It is likely that you will spend about 2080 hours at your job every year. Hopefully this means that you and the people you work with are spending 2080 hours each year doing things that you enjoy and completing projects that mean something to you. The worst use of this time is to waste it on software that slows you down and tools that impede your productivity. Unfortunately, this is something we see people do far too often.
The time you spend entering in meaningless data and fiddling with your conferencing system every week quickly adds up to hours of your life that could be spent so much better. However, there is a way out; it starts by eliminating what doesn't work for you and replacing it with tools that you can use to be more efficient at your job.
When your business is small it is easier to ignore wifi problems or slow computers, but as you grow you will need to ensure that your employees are not wasting their time dealing with these problems. This is especially true for your engineers, consultants, lawyers, and other highly paid employees. Each precious minute and hour adds up over the course of a year and can be recouped by having the right IT on your side along with the right tools for the job.
Business plan? Check! Lawyer, accountant, and Jones IT as your tech consultant? Check! Cool website? Check! Hired amazing talent? Check! So, what else is left? Next, we need the infrastructure to communicate and get things done.
KEEP IN TOUCH.
It's pretty obvious that you need Email, Contacts, Calendar, and Documents to run a business. The only question I have is how we functioned 20 years ago without email and all of our files up in the cloud. When you think about the cloud, it may be helpful to know that it is essentially network of offsite data centers where you store your information, data, and files so you can access it from any internet connected device. The benefit is that if you’re using a cloud based system, you don’t need to be in the office to get ahold of your files or what you’re working on.
When it comes to email, there are two main choices: Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite. Think of this like the Coke and Pepsi of email providers... It is mostly a matter of individual preference and staff needs.
At the start, we used Microsoft Office and Outlook as our email provider. We saved documents to our local server and edited them with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. We eventually jumped to Office 365, which provided the same functions but allowed us to store files on Microsoft's cloud based server instead of our local server.
About two years ago, we made the switch to G Suite which is also in the cloud, and have not looked back. We absolutely love the whole G Suite package. Gmail, Contacts, Calendars, and Hangouts for video conferencing serve all of our basic communication needs. In addition, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms have gone above and beyond replacing Microsoft Office products. Based on our staff’s familiarity with Google products like Gmail in their personal lives, the price, and the fact that we can access cloud files from anywhere in the world, G Suite was the best fit for Jones IT.
Making the right choice between Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite comes down to a variety of factors and it is a decision we can help with. When we’re guiding our clients through this process we first analyze their needs and compare them to what Microsoft and Google have to offer. Once we decide the best fit, we create a tailored approach for migrating files from our client’s old system to a new one in a way that causes the least amount of disruption. Lastly, we set up training and support for the staff so that every person in the office can jump right into the new system and become a power user. We want our customers to be so comfortable with their shiny new system that we even set up dedicated resources for Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite on our website for them to refer back to at their leisure.
CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?
The San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with some of the world’s top talent and the Bay’s beauty makes it easy to convince talent from all over the world to come to you. However, there are times when you need to branch out. You may need to pull a circa 2000 Google move and start a one-person sales team in a New York Starbucks or, in Jones IT’s case, a one-man team in Berlin! Long story short: After completing my MBA, I fell in love with a Parisian and re-joined Jones IT’s management team in a remote capacity from Europe. If you don’t believe me, peep my Instagram!
The point is that you NEED video conferencing. Travel is expensive and phone calls are impersonal; the middle ground is seeing each other on a screen. Most of us are pretty familiar with FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts for calling our parents and loved ones. For reliability your business can depend on, however, we recommend Chromebox for Meetings, or CFM. As covered by Marina in our March blog, it is simply the best video conferencing system at the price point based on video quality, sound, ease of use, and reliability. Other conferencing systems that perform similarly will cost several thousand dollars. CFM runs at a fraction of the price of other video conferencing systems.
