productivity

The Business Tool Ecosystem

With so many programs, apps, software and other business tools to juggle, it can sometimes feel like a technological jungle. We believe your business tools should operate like a well-functioning ecosystem.

Olivia Maier

· 6 min read

Investing in business tools and software can make a huge difference to your team and your customers. Each of these tools are able to provide their own benefit, and when teams are looking at adopting new technology they get excited by the promises of increased productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. While each product might work great on its own, what happens when you add it to a growing list of software that your team depends on?

Just like you wouldn’t want to throw a shark into a koi pond, adding new software that might be amazing on its own benefits no one if it derails all of your existing business software and processes.

That’s why it is crucial for your business to build a cohesive ecosystem for all of your tools. That way you can get the most out of your technology investments, and maximize the total benefits.

We wanted to give you a list of things to look out for, and consider when you are looking to add new existing technology to your business. While this list may not apply to every business, we think it is a good starting point to get you thinking on how to build your own business software ecosystem.

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  1. Take stock of what you already have

    Before you start looking for something new, you have to really understand what you are already using. Start by making two separate lists that include all of the technology and software you have already invested in.

    List A should consist of all the tools that you are currently using, and couldn’t live without. Whether that means the CRM software that has all your important customer data, or the desktop computers that enable your team to get work done, list it all out. This will help you understand what your new addition needs to be compatible with, in a nonnegotiable way.

    List B should be full of the tools that you have, and may or may not be currently using. The tools that you are using that end up on this list would be systems that you don’t love, and would be willing to swap out if necessary. Some tools that you might be looking at could have multiple purposes, and this can help you avoid potential redundancies. It also can help you better define your search process when looking for a new tool. If you are looking for a tool that MUST be compatible with 10 different programs, but only love 8 of them, you could be missing out on great solutions for no reason. This list can also be helpful even if you end up not investing in the product you were originally searching for, as you now know where your existing tools could see some improvements.

  2. Identify the gaps

    After you have a full understanding of the tools that you currently have at your disposal, you can have a better understanding of where there is a need for new technology.

    Take the time to really define what the particular issue or gap is. This should be done by talking to the people who are experiencing the gap, and would be using any new programs. Your team can give you an idea of what would work well for them, and what their needs really are. Asking the following questions may help you both identify the gap, and what kind of solution would work well for your team.

    • When you say that System X is outdated, where do you specifically get frustrated using it?
    • How many of our current tools do you use at once? How many would you ideally like to use at once?
    • How much time would you be willing to spend learning a new system?
    • In your current daily workflow, where are there tension points?

    Some of these gaps could be solved by the programs you are already using, by either upgrading your current software plan or investing in an add-on option. Starting to find a solution to the gaps by looking at what you currently have is a good way to avoid overcrowding your technological ecosystem.

  3. Look for integrations

    An easy way to stop your technology from clashing is to integrate your tools with each other. Integrations are a great way to make sure that information is able to flow freely from one business tool to another, and to make it easier to implement in a daily workflow.

    Toggling from one screen and tool to another, or copying and pasting information can lead to unnecessary time sucks as well as errors. There is nothing more frustrating in building a cohesive business software ecosystem then having business tools completely isolated from one another.

    One of the reasons the ecosystem analogy works so well is that everything has to have the capability to not only coexist, but interact in order to thrive. Think about it, if your phone system isn’t able to access contacts saved in your CRM platform, you’re losing time navigating between address books and actually connecting with your customers. Having a phone system that is able to be integrated into your CRM platform allows these business tools to interact with each other, contributing to a more cohesive technological ecosystem.

    Integrations can be a great way to work towards having more unified communications capabilities in place. Integrations can also be incredibly beneficial to streamline your team’s daily workflows, consolidate information, and increase productivity. If there are integration options available for the gap your team is trying to fill, they should be taken advantage of.

  4. Free trials and return periods

    Your ecosystem might take some time to come together, and luckily many business tools offer a free trial or return period to help you figure out if your new addition works well with your existing tools.

    Building your cohesive technological ecosystem on the foundation of tools that your team can’t live without gives you a lot of information to work with. Utilizing free trials and return periods can help you understand how potential additions interact with the tools you aren’t looking to part with.

    One of the most important things to remember is to talk to the people who are using the tool. Analytics and reports may show a spike or drop in productivity or other metrics, but that information doesn’t show the entire picture. Talking to your team can help you understand if there is a learning curve, or other factors contributing to the reports you are seeing.

In the end…

Your business tool ecosystem will be just as unique as any ecosystem that exists in nature. Figuring out what works best for your team may take some more time upfront, but when it all works together seamlessly you will be much better off in the long run.

How does your current business tool ecosystem function? Have you noticed any new gaps recently, or found new ways to make your ecosystem more cohesive? Let us know!

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