A Productivity Strategy for Freedom and Agility

We have so much today that our grandparents could not even fathom. The resources we have access to and the new sharing economy make possessing items a liability. Techcrunch captured our reality well in its article, Life, by subscription.

From my vantage point, it is all the reason to consider why it’s not so great to own things in your business:

  1. Obsolescence is happening at a ridiculous pace. Your stuff gets old and outdated quickly.
  2. Subscriptions are extremely cheap or convenient whether for software, automation or even financing on cars and office equipment.
  3. You are continually changing. You are assembling, disassembling and reinventing as everything around you keeps changing.

We don’t need to acquire things. We need to use them for what’s in front of us. Work is about projects that come together with all kinds of people at various times.

So, what if you take inventory of all the hard goods around you and simply discard the ones you have not used in a while. Upgrade the ones that need to get current.

Move your business to the cloud and subscribe to systems, software and tools that make sense. Don’t use more than you need. Cancel subscriptions that don’t make sense. Most businesses and entrepreneurs can build an empire using Google Apps alone. And you likely don’t need printing, phones, servers, fax machines or a lot of other items that may have made sense in a previous age.

See if you can reinvent your workflow to minimize anything tangible as well as get out of the IT business. We live in a service world. So use the services to get to your goals.

The strategic advantage you gain is the ability to pivot with agility when you want to pursue something new or your market suddenly changes based on outside forces you cannot control, much less anticipate.

Shifting to a consumer mindset where you own nothing and control everything can take out an immense amount of friction coming from upkeep and maintenance of things that don’t matter.

What if you had that freedom? You controlled things but didn’t own them? How could you do this now?

Being Creative Means You Ship

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At some point, you have to jump. Projects demand it. From Stuart, Tania & Devon Flickr photostream.

Shipping is hard. There’s a lot that gets in the way. However, it is becoming a glaring differentiator for businesses that succeed versus those that drown in persistent mediocrity.

I think pressure really gets in the way for organizations that have a problem shipping. When it comes time to getting across the goal line, there is hesitancy for a number of reasons such as:

  • Fear of failure
  • Culture of bureaucracy
  • Avoiding responsibility
  • Poor belief system
  • A loser’s mentality
  • Lack of leadership
  • Being exposed to the world

Stalling becomes a habit for groups and people that don’t ship. Better to look busy than get something across the goal line. I think with the number of people that are able to get things done, the laggards who can’t ship are becoming more exposed.  There are too many examples of those that make ideas happen.

One of the trademarks of our team is our execution and how we get things done. It’s a big reason we have great partnerships with our clients. The world is not waiting around for the hesitant. It’s moving too fast. I like knowing that we can help others get in the game at the right pace and expectations. It means shipping when we are uncomfortable and being agile enough to change.

Creative work has a lot of risk and reward to it. Ideas can be rejected. Concepts may not connect. Or you knock it out of the park and a whole business opportunity changes.

When it comes to the world of ideas and creativity, I say focus on shipping. Don’t hesitate. Put yourself out there. Break the nonsensical, fear-based cycles and push to ship. There’s not a good reason to hold back. Ultimately, stalling pushes you further out of relevance today. Look at the competitive landscape. There are too many good businesses making ideas happen.

Do you ship or do you stall?

 

How We Integrate Google Apps With Salesforce

Google Apps and Salesforce.com are two of the leading cloud computing software vendors in the world. We have partnered with both and customize these systems around the processes of specific businesses based on their requirements. As we advise our clients on technology, process and systems, we always want to keep in mind the questions about cloud computing and what these systems mean to an organization. The following will help you understand our approach and how Google Apps and Salesforce.com are strategic for your team.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing may be a techie term for some, but it has had widespread conversation and adoption. In a nutshell, it is software that runs on the web. You don’t have to install anything. Open your web browser (Google Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer) and you just login to your system. For an organization, you are working within an environment with your team, specifically.

