I’ve been thinking a lot about the productivity tools we use every day at and wanted to share what and why we use the tools we do. Every day new tools are coming onto the market. So, we try and make sure we test those that could be useful now or in the future.
The list below is the top 10 that we use several times a week, if not every day. I hope you find a few things you had not previously heard of. Or perhaps you have but have not had a chance to try it yourselves.
1. Google Apps
First off the ranks is the Google Apps Suite. When Google first introduced in 2006, it was pretty vanilla. But they believed in the product and have turned it into something essential for businesses of any size.
Front and centre of the whole suite is Google Mail (Gmail) which manages your team’s emails. Then add to that some great collaborative tools to encourage working together and sharing, using Google Drive, Docs, Sheets and Drawing (our designer loves what I can create in here).
My Personal favourite of the tools is Google Keep, and it’s a bit of a hidden gem. It’s designed to help keep organised, creating lists that can be shared and worked on with your team. It’s not as advanced as others like Evernote, but simple and part of the Google Apps Suite.
And don’t forget, all of the above have mobile apps!
2. Product Plan
Every software business needs to be able to plan their product roadmap. I won’t lie, it’s not an easy thing to do well. What we found was that the simpler the tool, the better it worked for the team – and that’s the thing. Especially when your parking lot (or dream list) gets too big.
This was actually the fourth tool we used and was a recommendation from fellow Elevate61 startup, Adepto. Straight away it had a wonderful simplicity to it. It did what it needed to, and didn’t drown in options. You can export your plan, share them and not get lost.
That’s not to say there aren’t other great tools out there. We tried Aha! and ProdPad and we liked them, but didn’t love them. For Aha! in particular, you ended up drowning in options and settings. Eventually, the team just decided that it wasn’t making anything easier.
The last point is something that you will find is a common theme in this list. It needs to make things easier to be one of our best tools. In our experience, there are too many business tools that just solve a problem, often using brute force rather than actually trying to make people want to – in fact, enjoy – using them. That makes them a good productivity tool for us.
Anyone that has any experience working with software will know Jira. The most significant success story of Australia’s startup scene for a good reason. It has a size and scale that is unmatched in productivity tool for software.
First, for those that don’t know what it is or what it does, it manages the tasks that developers have to work on – known as tickets. That sounds simple, right? You could do that in a spreadsheet such as Excel.
Well, yes. But that wouldn’t be as integrated into everything the development team uses, nor would it be as flexible. Literally, there’s an integration for everything but the kitchen sink – sure someone is working on that. It’s kind of like the Swiss Army Knife of software management tools.
It can be overwhelming at times as it does so much and is quite a brute force solution to a problem at times – which goes against my earlier comment. But we have stuck with is because it’s so integrated with our other primary development tools including BitBucket and Confluence in particular. It really ties everything together in our system. And, it allows us to track the amount of work assigned and performed for given tasks. Giving us break-downs of how everything is performing in our dev team.
And, being such well-developed tool, it does offer a lot of opportunities to add more (or less) information to suit your needs. And critically given how much information it contains, you can streamline the options to suit you. It really is a tool that will scale from the very beginnings of a small startup, all the way up to Enterprise grade.
The team has found that productivity is much improved through the level of visibility and planning we can do in Jira.
Again, this is focused on software but is a productivity tool that concentrates on managing the code the team produces. The main priority is to allow the team to work together and code together, allowing them to work on a project together and keep our product moving forward. And preferably not breaking at any point, but making it easy to fix and identify the issue when it does.
This is another Atlassian tool that is very integrated with Jira especially. Where GitHub is good, this is great, especially after they added Pipelines. For our team, that has massively improved productivity by allowing us to automate a lot of deployment work, allowing us to move our development to Continuous Deployment.
We do still use Github for our open source code as it’s a great way to involve other developers as well as give back to the development community.
OK, so this is the last software development focused tool in this list, and it has been a lifesaver for our productivity!
The internet is a continuously changing place with new tools and browsers coming out all the time, it gets harder and harder make everything work for everyone all the time. Add to that you have to hope that users that do have an issue, actually report it with all the information you need to fix it. And even then you still had to engage the user to find out more details on what they did to cause the error.
This is where Sentry comes in. It is designed to capture errors on the server and in the browser, logging as much information as possible. This saves the developers so much time as everything is included. Where they came from, the browser and platform, anything they clicked on, and a dozen other things.
What that means is that our team can be more productive in fixing bugs as well as being ahead of them before our users even know they exist! And the best final part is it saves them an enormous amount of time figuring out what caused an error.
