With online tools, businesses can be anywhere

Get more done by using these simple electronic tools

Temple Lentz

Say what you will about technology taking over our lives, electronic solutions abound to help busy people manage their businesses and connect with anyone, anywhere. Our world is increasingly mobile –and while adapting to this new “normal” can take some time, workers and business owners everywhere are finding that they can get more done, with less, by using some simple online and electronic tools.

Track projects and responsibilities

Many larger and more complex organizations need full project management software, charting and resources. Cloud solutions exist to share these across computers and networks, but many smaller companies don’t need solutions that are quite so muscular. For many companies that work with 1-25 employees, contractors or clients at any given time, project-tracking applications can be very useful.

At High Five Media, we like and use Asana (www.Asana.com) to track most of our projects. Many other programs exist to do the same work, with different interfaces. Basecamp (www.Basecamp.com) and Trello (www.Trello.com/business-class) are two of the more popular alternatives to Asana. Trello has more of a corkboard/design studio feel, and Basecamp has a visual interface that can work well for visual thinkers. Although we appreciated the look and feel of both Basecamp and Trello, we chose Asana for three simple reasons: One, it’s free for up to 15 users, which meets our needs – why spend more when you don’t need to? And two, the clean, list-based design works for us. Your mileage may vary, and there are plenty of options for everyone. Most of the paid services offer free trials, and you can take each of them for a spin to see what you prefer.

Regardless of which application you choose for task management, pick one that has a mobile app as well (most of them do). So much business is conducted on phones these days. Make sure your solutions are compatible with that little computer you carry around in your pocket all day.

Online project-tracking applications allow multiple users to see projects, comment on them, trade messages, add to to-do lists and check things off. Combined with cloud computing solutions like Google Drive and Dropbox, anyone on your team can use these project trackers to work on projects, update task lists and keep things moving.

Tracking time spent on projects

Some project trackers have their own time-tracking modules, and some can connect with others. Asana has a relationship with the tracker Harvest (www.GetHarvest.com), but it also has extensions that make it compatible with other apps, like Toggl (www.Toggl.com). Time trackers like these allow you to track a project as you’re working on it, go back and enter time spent after the fact, and create reports that show how much time each individual spent on each aspect of a specific project. This is incredibly useful for companies that work in billable hours, and also for small business managers to see how everyone is working, where time is spent and where efficiencies can be gained.

One of the key benefits of using these applications is that they minimize internal email. It’s so easy to get buried in emails and to possibly miss some key piece of information. By confining the bulk of our internal conversations to online apps that can track our work and conversations, we free-up our email to connect and correspond with clients.

Project-tracking and time-tracking really just scratch the surface of ways online tools are making teams more efficient and effective. Using these tools, as well as many others that are out tahere, your team can stay connected with anyone, anywhere.

Temple Lentz is partner and director of content and communications for High Five Media in Vancouver. She can be reached at 360.798.0043 or temple@highfivemedia.us.