At Nuvola, our focus is on systems improvements to make our clients’ businesses better. We have a number of methods to do this, but before we look at systems we start with the business need. What is it you’re trying to achieve? Why are you trying to do that? What information do you need to run your business? And crucially, how does that information need to flow within your business to achieve your objectives?
All of these points will indicate the systems improvements that need to be in place. So how are we doing with our own systems?
Nuvola’s information islands
Well, we are a growing business, and it turns out we’re suffering exactly the same problem as we try to solve for our clients – let’s call it islands of information. These can be defined in two ways: stores of information that don’t interact well, or departments that hold onto their own data. Obviously, in a small business like ours the latter is less of a problem, although there is still a lot of information in MD James’ head! But we still have lots of places where we store ‘stuff’ about our business:
- Email (through Gmail)
- Google Drive (our main document repository), including various project-specific shared documents. Also Google Tasks and Keep but we don’t use them much
- nuvolaCRM – our own CRM product, this stores sales opportunities, live projects and is used for project time tracking
- Planning app – we’re creating a planning app on our own app platform for advance workload scheduling, this is in process though and we’re using a spreadsheet (!) until we’ve got this fully up and running
- James’ OneNote for note-taking and some to do lists
- Penny’s OneNote
- Paper notebooks
- Asana – used inconsistently though
- AccountsPortal (our accounting system)
- Payroo (payroll system)
- Whatsapp (for one client project)
The big problem is that there isn’t a single place to go to see ‘stuff we need to do’. We know what projects we have on, but for each one information is in different places. We share documents through Google Drive which is awesome, but general notes, to do lists and such like are a bit more random. On the whole they are digitised and on backed up cloud platforms though which is great, but we need some more consistency.
Our systems improvements
So, what’s the plan to solve this? It’s been the subject of much discussion for several months, but finally we’ve decided on our systems improvements. The first is that we’re going to put Asana at the core of our business. For those not familiar with it, it’s a project management tool that allows visualising projects in different ways, quick task entry and assignment, and most importantly for us lots of different ways of sharing and collaborating on tasks. We think we can also use it for note taking, and while OneNote is a fantistic tool, it doesn’t really integrate well with our other systems. It’s worth paying the tenner per user per month we think.
Secondly, for team communication, we’re going to start using Slack. Slack was one of the first ‘threaded chat’ products, the concept that was basically copied by Microsoft with Teams. It’s been common for ages in our industry, and will allow us to invite clients and collaborators as guests. Also, the apprenticeship company we’re about to start working with use it (more about that soon!).
Finally, we are going to trust our own platform and finish our workload planning tool. It does just need a few tweaks, but as always client work tends to take priority! We’d also love to find agencies who might be interested in using it themselves…
So what’s the big takeout for us on this and how does that apply to you? Well obviously, take some time to figure our what your issues are (your information islands and flows). Look at how you can consolidate your systems and do some research in what’s out there. We’ve looked hard at how much we want to build and how much we want to buy off the shelf and think the balance is about right. We have built some good software, but where we can really add value is in filling those gaps that you just can’t get off the shelf.
Finally, when you’ve worked out where your gaps are, drop us a line and we can help you fill them!