The advantages are:

  • You don’t have to maintain an IT person
  • You don’t have to upgrade
  • You don’t have to maintain uptime
  • You can focus on getting things done
  • Someone else manages the functionality and feature enhancements

As an advisor to your organization, we focus on strategies that help you grow your business. Cloud computing is strategic because:

  • It gets you out of the IT business and reduces overhead costs – people, hardware and software.
  • When you hire people, there is no installation. You can turn them on instantly.
  • When you fire people, you own the data. You can turn them off instantly.
  • You can hire people that live and work anywhere around the world.
  • You can collaborate in real-time with people in one secure system.
  • The system is secure. Your team has to have a login
  • You pay a subscription. This helps cash flow. It’s a service like your cell phone bill.

As an overall strategy, you want to control everything, but own nothing. The headaches are outsourced, the expenses are amortized. The old model was that you had to build such heavy duty software yourself. Now you can use it as a service and let someone else spend cycles figuring out how to innovate and improve. The world moves so fast today and software obsolesces quickly. It’s a good strategy to use cloud computing as a service for your business goals.

Google Apps And Collaboration

We have a lot of content about how to use Google Apps specifically in our blog. We partner with Google to implement, consult and support our customers on this remarkable platform. There are millions of businesses using Google Apps from single consultants to Fortune 500 firms. In the old days, getting another person set up on email often meant downloading Outlook, hooking it into an onsite server or using a VPN connection. It all took time and infrastructure.

Google Apps changed this. You can do many things to grow your business now that are easy:

  • Hire a person halfway across the world and have them running in less than five minutes
  • Share out key sales and marketing collateral quickly and easily
  • Collaborate on documents in real-time
  • Use online documents instead of having to buy Microsoft Office for everyone
  • Have a ready knowledge base to share out with new team members
  • Chat in real-time with anyone from any device – computer, tablet or mobile – anywhere

Your team is connected. The software is continually being improved and  you are using it to manage your business from anywhere, anytime. There is a simple annual user license fee of $50 per user per year which you order here. There is a massive amount of storage, so you can save everything.

We train and show you how to use the system strategically to grow your business and drive business processes. Furthermore, there are many other integrations, strategies and uses that can be extended as you continue to use the system to help you serve your customers better, drive speed in your company or make more money.

Salesforce.com Process Design

Salesforce.com is a system that can be customized specifically for your business. Though there are millions of users, everyone’s system is different. There are different fields, communication templates and records. The system can be programmed with logic and triggers based on rules that are defined.

Our team at AscendWorks works with clients to define the requirements, bring clarity to business processes and implement them elegantly in Salesforce.com.

Salesforce.com is a platform as well. It integrates with thousands of other applications. Thus, you can extend its use over time as you continually refine how you do business.

For your team, you have an effective way to manage what is happening in real-time. Everyone has access to customer, deal or custom records. As information is captured, you can see your sales pipelines, project work or inbound leads. Your team members can also execute from one common framework.

We help you to use Salesforce.com to increase productivity, make more money or support new business processes. It becomes a critical asset to your business as your team relies on each other and the information in the database records.

Integrating Google Apps And Salesforce.com

Not everyone integrates both Google Apps and Salesforce.com. We have various ways to bring the two together that help you align your team and grow your business. Your processes will be designed largely in Salesforce.com. Your knowledge and productivity happen in Google Apps.

Some of the ways the two systems can serve your organization are:

  • Sharing Google Docs within a Salesforce.com Opportunity record
  • Having a central FAQ section that is searchable and accessible
  • Logging inbound and outbound emails in customer records
  • Making appointment scheduling easier
  • Supporting customers with ready knowledge

Your team members have a login for their Google Apps and Salesforce.com systems. They can be working around the world, at a cafe or in your office. Regardless, your business is running in real-time on the web. Your challenge becomes making it clear and easy for how you want to create the customer experience and get things done efficiently.

We hope the explanation helps to orient you and envision the possibilities for using these two powerful systems. The costs are subscription based – $50/user/year for Google Apps and Salesforce
Pricing is here.

You can also learn more about how I consult with clients on Salesforce.

Feel free to post any questions in the comments below. We want to help educate and enlighten. Thanks.