And do not think that this is limited to software like Metigy. You can install this on any website and get the insight of knowing any bugs that are occurring on your site. This is invaluable for e-commerce in particular.
6. Adobe XD
For a startup, we generate a lot of graphics. Some of it is for content such as social media posts, blog posts, and exhibition stands. For those, we use a mixture of Photoshop, Illustrator, and Canva (see number 10 on this list). Incidentally, we cannot recommend the Adobe Creative Cloud enough if you need to use Adobe tools as its such great value.
But, for the bulk of our interface and website work, we recently started to use Adobe XD in place of Sketch, which is an amazing product too but lacks the usability testing features. This allows us to design our interfaces and turn them into fully clickable interfaces.
This is a big productivity booster for both the design team and development teams as we can start to test how navigation and see how things flow before investing time in writing code that might end up being wrong. It lacks the advanced features of something like Axure for creating fully interactive, animated wireframes. But we feel that the UX and UI go so tightly together that XD is the right tool for us as it is testing the final design.
Like a lot of small business that started around the same time as us, we’ve tried the other tools like Zendesk and Zoho. They worked, but they never really delighted anyone, and we found it a chore to get the whole team involved.
What this meant was two-fold. One, we were more productive because any downtime went into addressing any customer questions. This boosted productivity because we were using more of the time available. It also increased customer satisfaction as we were resolving their questions that much faster and more personally.
And second, it meant the team was getting to know our customers and their issues first hand. This meant that we found some team members became proactive in talking to specific customers when they had a question, working to try and earn that love-heart smiley face score from them.
Their tools also give you a channel to talk to prospective customers, as well as set up and deliver simple messages based on user behaviour. For example, you can add a message that will show to users that have signed up 3 days ago and not used a particular tool yet.
When you say Analytics, most people instantly think of website traffic tracking. But it’s not! This is so much more than just the analytics tool.
It includes Google Optimise and indirectly Google Webmaster Tools. Which are all integrated with Google Adwords and Double Click. And that means that they are all working together to help drive your marketing productivity!
We use Google Analytics religiously. Often leaving the real-time dashboards up on our second screens so we can watch what is happening.
But, the thing we love the most is running A/B tests on our site using Google Optimise! Setting it up is a breeze. It’s as simple as clicking on the part of your site and changing an image or some text. Then you can measure that through its tools and see the impact – or not – in Google Analytics within minutes. It’s an absolute blast to play with, especially if you’re data nerds like the Metigy team!
Now I cannot write a post about productivity tools without mentioning our own tool, Metigy. We are ex-agency guys who originally conceived the idea based on what we could see would improve productivity in the social media teams.
There are a lot of tools out the to help you manage your social media including Hootsuite, Buffer and Falcon Social to name a few. But we were never entirely happy with how they approached the problem, and neither were the teams we spoke to. They are all good products, don’t get me wrong. But we wanted to approach the problem from the point of a group who lived and breathed social media.
Metigy is built on the principles of Big Data and AI, and what those two things can do for marketing. Namely, they can give small business the insights that only big business had previously had. But also provide agency and big businesses better insights into their marketing as well.
And the final challenge is to make this all useable and accessible to everyone. That is the most significant challenge and most significant advantage of Metigy. Everything is kept simple, and we do the lifting to continually make recommendations and watch your profile.
Our AI is so embedded in everything we build that it is practically invisible! But it’s there guiding you and making sure you feel like you’ve got your own personal virtual marketing assistant giving you insights and recommendations without you having to think about it. All the time. Anytime!
The darling of Australian startups for a good reason. Their tool is fun and friendly and so easy to get into. Providing a range of templates to get you started quickly is just part of why they have done so well.
We use their tools as a way to create fun content quickly that we then post through the Metigy Platform using our collaboration tools.
Yes, there are more powerful tools out there such as Photoshop. But often that’s like bringing a tank to a knife fight. You really just need something simple. And much like Metigy, that is what has made Canva so popular with teams of any size.
The Missing Productivity Tools
As with any business, we use a lot more tools than these 10, but they are our main ones. Here’s a list of a few of the other tools we use a lot:
- Stride: Our development team’s communication tool of choice
- Moz: A tool to help with the challenges of SEO (they incidentally have some great free keyword analysis tools)
- WordPress: Technically a productivity tool. We use it for our website backend.
- Send Grid: Designed to deliver emails in the best way possible and help you navigate the hurdles of the spam-landscape. They are very strict about ensuring you are doing things right.