking at specific tools that we and some of our clients use. These include Apps to not only help with the business processes but also to identify the key business processes in the first place. We’ll start with a tool to help see the bigger picture and enable you to drill down to identify the individual processes that make your business work.

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