But with such variety from which to choose, how do you go about choosing a suitable productivity tool for your needs?
Selecting a tool at random can be fraught with potential pitfalls, while spending an inordinate amount of time poring over facts and figures can be foolhardy.
In many cases, the best course of action is that of a middle-of-the-road approach.
Here are five guidelines to follow when evaluating a productivity tool for your business.
Identify the problem you want to solve
Productivity tools are built to solve problems. It’s important to keep in mind that not every tool can solve every problem, and not every problem can be solved by every tool.
That’s why it is crucial for you to clearly articulate the problem you want solved in your business. You’ll be more successful at finding a tool that meets your needs.
Clearly state your problem in one statement, as in, “I don’t have a reliable way to create, organize, and store to-do lists.” Your solution will naturally be the opposite of your problem statement.
Once you’ve identified your problem and solution, you can brainstorm features you’d love to have within the tool. If you’re feeling really creative, you can divide preferred features into must-have, nice-to-have, and bonus lists.
The next step is to research tools that both solve your problem and possess your desired features.
Consider room for growth
A good tool will not only serve your current needs, but your future needs as well. A tool shouldn’t be so restrictive that you must upgrade or replace it in a few months’ time.
Look for a tool that positively allows for growth and expansion in your line of work. Some common items to consider include data storage, report generation, information sorting, device sharing, and number of users.
You should also evaluate whether or not the tool has any planned feature updates, software patches, customer service and technical support upgrades in the coming weeks and months.
Research integrations with existing tools
Review whether a tool successfully integrates or works with existing tools, programs, and applications in your business.
Find out whether integrations are internal, require a third-party application, or are under strong consideration for future updates and releases.
If you’re using a trial or free version of a tool, consider running your own integration tests. Hands-on experience is a great way to vet the functionality and limitations of features.
Sometimes what appears to be a simple task may be more complicated in action, and vice versa.
Uncover user interface details
No matter how flashy or well-designed a tool may be, you’ll be less likely to use it if the user interface is jarring, uncomfortable, or otherwise confusing to you. A tool you dislike will be a tool you won’t use!
Take care to evaluate your tool’s user interface. Layout, on-screen readability, colors, font size and type are all good places to start. Check for ease of data entry using a keyboard, mouse, and dictation. Look for the tool’s ability to synchronize data and perform backups to the cloud and/or local storage.
Similarly, determine the tool’s ability to sort, update, lookup, retrieve, run reports, and archive information on desktop, tablet, and smart phone versions.
Accurately track potential tools
It’s a smart idea to maintain a written record of your productivity tool research. Doing so will allow you to objectively review your notes both now and in future as your business grows.
Any tracking method will suffice. You may enter details into a spreadsheet or hand write notes into a notebook. Track potential tools, as well as their unique features, facts, figures, and considerations.
If you’re using a trial or free version of a tool, note any and all aspects of your interactions, from tool features you love or loathe, to the user interface, to your experience with customer service.
You can then use this information to help you finalize your decision in selecting a productivity tool.
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