Sunday, January 03, 2010

Your Productivity System Should Let Information Flow

Every project is implemented under three const...
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Experience has taught me that it is best when your productivity tools work together. Whatever efficiency you gain from a tool or service that does not work with others gets lost when you have to re-input information. The key is that your system should work for you, not give you another job to do.

Yesterday, we discussed how Evernote is my universal inbox. Even so, it is not the only tool you should use; while Evernote excels at capturing and organizing information, it is not so good for doing anything with that information. Evernote is that legal notepad where you write notes while you are on the phone or at meetings.

If you are looking for other tools to supplement Evernote, Onenote, or whatever capture tool you use, you should look for those that allow you to transfer information easily. Nothing is more frustrating than having to reenter information you have already entered at least a couple times into other software or websites. Look for those that connect.

You will find that if you have to perform data entry every time you need to update a tool, you end up not wanting to use it.

On that same note, just as information should flow into and amongst your productivity products easily, information should flow out easily. This is where I have trouble.

CRMs, Customer Relationship Managers, are wonderful tools. They let you keep track of all aspects of your relationship with your client. From prospects, to deals in the pipeline, to sales, to follow-ups, and even account histories. Simply marvelous what a good CRM can do. My biggest hitch with CRMs is that they are generally only useful at your computer. When you're out in the field, all that information is doing you no good. On top of that, any new information requires you to sit at the computer to enter the information into the system.

CRMs are often too robust for smartphones to use efficiently. And, while they're great at customer relationships, they are not so good at project management. So, if you are a small business and are straddling the fence between sales and production, there is no system that lets you do both; there will be information redundancy and compartmentalization.

Perhaps I am sensitive to these things because as a part-time freelancer, I have to wear many hats. My bookkeeping, accounting, documents management, contacts, tasks, project management, and communications all have to work as seamlessly as possible, or else it becomes lost time and money.

What services and affordable software do you find that allow you to integrate all your business information?

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