We use CFM daily to conduct standup meetings, recruiting interviews, and even provide training for clients and employees. The only limitation we have come across is if you require folks to be able to dial via phones, a la traditional conference calls, then GoToMeeting makes more sense because they provide an easy-to-use dial in number. Nevertheless, CFM’s crystal-clear quality and ease of setup, makes conducting business meetings between San Francisco and Berlin 100% seamless, except for that one time I tried to speak German. Just as choosing an email provider is a matter of matching your business needs to what each service provides, the perfect conference room setup varies across our clients and is also something we can help figure out. If one of our clients is interested in a particular solution, whether it be UberConference or VOIP conferencing, we have probably rolled it out to several of our clients already and can point them in the right direction. We have found that a cookie cutter approach to conferencing just doesn't work. One client may be better off with Chromebox for Meetings and slick digital signage set up on iPads, while another may be better served with a more traditional Polycom or Gotomeeting conference setup.
BE A SLACKER.
Yup, I said it...take it easy and Slack off! No, I don’t mean stop working… I mean use Slack so you can work smarter. Slack is a messaging app for teams. You’re probably thinking you don’t need another messaging app since you already use email, text-messages, and Skype. We thought the same before we made the switch from Skype chat last year. Once we started using Slack, however, we dramatically reduced time wasted in email. We currently only use email for client & vendor communication along with the occasional official internal announcement. Roughly 99% of internal communication goes through Slack and we save a lot of time by doing away with the fluff that email inherently creates.
One of the most useful features is the ability to create channels, which are essentially chat groups for each department or project that requires a conversation. For example, we have group channels for our various teams, departments, and committees such as #team1, #projects, #HR, #marketing, and #sales. There are times where privacy is required, which is why our #management or #surprisebirthdayparty private channels are great for confidential conversations. Another favorite of mine is our #tipsandtricks channel to let employees share cool efficiency hacks. We also have a #random channel where people have free reign to post enough cat videos to make you cough up a hairball or my personal favorite, videos of goats yelling like humans. Side note: I have visited many farms and it is 100% accurate.
We find that giving our employees the power to have instantaneous group channel chats or direct messages eliminates time-sucking email chains and stuff just gets done! Of course, there are times where when real time chats can disrupt my flow, which is why I either mark conversations as unread to get back to later or, even better, use Slackbot to create automatic message reminders at a designated future time. Slackbot is Slack’s personal robot assistant feature that can automate tasks, set reminders, and essentially do your bidding. Slack is truly a game changing tool for communication and productivity. Slack is constantly innovating with new integrations such as Google Hangouts (create video conferences on the fly), Simple Poll (ask everyone what they want for lunch), or Trello (get automatic updates about your projects). Whether you’re a Slack-skeptic or Kool-Aid drinker, learning how to make Slack do your bidding can be a total game changer for your business.
CALL ME MAYBE.
Do you ever wonder if people ever pick up the phone and still make calls? Well, rest assured, we still have real phones that we use every day to answer your calls and if E.T. needs to phone home. We currently use and recommend the 8x8 VOIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocol. VOIP simply refers to physical phones that connect via internet cables. We really like 8x8’s system, but are also familiar with other VOIP competitors like RingCentral.
When we onboard new clients we go through an IT Report Card Process which includes a phone system evaluation where we:
Identify their current provider & understand their online management system
Document all lines and extensions, how auto-attendant and call flow is set up, and process for voicemail PINs
Investigate if an 8x8 alternative is a better fit in terms of quality and cost
If a change to 8x8 or another VOIP provider is agreed to be the right move, then we kick off our 8x8 Rollout using a scrum-based project management approach. We track this whole process using an internal Trello board. While this is something we generally do for new clients as part of new-client-IT-onboarding magic, we also handle this for our current clients when they are ready for the switch.
Whether we’re working with a totally new company, or a client that has been with us through it all, we learn a lot from our clients that we use to continually develop as a business. Giving back some of the secrets we have gained over the years is the least we could do. If this was your first time reading our blog, do yourself a favor and take a peek at parts 1-3 of this series. We talked about starting a business in the highly competitive San Francisco economy and how thinking like a startup can help just about any business, no matter where you are in the growth cycle. In part two we shared our tips for finding help for your business and building a powerful brand that draws customers to you so that you can get paid to focus on what you do best. Lastly, we shared how you can build a diverse team and why it matters for your business. We hope that you have found some tips that will be useful to implement in your work. We would love to hear how we can help your business grow even further and if you want any more secrets from us, well, you’ll have to give us a call.