A little while ago we published an article which was a gallop through the web-based apps we found we essential to operate our start-up business as efficiently as possible.

A year on, we thought it was time to provide a quick update.

All opinions are my own, and I’m entirely independent of any vendor mentioned below.

What’s still in use after a year

As it happens, we use most of the apps from the previous list…. In fact, it’s quicker to list those that we don’t use so much anymore.

What’s fallen by the wayside

For task management, we started off using Google Tasks. It does a basic job reliably, and there are third party apps for both iOS and Android which would integrate with the Google tasks back-end. However, it looks like Tasks is one of those projects that Google started and keep running, but don’t put any effort into improving. The web-based interface is quite basic, and some features are lacking.

Given that I use tasks all the time, I was looking for a highly functional, nicely presented app to replace Google Tasks. I needed something that works well on both browser and mobile.

My first port of call was to try Google Keep. This has a much better interface and is slick; it also allowed me to add labels to tasks (something that was missing from Google Tasks). The big downside though for me was the lack of a ‘due date’ field – essential for me for task management. This lead me to abandon Google Keep for tasks management. However, I now use it for note management and it works very well. Anything that I want to take notes on but isn’t necessarily actionable by a certain date, I put into Google Keep.

Having done some more research, I next tried Wunderlist. It had an easy-to-use interface but really the functionality didn’t seem to be much different to Google Tasks – I felt I hadn’t really gained anything. There’s no label feature which was disappointing.

Finally, I moved to Asana which has been brilliant – it’s got everything I wanted. Due dates, labels, segmentation by project, powerful search, a lovely interface on web and Android – it has it all. Collaboration with lots of other apps is also built in, and we’ve started using it for sharing tasks in projects. I use it for both work and personal tasks.

The other app that I’ve largely dropped is Evernote. Google Keep seems to do a very similar job and has the minor benefit that it shares the Google sign-on – which I’m always logged into. I could imagine using Evernote when I want to take notes which use photos and other multimedia; but for 99% of my notes I just type and Keep is my personal preference.

What’s new in the armoury

Another advantage of Asana is its integration capability. The first thing we integrated with was Slack; we’re still getting used to it having been brought up for years on Skype’s instant messaging / chat capability.

The next Asana integration we’re experimenting with is Instagantt. Having used Project for decades for project management, especially visualising tasks and their inter-dependency using Gantt charts, we’re keen for tasks, which we manage in Asana, to drive some Gantt chart project management. Again, it’s early days, but it looks promising.

As mentioned above, Google Keep is now my note-keeping app of choice. I used to keep notes in Google Tasks (without due dates) but now these are in Keep and this seems like a much more natural home for that kind of information.

We’ve used Jira on a couple of projects for tracking issues and like the interface, and the configurable workflows. Jira integrates with Asana and I can see us making that link in the future.

Finally, we’ve been using spreadsheets to manage the company finances. We might think about using something like Xero to do our accounts. Features like taking photos of receipts would provide an improvement over what we currently do.

Summary

In the last year, some apps have been added to our toolkit, a couple have fallen by the wayside, but many have stood the test of regular, frequent use and remain firm favourites.

In many cases, web-based apps provide a step-change in flexibility and user experience compared to PC-bound applications. We still make extensive use of web-based apps to help our business run effectively and efficiently; I think our capability would be significantly diminished without them.

 

Neil Tubman, Terzo Digital, January 2017

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