Google Apps For Group Coordination

Organizations that want to solve the problem of communication and collaboration with team members in many locations would be well-served by the cloud architecture in Google Apps. There are some practical reasons for such a strategic choice in this platform. Here are a few:

  • Easy setup. If you have new members being added, they can be set up in minutes. The administrative burden is light and you have complete control. There is not any software to manage their email, documents or calendar system.
  • Secure sharing. When a new person comes on board, they need direction. You can keep a knowledge base of information in a secure Google Site and Google Docs. They can access this from anywhere with a web browser or mobile device and login.
  • Instant collaboration. Your team can connect via Google Chat instantly. This allows quick access and builds teamwork as problems are being addressed and questions can be asked in real-time as they come up in the course of work.
  • Leadership. You can effectively manage and lead your team regardless of their location. An internal blog can be set up as well as specific knowledge sharing. Use group emails for specific communication distributions with different segments of your team.
  • Closing access. We live in a high turnover economy. You can instantly turn off a member and ensure your systems and data are preserved. This provides freedom to hire, fire and manage departures easily and quickly.
  • Business process. Everyone can get on the same page and execute your business processes. You can also integrate Google Apps via programming to other third-party programs to manage the flow of data.

Cloud computing on Google Apps makes the web the workplace. The balance of security, productivity and collaboration are within one tightly integrated environment.

Think through the challenges of your organization and consider the possibilities of being fully cloud-based.

What could the possibilities be?

 

Salesforce Chatter For Real-Time Collaboration

Salesforce.com implemented and marketed Chatter as the world turned social. Modeled after the popular intranet app, Yammer, it has the advantage of being centered around your organization’s activities in Salesforce.com. Those activities provide a real-time stream of what is happening across your team with respective data records. It opens up the experience so you don’t have to go searching. Activities are delivered to you as an integrated data set. Without Chatter, you have less transparency and a feel for the pulse of your business activities.

Our Salesforce consulting clients that make use of Chatter often have questions on strategy and use of the system. Here are a few best practices to integrate this powerful tool into your business processes:

  • Bypass email. The problem with email is that it is a private record located in distributed inboxes. Recording ecord communications on Salesforce.com records extends the context of your communications and houses the information in context within Salesforce.com.
  • Share files. Upload files and share them within Chatter as a way of managing project and sales information in context. The collaboration goes beyond mere sending and stores your files with distribution within Salesforce.com records.
  • Status streaming.  To help your team understand what others are doing helps to create context and focus. Managers can understand where the work distribution and focus are. Progress can be tracked in real-time with people and data records.
  • Team building. Use Chatter to help your team get familiar with each other’s talents and focus. This facilitates problem solving and collective approaches to servicing your customers in Salesforce.com. Encourage updates frequently and technical details to promote knowledge sharing.

Chatter is a powerful private social networking tool focused on promoting collaboration in context. Context is what is different from other tools on the market. The focus on a customer, project or deal keeps communications, progress and actions in one place for everyone to understand what is happening. Extra cycles of soliciting information is replaced with a push approach from the continual activity streams.

How is Chatter relevant to your work?

Learn more about how I like to help organizations with Salesforce.com here.

Google Apps And Business Process

Google Apps is a platform which is able to transform a business locked within a network or outdated business processes into a cloud business. Your organization gets the balance of accessibility and security:

  • Accessibility: Users can work from anywhere and collaborate instantly with the rest of your team. Your documents, schedules, intranet as well as your email live within a corporate cloud environment. Building your team with talent anywhere, anytime access is a strategic business advantage.
  • Security: Your IT is simplified. User access via secure password access limits their permissions to information, documents and calendars. In our free agent economy today, when a user no longer needs access, they can be instantly turned off. Administration of your organization is easy and the level of control allows for building a robust security environment for your mission critical information.

Business Process

The business processes need to be executed by your team in a predictable, easy and organized way. Google Apps can bring together your team to collaborate quickly and fluidly. Knowledge work is fast moving and requires a system that helps everyone get information and provide information to help get things done quickly. In our consulting work, we work with clients to enable their business processes by focusing on:

  • Mapping the business process. Collaborating with the leaders and managers of a business, the specific steps that a team is to execute in selling, marketing and servicing a customer provides a template for how information should flow. Setting up a knowledge base to keep everyone on the same page helps align everyone.
  • Customizing the environment. There may be third-party apps or a customization of the different Google Apps tools that need to happen. The work needs to be done according to the process maps set up.
  • Alignment, training and leadership. Users need training and leadership as they get used to new processes and interfaces. This may be a transition for an existing organization between 2-4 weeks. An internal champion who evangelizes and drives the change management process needs to be identified to help drive adoption.

