This month, I am going to write about some of the online tools / resources / services that I make use of.
Tools come and tools go, but the ones in this list have stuck around for some time, and I think are worthy of consideration.
Note that the tools listed here are skewed towards running a business, and / or managing and delivering projects of work, and distributed teams of people.
Let’s start with the basics. Tools which are applicable to any and all businesses, and which underpin many activities. Most of these are ‘unsung heroes’ !
For me, the basics are largely covered by the Google suite of products. This goes from searching, and mapping through the office suite of products – Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, as well as Gmail and Google Drive.
I make extensive use of the Google suite of tools, and I am a big fan. I advocate their use wherever I can. If you are an individual user, then it is a no-brainer; you get some magnificent tools, at zero cost. If you are a small to medium sized business, then it is slightly less cut and dried. It used to be the case that for small business users, Google ran an introductory offer, which covered most of your needs, for zero cost. You now have to pay something for it, and it is monthly/annual and is per user based – so costs can mount. The massive thing which I think counts for lots is the ease with which you can use your domain name as your email address, and have it all managed by Google. This means that you get to use Google’s spam filters, as well as search capability. Even though you now have to pay for this service, I still think it is worth the money.
The alternative to Google’s suite of products – Google Docs, etc – is Microsoft’s suite; the Office365 suite. Again, very good, and arguably more familiar to users. My preference is for the Google suite, but that is not to everyone’s taste.
So ingrained now with all of us, that it is easy to forget that it is an online tool, or repository of knowledge. Fantastic. And this despite early scepticism of its use / usability / accuracy, etc.. I am certain that there are areas of Wikipedia which are not accurate, or which are subject to malicious updates, but overall it is a fantastic tool.
Wikipedia is such a very useful tool; most of us use it as one time or another, but no one considers that it is a really valuable asset. Imagine if we had to go back to a time of using encyclopedias in order to look up some reference point in more detail ! I try to show my appreciation for Wikipedia by making periodic donations to them.
Now we get into web services / web applications / online tools which go beyond the very basics, but which perform some useful function.
This is a great web service which allows you to set up vote options, and to have people select options.
An example :
Trying to arrange a meet up; there are three dates/times that you can do.
Put the dates/times on a new poll, and invite your friends to vote.
Voila – you can see pretty clearly which date/time is preferable.
The sweet spot of this tool is when you have a decision to make amongst a relatively small, defined group of people, which has a variety of options. This tool allows you to quickly cast the options and poll the participants, thus arriving at consensus.
A simple way of creating a survey to send to people to gather lots of opinions; and then the analysis on the back of the responses. This is a fairly stock tool which many people will be aware of, and is very good at what it does. Note that there is competition in this space from new businesses, as well as from harnessing Google Forms.
The pricing for SurveyMonkey goes from £ 0 upwards depending on what you want to do, and how much analysis you want to apply to the results.
I’m going to close this article here. There are a great many more applications which are available, and which do great things. Some of my favourites are Slack, Trello and Zendesk. I will come back to these other apps in future articles.
In short, there are a great many superb online tools available now to businesses large and small, which in years gone past would have cost massive amounts of money to develop, host, and operate.