Working in Google Apps in the cloud helps to scale your business. It has the combination of accessibility and security for the modern business to drive speed and clarity for everyone.

What business processes would be helpful to automate for you?

 

Salesforce And Google Docs

Storing data files in a Salesforce.com record makes it convenient for users to see relevant information related to Opportunities, Accounts, Cases or Contacts. This is also true for any custom data objects such as project records or job costing.

Within the Salesforce.com setup, there are integrations with Google Apps. File storage in Salesforce.com has limits. These should be monitored within your storage usage metrics. More storage can be purchased as needed when your limits are exceeded.

A good practice for driving further collaboration in the cloud is to adopt the Google Apps integration provided in Salesforce.com. Within your respective data objects, simply add the unique url of an existing Google Doc or create a new Google Doc, Spreadsheet, Presentation or file. This provides an associated link which your organizational users can access based on your document permissions. Document permissions are set within the respective Google Doc.

Here are some types of documents to consider associating with your Salesforce.com records:

  • Sales Contracts. Associate these with Opportunity records for tracking deals and proposals as well as accounting.
  • Invoices. You can store billing and payment information and associate these to Account records for tracking payments.
  • Resumes. If you are tracking potential hires, you can associate their resume, cover letters and any sample work inside their Contact records.
  • Graphical files. If you are working on projects with customers in Salesforce.com, upload their graphics as a pdf or native document and attach these as part of their project record.
  • Scorecards. If you have a business relationship where you want to track a customized metric for performance, associate the Google Spreadsheet to the Contact or Account record for easy accessibility for you and your team.

Teach your team the process of associating Google Docs and extend collaboration between these two powerful cloud computing platforms. The control, collaboration and accessibility will help your productivity as an organization as you move between data and files.

How can Google Docs serve your team?

Want a Salesforce strategy for your team, click here.

5 Productivity Tips I Do Daily

I have a lot of fun advising businesses and implementing systems for growing a business.  I have to do what I preach to make it valid and help organizations buy into a better reality.  There are some things I take for granted because they are habits.  They are habits I worked hard at, but as with all habits, they become ingrained and automatic over time.

In the old days, your work contribution could be camouflaged by and diluted by a group which you operated in.  Today, we are all exposed and accountable.  We either deliver and get things done or we don’t.  I have found that it’s even more important to focus on productivity to increase my output as well as opportunities.  It’s hard to reach for new things when we are bogged down by the old.

Here are some of the daily productivity habits I work at to keep me and my team operating at a high level:

  1. Keep a Zero Inbox.  This means that I move the hundreds of emails out of my inbox and into the next step.  The next step is the trash (the majority), my archives or an action list.  Time works in waves.  When there is a down wave, I look at my deferred actions and work through the list.  I have to respond anyways at some point.
  2. Capture Ideas Immediately.  Ideas are funny.  They come in waves also.  When I catch one, I get it into my Google Tasks lists wherever I am at.  I lose valuable ideas if I don’t do it.  I also use Evernote to capture and drive actions from resources I find.
  3. Use Cloud Computing.  I have worked from the highway, mountain tops and the beach.  My systems are in the cloud.  The internet is my computer.  My business systems and my personal work is in the cloud accessible from any mobile or computing device.  It is both convenient and strategic for collaboration.  No IT headaches, no crashes.  Just getting work done.
  4. Clear The Deck.  I am a minimalist.  I don’t keep anything on my workspace.  I delete my desktop items.  I always seek to purge and get rid of things.  Anything that does not help me push forward becomes a distraction.  This can happen peripherally as well.  I find it creates focus on the work at hand.  Fewer things, not more, will do wonders.  Every thing you let in your life has to be managed, even subconsciously.
  5. Make Decisions.  Life moves at light speed.  I make decisions and live with the outcomes.  I force myself to make decisions all the time.  This helps me to get clear quickly and have peace of mind.  I am not preoccupied by perfection or fear of failure.  Decisions free up mind space and move the ball forward on project work quickly.

I am always a student.  Examining my habits continually helps me to continue to get better as a leader and knowledge worker.  If I am not productive, then opportunities are missed.

The feeling of a clear mind and elegant execution makes work highly enjoyable for me.

What are some productivity habits you have?

How To Use Evernote For Research

Evernote Amazon Kindle NotesIf you are researching for a project, building a business or giving a speech, I cannot think of a better cloud computing software system than Evernote.  Evernote has grown in popularity for good reason.  It captures the essence of cloud computing:

  • Access data from anywhere
  • Input data from anywhere
  • Use any connected device
  • Quick access
  • Quick input

The convenience of dumping information into Evernote from your computers, mobile device and browsers helps to drive your productivity.

If you recorded your notes, highlights, bookmarks and thoughts in paper notebooks, you have the following problems:

  • It’s hard to share the information with others
  • You don’t have it with you at all times
  • You can’t search on your written notes
  • It’s easy to lose
  • It takes a lot to organize

Paper notes were good for its time before Evernote.  Today, we can use the power of this tool for collecting and organizing information efficiently.

Here are the ways I use Evernote to capture research information:

Evernote Google Chrome Web Clipper

 

  1. Clip articles and web pages.  This can be done from your web browser.  I use the Google Chrome extension for clipping to Evernote.  As I find content online, I clip these and assign it to the respective notebook I have set up for the project I am working on.
  2. Set up notebooks.  Be sure your notebooks are set up to correspond with your active projects.  This will keep all of your content organized for easy access.  You can easily search to find any content, however, using structure within the file system will help to keep your information visually together.
  3. Use dictation.  If you are on a Mac or with your PC, you can download a desktop client.  This has the ability to record from your computer’s microphone and add it as a note for you.
  4. Scan documents directly.  If you are dealing with paper, you can scan these pieces of information and tag it along with comments that are keyword rich.  My recommendation is the Fujitsu ScanSnap.
  5. Upload phone snapshots.  With your iPhone or Android, download the respective app for your device.  You will find a snapshot function.  You can quickly take a picture and upload it to one of your notebooks.  Be sure to add a description that is keyword rich for easy searching later.

The raw materials for supporting your project will be in one place and you can build clarity and log valuable material within your own Evernote system.

It is easy to search for content later using the browser search interface or your desktop or mobile device.  Your information is with you wherever you are.  It frees up your mind from having to remember details.

How could this system work for your productivity?  If you are using Evernote, what tips do you have for research?

Growing Your Business With Google Apps

If you have more than one person and have customers, then growing your business with Google Apps is one of the most strategic systems you can use.  It is a cloud-based software system which allows you to interact with your team wherever they are in the world instantly.  Google Apps also allows you to provide real-time interaction with your customers to provide a high level of service to them.

If you are getting started, here are some strategies to allow your business to grow with Google Apps:

  1. Hire anywhere and everywhere.  Free yourself from geography.  Look for talent where it is found and trust your system to help you manage the projects and communications of your business.  Setting up a new person is secure and takes minutes to do.  It is not like the old days of having an IT setup of a computer with image software for someone far off and ensuring their VPN is connected.  Today, you can set up a username and let them be part of your team.
  2. Use Google Sites for a powerful intranet.  Your knowledge base and knowledge sharing should be captured in Google Sites.  Without a username, others are not able to access your information.  Store what is important, accessible and searchable for your team.  Anticipate that people will come and go.  However, your data and processes should be in one place.  If you ever sell your company, it is a valuable asset which allows you to extend your business and grow it continually.
  3. Connect everyone on Google Chat.  Part of each user’s setup should be their Google Chat within their Gmail setup as well as on their mobile devices.  Regardless of where people are located, they can connect instantly for answers.  Set rules for avoiding interruption by changing user statuses.  You can see when your team is online and get access to the people you need quickly.
  4. Share Google Docs.  Drive collaboration by using Google Docs to share and work on documents, spreadsheets and presentations together.  This will drive a culture where everyone works together.  Furthermore, knowledge sharing will be promoted by allowing access to documents online.  Salespeople can use past presentations and gain access to tools.  Support staff can find answers and resources to solve customer problems.  Make strategic use of how your documents are accessed.

There are many other strategies to help you grow your business with this vital asset.  You can continue discovering and stretching the capabilities of Google Apps as you grow your team.  You have agility and ease-of-use built into the way the system works.  Collaboration and productivity without obstacles is the key focus.

 

How are you using Google Apps to grow your business?